More about that relative autonomy thing

Paul W. Cockshott cockshpw at wfu.edu
Wed Sep 28 08:51:49 MDT 1994


On Wed, 28 Sep 1994, Philip Goldstein wrote:

> This allows for control through the appearance of "relative autonomy."
> To take it a step further, intellectuals serve, Gramsci argues, pretty
> much as functionaries of the superstructure, as mouthpieces which hold
> up the hegemonic forces. I don't think I would go so far as to say
> the academy defines or did define what culture is or was. I also would
> maintain that the academy, as an  institution, not as individuals, is,
> like Althusser and Stuart Hall and countless others point out, merely
> is an Idological apparatus of the state. So, any cultural formation,
> which would then, using the previous argument, lead to social formation, ends
> up being a product of the state, or the borgeoisie (whichever terms you want
> to use)." There are two problems with this position. One, the position
> assumes that you can occupy a place outside the system and understand its
> workings in a neutral, systematic way. More precisely, Marxists who work
> within the system are corrupted and need to find some place outside it
> within which they can preserve their integrity and critique its
> operations. Where is this outside place? Who else will occupy it?

Marxists within the university can only overcome their own class position
through involvement with the working-class movement, contact with
working-class militants and participation in their struggles.

> Second, the position assumes that the system reproduces itself as a
> coherent whole and not as a fractured and divided entity. To work with
> the system is to maintain it coherently and not to subvert it from
> within. Postmodernists argue against the system's ability to reproduce
> itself  coherently and to preclude indeterminacy and ambiguity.
>
So what. We have known since the 30s and Godel that any linguistic system
is ambiguous, but what has this got to do with class politics?



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