More about that relative autonomy thing

Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters quilty at philos.umass.edu
Fri Sep 30 03:16:45 MDT 1994


Philip Goldstein writes:
| 	Lulu defends my notion of indeterminacy but then takes it away
| with her distinction between Ideology and ideology. If I understood her
| interesting comment, Ideology is hegemonic while ideology is or allows
| disagreement. I believe that Althusser rejected this distinction --  no
| big Ideology precisely because of the phenomenological analogies which
| Lulu draws. In other words, there is no totalizing Ideology but only
| different ideologies, each with its own history and time and each seeking
| hegemonic status but never able to erase the others. This position, like
| Lulu's, breaks down the base/superstructure distinction but more
| radically. THe distinction does not allow any determination -- final--
| but economic practices but also does not give us a structure or set of
| oppositions which define a capitalist system as a whole.

I think you're incorrect about Althusser.  If I remember correctly,
he defends the I/i distinction somewhere -- perhaps "Lenin and
Philosophy".  I'll dig around for it.  But that's not so important
who is on Althusser's side.

In a private response I was accussed (or maybe congratulated) of
similarity with Foucault in talking of the boundry conditions of
discursive regulation.  In a way, your non-totalizing gesture
reminds me even more of Foucault.  There's a break in Foucault, of
course.  In _Order_ and _Archeoloyg_, he defends the notion of
"episteme" as doing something like my Ideology.  Later on there is
no more reference to this (which may or may not mean he gave up the
idea).  Your notion seems close to the later Foucault's analysis of
heterogenous influences in the tentative construction of discursive
and regulative fields (all without any "final instance").

But I would argue against that by arguing that Ideology (or
episteme, etc.) has in no way a positive content.  Anyone must see
that at any given time there are many things which cannot be said.
In the simplest case, some concepts just aren't invented prior to
given times.  The notion of continuous change in rate of motion, for
example, just wasn't available before Newton or Leibniz (or whoever
it's correct to attribute it to).  None of the work of ideologist
prior to the 17th century could have involved this term.  When the
term became available, it was utilized in a variety of ways by a
variety of people.  Probably simple non-knowledge isn't quite enough
to get to my notion of Ideology.  Just a *little* bit more is
required.  One must suppose that non-knowledges are not simply the
result of degree of linear progress of an accumulation of knowledge,
but that the concrete (economic) organization of society makes
certain knowledges possible, while not making others possible.  It
would be too much to say it "excludes" these other knowledges --
since that would suppose that Capital or Spirit somehow knows it
all, and decides what bits to parcel out to mere human knowers.  So
my claim is just that particular modes of production *fail* to make
possible certain modes of knowledge.

Yours, Lulu...

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