ideology, exploitation and domination (re-post)

Jon Beasley-Murray jpb8 at
Fri Jan 6 13:09:39 MST 1995

Not quite understanding some recent posts, I took recourse to the marxism
archive for December to see if re-reading what I had earlier skimmed
would help (end of quick advert).

Sadly it didn't.  Specifically I don't understand the issue of whether or
not ideology has epistemological significance or not--I think I just
don't understand the question.  How would it and how would it not?

In the light I hope to gain from future clarification I want also to
return to the points made by Rick Wolff, Steve Wright and Boddhisatva.
I'm a little surprised that the LTV debaters didn't jump in, for a start,
as the question of the relation between exploitation and domination seems
to be precisely the question of the political function of the LTV.  In a
(perhaps forced) opposition to a view premised on the centrality of
exploitation for domination is one which prioritizes ideology--whether
along the lines of "false consciousness" advanced by Boddhisatva, or the
Althusserian more psychoanalytically-informed terms of Rick Wolff's.
This latter fades into British Cultural Studies, especially once the
project of an unideologial Marxist "Science" is seen to be untenable, to
become the analysis of hegemony and counter-hegemonies.

With counter-hegemony comes the possibility of articulating broad-based
coalitional politics not premised simply upon the labor-relation.

Steve Wright suggests early on in his dissertation that class composition
takes the place of hegemony in autonomist or Italian workerist
marxism--so I guess my original point about autonomia could be rephrased
such that it's analyses attempt to achieve the same coalitional goals of
Althusserian derived cultural studies, but without sacrificing economic
analyses of labour exploitation, recasting (with the thesis of the
socialized worker and the social factory) class analysis economically and
sociogically without "succumbing" to the discourse analysis in which
Madonna, if read resistantly, is indeed "subversive."

The problem for the Italians remained political, and they ultimately
foundered (I will here venture) over the question of the role of the
party, and of oppositional (let us call it working class, even if it is
not the traditional working class) organization--one which might
encompass women, students, the unemployed and so on.  But at least they
wer thinking about it--to be fair the somewhat different Italian social
and political circumstances forced them to think about it--whereas in
practice cultural studies has given up on such questions, scarcely even
wondering, except in some vague moments of existential doubt, about the
status of Marxists in the academy.

I'm trying to think about ways in which to work this post into a more
open form-perhaps ending with a question--but can't think for the moment.

Oh, here's a question--perhaps for Wolff or other "ideologists": what is
the relation between ideology and ethics?  Is the latter merely a version
of the former?  I guess I'm asking what role does consciousness play in
all this.

Any thoughts?

Take care


Jon Beasley-Murray
Literature Program
Duke University
jpb8 at


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