ideology, exploitation and domination (re-post)

Jon Beasley-Murray jpb8 at
Sat Jan 7 01:01:13 MST 1995

some more thoughts:

mostly concerned with the relation between hegemony and class composition
(which I would re-cast in terms of ideology and exploitation: analyses
which concentrate upon ideology would tend towards understanding
domination in terms of hegemony; those more concerned with exploitation
might take class composition as the index of relation of power):

If the move of cultural studies has been to examine and (perhaps)
"celebrate" counter-hegemony as a mode of resistance to domination, then
would it not only make sense to see Negri's analysis of the socialized
worker and constituent power in similar light?  While the latter set of
theories have been criticized for their abstraction and Negri for his
proclivity for taking tendency (or possibility) for actuality, is this
not equally the case for cultural studies' celebration of resistant,
counter-hegemonic readings?  Indeed, the autonomist approach is, by
comparison, to be commended for its rootedness in sociological research
and its relative concretion as opposed to cultural studies' tendency to
privilege the fancy reading, the "textual turn."

There seems to be a relation to Michael Hardt's suggestion some time ago
with regard to the labor theory of value--that is to look at his and
Negri's oppositional reading in _Labor of Dionysus_ in which the LTV is
dual: while it is on the one hand a predictor of capitalist behavior and
an understanding of the mode of exploitation, it must also be seen as
pointing toward a positive conception of labour-power as a possible site
of creative appropriation and immanent positivity.  This then is the
immanent, materialist version of counter-hegemony?

I feel as if these comments are probably of direct interest to very few
on the list, and that I am in danger of conducting a personal working
through of issues and a private conversation in public.  However, I do
think that these issues could be reframed in more accessible ways, and I
am looking for ways in which to do so.

In response to Rick Wolff, I guess I was thinking of ethics not so much
as a "component of individual consciousness" but as a set of principles
to varying degrees exterior to consciousness--which determine what just
"feels right" or not.  These may well not be articulated or articulable
in the same way that political positions are generally put into discourse
(by parties and other mediating agents--indeed, by "the media").  I guess
I'm trying to take this idea from Bourdieu, but also to some degree from
Weber (whose _Protestant Ethic_, by the way, I'd read as very much
Althusserian *avant la lettre*)--such ethics may inform politics, but
also remain resistant to it, and to conventional "ideology critique."

This may, as I'm trying to suggest, be similar to an Althusserian notion
of ideology as a relation to the real, but is also different, in that it
might stress embodied "dispositions" rather than remaining on the
semiological/symbolic plane that Althusser (following Lacan) would
privilege.  Hence a focus on ethics would be closer to an immanentism I'm
trying to stress in parts of *autonomia* than to the focus on hegemony
that I see in Hall, Jameson et. al.

Just thinkin'...


Jon Beasley-Murray
Literature Program
Duke University
jpb8 at


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