ideology, exploitation and domination (re-post)

Philip Goldstein pgold at
Sat Jan 7 05:56:16 MST 1995

	Jon Beasley-Murray posed the following question: " 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?" I
think that ideology has epistemological significance if it is implicated
in questions of truth or falsehood, illusion and reality. In a Marxism
which claims to be scientific, ideology usually stands for illusion or
for falsehood, what Marx calls a camera obscura. The question then
becomes who escapes ideology, possesses the truth and, as a result, gets
to rule. Those who know an believe historical materialism or just Marx's
Capital may see themselves as the source of scientific truths and,
therefore, as the workingclass' legitimate spokespersons, whereas those
who do not adopt these methods or beliefs remain victims of ideology
aiding the enemies of the workingclass. Althusser's innovation is not so
much to use psychoanalysis to explain ideology -- the Frankfurt School
did that; his innovation was to construe ideology as constitutive,
necessary even in a rational, communist society. As a result, it is not
simply illusion or falsehood and it escapes, as a result, its traditional
epistemological import. Not just the voice of predetermined class
interests, it shares the features of rhetoric or hegemonic power, and,
therefore, it has socio-historical import. I mean in terms of the rituals
and practices of the institutions in which it is embedded.
	There are numerous problems with Althusser's view, especially his
claims about theory's scientific status, but it does take us beyond the
traditional, epistemological issues posed by ideology.
Philip Goldstein


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