determination, Williams, & literature

Howie Chodos howie at magi.com
Wed Mar 15 22:53:18 MST 1995


Guy Yasko had many interesting things to say about Williams. Though I had
intended my earlier comment about the difficulties with the concept of
totality to be general, I can see that by framing it in a discussion of
Williams it would appear that I was criticising him. I am not really
familiar enough with Williams to do that and I should have made that clear.

That said, however, I still have trouble understanding the place of
totality. The excerpts that Guy cites seem to me to be cogent arguments
against considering culture to be superstructural. They raise for me
additional questions concerning of the use of term "superstructure". If
culture is not superstructural, what is? If the cultural is part of the
"basic processes of the formation itself", what isn't?

And lurking in the background is the question of totality. As I understand
him in History and Class Consciousness (and I do not know Lukacs the
literary critic) Lukacs still had a notion of a cognizable totality. For
him, the point of view of totality was available as a vantage point that
could be mastered, and had to be mastered for the revolution to be
successful. For example, despite the many valuable insights in this work, I
would still want to take exception to such assertions as the following: "the
superiority of the proletariat must lie exclusively in its ability to see
society from the centre, as a coherent whole." (p. 69)

Guy says that Williams is critical of Lukacs the literary theorist. I would
appreciate some clarification on the nature of the relationship between
Lukacs' and Williams' notions of totality, if there is one (from Guy or
anyone else).

Howie Chodos



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