The Suicide of New Left Review

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Thu May 4 13:57:03 MDT 2000

>Stop the presses. Louis, why are you lumping Bourdieu in with Zizek and

I've never read Bourdieu, to tell you the truth. But there is something
worth discussing. Doug had a bitter exchange with Mark Crispin Miller, the
media critic, on PEN-L. Miller believes that media has gone downhill
because of monopolization, while Doug defends Bourdieu's analysis in an
article "Why TV Sucks" (
To quote Doug:

>>Elsewhere, Bourdieu has developed a sociological model of culture, which
highbrows consider to be vulgar because it suggests that "taste" has a lot
to do with class
and status. Avoiding all the old Stalinoid base-determines-superstructure
stuff, Bourdieu
treats the various disciplines - painting, literature, science - as fields
with their own internal
structures. Writers, painters, whatever, all respond in varying degrees to
economic and
political pressures, but they also respond to each other, positioning
themselves within a
tradition and a set of contemporaries. So to understand journalism, or TV,
you have to
look at how the craft is practiced to understand why it is the way it is.<<

Not to take anything away from Bourdieu, who has to be better than Zizek
almost by default, I think this business about "old Stalinoid
base-determines-superstructure" is simply a caricature. When you really get
down to it, Doug believes that all of Marxism is
"base-determines-superstructure", which can only be remedied by liberal
injections of Freud. In reality, Marxism has always understood that base
determines superstructure, BUT ONLY in the last instance. To Althusser's
credit, he made this point clear in his polemics within French Stalinism.
Of course, other Marxist thinkers (including Sartre, a CP'er) have always
understood the importance of ideas in the class struggle. After all, if
base-determines-superstructure, there would never be any possibility for
socialist revolution.

Frankly, I just don't have much use for broad analyses of society such as
the kind that Bourdieu engages in. I'd rather make those analyses myself
and post them to the Marxism list. It's much cheaper and much more gratifying.

Louis Proyect

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