[Marxism] Troubled times

Ian Pace ian at ianpace.com
Mon Nov 20 02:19:08 MST 2006

From: "Joaquin Bustelo" <jbustelo at bellsouth.net>

> But I'm also questioning the use we make of concepts like "false
> consciousness." I see it deployed as a magical incantation, to make
> political problems disappear.

I doubt there's any Marxist in the world who actually thinks that.

> Why are so many white workers racists? "False
> consciousness" is proferred as an explanation, but in reality it explains
> nothing, only reifies the form of the question: who do white workers have
> "false consciousness?"
Which is precisely the question that anyone who thinks that consciousness 
and culture matter does ask. And perhaps the role of the media, many 
products of the culture industry (which perpetuate and 'naturalise' such 
ideologies through their portrayal of non-whites and the constructed 
identities contained therein) or even the role assigned to high culture 
(heavily promoted as a sign of Euro/White -centric supremacy, and believed 
to be as such even by many of those who don't partake of it, also used as an 
index of social division, as Bourdieu charts) might play a not-at-all 
insignificant part in producing such a form of consciousness.

This is not about jettisoning the relationship of base and superstructure. 
It's about (as the late Engels was very aware) recognising the ways in which 
elements of the superstructure come to attain a quasi-autonomous existence 
and inertia of their own, in such a way as to exacerbate reactionary 
consciousness in the interests of the ruling classes and their 
petty-bourgeois lackeys, such as works to counteract the possibility of 
building a mass movement so as to effect revolutionary structural change 
(i.e. in the base, internationally).

The ideologies that you are suggesting, by which other forms of identity 
supersede class and economics, works primarily in the interests of the 
ruling class/petty-bourgeois elements within such identity groups, who 
inevitably hijack them (Aijaz Ahmad has interesting things to say about this 
in his critique of Said). That is not to deny the importance of the Leninist 
argument on how the working classes in imperial nations benefit from 
imperial exploitation as it is redistributed to an extent - but that is 
simply to nuance further the notion of class, which can be further refined 
in light of the increasing globalisation of capital. But what you seem to be 
arguing for leads to reactionary nationalism, separatism and other such 
things that are also primary factors emanating from insidious ideologies 
instilled from above, that are major hurdles to the building of a mass 


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