Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 8.0029. Thursday, 9 January 1997.
Date: Thursday, 9 Jan 97 01:55:52 GMT
Subject: Re: Ideology Once Again
Bill Godshalk asks for my definition of ideology which isn't the same as
Kavanagh's, quoted by Godshalk as:
"the indispensable practice--including the 'systems of representation' that are
its products and support--through which individuals of different class, race,
and sex are worked into a particular 'lived relation' to a sociohistorical
The problem, which Godshalk's query about agency highlights, is deciding
whether ideology is inside or outside each of us. Althusser's model is, for
many people, too greatly concerned with the outside and, in particular, fails
to acknowledge that ideology is constantly generated out of struggle rather
than being a fixed force of determination.
My parallel with language was not gratuitous. Language too is both inside and
outside each of us: it operates through us.
The 'lived relation' referred to by Kavanagh has a specific meaning which might
not be obvious. The peculiar effect of western capitalist ideology is to
present the world to me in the form of a subject, a person if you will, who
addresses me as though my existence were indispensable. And, reciprocally, this
'world-subject' makes itself intelligible to me.
I suppose that Kavanagh's definition might be defended as the general case: the
ideology of slavery invokes a different 'lived relation' for the slave (one of
utter dispensability). Likewise, "sociohistorical project" could be a
generalization for what I call simply a mode of production. I'd always start
with late industrial capitalism and then extrapolate from there, since the
generalizations tend to lose people on the way.
So, in brief, I'd rephrase Kavanagh's definition into this:
"the practices--including the 'systems of representation' that are its products
and support--through which persons of different class, race, and sex are made
to brought into a 'lived relation' of subjectivity, intelligibility, and
individuality with the late industrial capitalist mode of production."
I substitute 'persons' for 'individuals' in the definition of the group
operated upon, and add 'individuality' to the list of effects, because making
me feel like an 'individual' is one of achievements of ideology. (It's not that
I'm mistaken about my existence, but rather that my sense of self-worth is
Better, or worse?