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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: January ::
Re: Ideology Once Again
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 8.0037.  Saturday, 11 January 1997.

(1)     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Friday, 10 Jan 97 12:10:28 EST
        Subj:   Ideology

(2)     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Saturday, 11 Jan 97 06:44:11 GMT
        Subj:   Re: Ideology Once Again


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Friday, 10 Jan 97 12:10:28 EST
Subject:        Ideology

>As for who determines the boundaries of the sets "practicers"
>and "worked upons", these are not determined by any person but rather by the
>definition. If you find a collection of individuals in a given lived relation
>to a given sociohistorical project, Kavanagh's definition tells you that the
>practices, including systems of representation, which are indispensable to them
>being in that given lived relation should be called ideology.

Gabriel Egan's explanation of Joseph Kavanagh's definition reaffirms the
implication of Kavanagh's carefully chosen passives: ideology, in the
Althusserian sense that dominates much theoretically oriented recent discourse,
is a purely linguistic phenomenon, and as such the practically unconscious
production of the participants in a particular language community.  No American
speakers or writers in particular are the agents who by their own willed acts
are causing most other American speakers and writers to abandon the former
Standard English distinction between the personal relative pronoun _who/whom_
and the impersonal relative _that_ in favor of an indiscriminate general
_that_.  It's just happening, despite the efforts of other American speakers
and writers (like me) who are _trying_ to be the agents who by their willed
acts (urging their students to hang on to the distinction) will reverse the
flow.  But the Althusserian view is based on an understanding of language that
other thinkers have challenged (e.g. E. P. Taylor, Richard Rorty, Lars Engle):
Bill Gottshalk's search for agency is an apparently unsophisticated expression
of the same discomfort.

My own unsophisticated view sees this problem.  It is as it were Heisenbergian:
at the moment somebody _recognizes_ an ideology, calls it that, maybe gives it
a name, _de facto_ steps in from some place of linguistic Otherness and begins
to participate, the ideology becomes susceptible to change.  I like the analogy
with the Real Ale campaign.  A couple of very particular students at Cambridge,
noticing that the all the big British brewers had begun standardizing and
pasteurizing and Americanizing and otherwise denaturing their beers, began
circulating mimeographed lists of pubs where you could still find
cask-conditioned ale, mostly produced by smallish local breweries.  The lists
got copied and recopied, and eventually published, and ever more widely
circulated, and pretty soon sales at those pubs went up, and the small
breweries got bigger, and the bigger breweries took notice and went back to
brewing and distributing at least some Real Ale, to the point where as far as I
know nobody bothers to make and print the lists anymore because Real Ale is
more or less ubiquitous.  Eventually, in fact, the idea even reached this
benighted country (USA), so that I don't have to brew my own beer anymore
because I can buy good beer at an acceptable price in just about any bar or
corner store.

The issue, it seems to me, arises at the point where individual practicers
become conscious of _choices_ among ideologies--Real Ale or Bud Light, _whom_
or _that_.  Were those particular students who behaved in a way that seems full
of agency merely as it were symptoms of some immense unconscious
"sociohistorical project"?  Or did they, nameless as they now mostly are (they
deserve a place on the Honors List at least as much as Paulie, I opine), make a
difference?  When Hubert, in _King John_, chooses to honor the ideology of
Christian Service rather than the ideology of Courtly Service, by disobeying
the command of his king and patron and sparing his young prisoner Prince
Arthur, is the choice a real one?   Is he an agent as he makes it? Is it that
at that point the chooser is only the creature of two or more ideologies rather
than one?  Of an ideology that values the appearance (but not the reality,
which would contradict the theory) of choosing?  Does Kavanaugh have an answer
for this?

Does Egan, who professes himself less than fully satisfied with Kavanaugh's
definition, but has not so far offered one of his own?

Ideoillogically,
Dave Evett

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Saturday, 11 Jan 97 06:44:11 GMT
Subject:        Re: Ideology Once Again

Bill Godshalk emends

>> "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 put brackets around "made to" since something seems to be amiss
> here. Has something dropped out?  Or should "made to" have been deleted?

Yes, deleted. Thanks.

> I hope I don't come across as tedious if I ask Gabriel to unpack
> a bit more his conception of "systems of representation."

Well, it's Kavanagh's term and I took it to mean language and mimesis. The
English language, for example, both reflects and sustains the gender oppression
necessary for modern capitalism. News media bring to me chopped and shaped
pieces of information about the world beyond my everyday experience, and
interpret them for me. Returning to the list-topic, Shakespearian texts are
processed and fed to school-children in the (easily disrupted) belief that he's
good for you and helps the formation of strong character, moral rectitude, and
taste. Shakespeare's status as the pinnacle of Western culture is nothing to do
with innate worth and everything to do with the articulation of ideas about
self and society which are necessary to the capitalist mode of production.
(It's not a question of 'are the texts inherently progressive or conservative?'
but of the use-value of dramatic representations. The assertion that use-value
is all, that texts have no innate worth, is the key to this kind of cultural
materialist thinking.)

You've teased enough out of me...what's your killer retort, Bill? I know you
don't buy all this leftie stuff.

Gabriel Egan
 

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