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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: January ::
Re: Ideology Once Again
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 8.0076.  Friday, 17 January 1997.

(1)     From:   Dale Lyles <
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        Date:   Thursday, 16 Jan 1997 13:42:37 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0049 Re: Ideology Once Again

(2)     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Friday, 17 Jan 97 01:05:57 GMT
        Subj:   Re: Ideology Once Again


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dale Lyles <
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Date:           Thursday, 16 Jan 1997 13:42:37 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 8.0049 Re: Ideology Once Again
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0049 Re: Ideology Once Again

Gabriel Egan writes:
>Drama was mass media in early modern London, so perhaps we'd need to look for a
>artist in another medium. Eisenstein, maybe?

Flat tergiversation as ever was committed?

It's an appealing idea to switch horses in the middle of the inning, I suppose,
but I don't go down to the theatre and produce Eisenstein, no matter how many
times I show the Odessa Steps to awed 16-year-olds.    Shakespeare and
Eisenstein are different artistic *modes*, if you'll forgive the theft of the
term.

I have to come down on the side of the argument that, assuming that we cannot
escape the values of our language,  Shakespeare must have some kind of "innate
value," and that value is not limited to his embodying the power structure of
capitalist modes of production.  Otherwise, how did the Moscow Art Theatre
escape everlasting redemption?

Dale Lyles
Newnan Community Theatre Company

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Friday, 17 Jan 97 01:05:57 GMT
Subject:        Re: Ideology Once Again

A batch of replies, all in one

First, to Jesus Cora...

> Are we not being quite narrow-minded on considering the
> economic base as the Primum Mobile?

It's Marxism. Any evidence that economics is not primary would help show that
Marxism is narrow-minded, if you can find it.

Second, to Tom Bishop...

> My understanding of Gabriel Egan's position is that
> he regards ideology now not as, in its older sense,
> a set of conscious political commitments, but as
> something much deeper, something largely unconscious,
> something more like a structure of unexamined beliefs
> and, lower down, of feelings, and, lowest of all, as
> something like the grounding of the kind of beings we
> "perceive" ourselves to be (in particular, the perception
> of ourselves as having "individuality").

Yep.

> This has the consequence of making all deliberately embraced
> political positions something other than ideology except
> insofar as they serve to maintain a means of production.

You already established that ideology isn't about political positions, so it
can't come as much of a surprise that "deliberately embraced political
positions [are] something other than ideology".

> Which parts of my actions [when buying a shirt] are covered by
> Egan's description of ideology? Oddly enough, it would seem that
> everything EXCEPT my decision to buy the Union-made shirt are so.

That's only odd if you recant your first paragraph acknowledging that it's not
about political commitments, but about "something much deeper".

> When an economic base manifests itself in a superstructure
> in some way "essential" to its maintenance, we have ideology.
> OK. But where and how is the "essentially" economic separated
> out in this winnowing way?

Wherever and however we argue about what constitutes culture. Towards the end
of _Culture and Society_ Raymond Williams argued that the category 'culture'
('a tending of natural growth') could usefully include the practice of trade
union activism. This would clearly not serve capitalist production but rather
be antagonistic towards it. Trade unionism is resistance to capitalist
production, even though one can't think oneself entirely out of the conditions
one finds oneself in. (The sexism of much working class political activism in
1960s & 70s Britain typifies the incompleteness of any consciousness raising).
Williams charted the development of the notion of 'culture', with its widely
varied significances (eg Great Works of Art, or The Food and Recreation
Patterns of the Middle Classes) and offered a redefinition useful to Marxists.
Who is making the distinction between parts of the superstructure that directly
serve the base and parts which are superfluous or even antagonistic? Us!

> P.S. Almost any historical moment can be described as
> "pre-revolutionary" if you look hard and long enough.

Really? London 1661, Paris 1790, Moscow 1918 can be all described a
pre-revolutionary? For how long do I have to look before that happens?

Lastly, to Paul Hawkins...

> I would be interested in knowing which educational system
> Gabriel Egan is thinking of that now teaches Shakespeare
> on the assumption that he "helps the formation of strong
> character, moral rectitude, and good taste".

The British. Especially since the national curriculum was formulated to demand
that all twelve year olds study small, hopelessly decontextualized, excerpts.

> One large idea that certainly guided my own pre-university
> education in Ontario, and that shapes the curriculum within
> which I teach in Quebec's CEGEP system, is that the study of
> great literature offers not moral improvement but pleasure,
> a difficult pleasure as intellectual as it is visceral.

Sadly British education ministers of the 1980s didn't lay such an importance
upon pleasure. I did not mean to characterize the Canadian educational system,
about which I know no more than you have written.

Gabriel Egan
 

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