I left off on Hall's use of more recent theorists/theories in relation to Marxism. In this regard Hall tends to address theories of language and discourse. This depends on language as the vehicle for ideology. Language is not fixed; it is multi-referential. Hall argues that this is implicit in Marx's beliefs about market exchange--"It would be distinctly odd if there were no category allowing us to think, speak, and act in relation to it." Hall believes that the two approaches to understanding theory (discursive versus...what is the other approach called? materialist???) are not necessarily contradictory, as the latter could be said to be about displacing the discourse of the bourgeois political economy and to replace it with a discourse that fits into the Marxist schema.
I think that Hall goes on to argue for this discursive approach because he feels it "means that our grasp is concrete and whole, rather than a thin, one-sided abstraction." He says this because "the economic relations themselves cannot prescribe a single, fixed and unalterable way of concpetualizing it"--it being the market. The market, he argues, can be "'expressed' within different ideological discourses. And while I tend to agree with him, I feel as though his argument is a bit flimsy in that it is kind of an illusion itself--a slight of hand. He takes issue with Marx's use of the terms "real" and "false," arguing that it is misleading in an all-or-nothing way between True and False, and yet he doensn't support Marx's use of them in such a way. How to say Marx didn't allow for the variations of meaning in "true"/"false" (i.e. "partial" and "adequate") that Hall argues for?
Hall follows this by dismantling the idea of ruling ideas as being those of the ruling class. He does this by referencing Laclau's work, which claims that classes are not the subjects of fixed and ascribed class ideologies. Laclau also argued that particular ideas and concepts do not belong exclusively to one particular class. This argument is also built of ideas of language and discourse. Again, returning to the idea of langauge as fluid and "multi-accentual," language is constantly intersecting variously oriented social classes. Volosinov argues, "Sign becomes the arena of the class struggle." Hall writes, "This approach replaces the notion of fixed ideological meanings and class-ascribed ideologies witht he concepts of ideological terrains of struggle and the task of ideological transformation." But Hall also tries to hold onto the problem of the class structuring of ideology (he doesn't want to throw the baby out with the bath water and seems careful not to do this). And he achieves this by drawing on Gramsci who argued that "ideological struggle does not take place by displacing one whole, integral, class-mode of though with another wholly-formed system of ideas." Hall writes:
- provide the contents of the particular thoughts of particular social classes or groups at a specific time
- fix or guarantee for all of time which ideas will be made use of by which classes
- effect an final closure on the domain of ideology
- cannot secure correspondences between particular classes according to their place within a system
In the end he puts it this way: It would be preferable to think of "materialism" through determination by the economic in the first instance (as opposed to the last). Again, I like this idea and its escape from the reductionism and determinism of an orthodox Marxist perspective.