Wednesday, February 07, 2007

two questions

My committee has asked for my participation in creating (my own) exam questions. It may not seem like it, but it is a pretty intense process. The questions have taken me well over an hour (each) to craft. I'm not yet sure if I'm on the right track in terms of what they are looking for, but here is what I have so far:

1. "Althusser's Marxism is in the last analysis a reductionism, where ideology plays the role that the theory of mediations plays to Hegelian Marxism" (Aronowitz, The Crisis in Historical Materialism 161). For Althusser there is no practice except by and “in” ideology: “what thus seems to take place outside ideology…in reality takes place in ideology” (“Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses” 175). So it can be said that for Althusser the “last instance” is ideology; whereas for Marx it the productive forces and the relations of production. For Marx the dream/illusion or “false consciousness” constituted by the ‘day’s residues’ of individuals materially producing their existence needs to be interpreted in order to discover the reality of the world. And it is those relationships of production at the level of the infrastructure or economic base that have become one of the central components of historical materialism. Althusser, however, claims to “go beyond” the representation of base/superstructure to focus on the “point of view of reproduction” (136). This might be described as one moment in the “crisis of historical materialism” to which Stanley Aronowitz refers. Althusser’s movement away from Marx’s historical materialism without, as he says himself, wanting to “reject the classical metaphor” outright became important to the emergence of cultural studies as it encountered structuralist and poststructuralist thought – As Stuart Hall puts it, “Nevertheless, the refiguring of theory, made as a result of having to think questions of culture through the metaphors of language and textuality, represents a point beyond which cultural studies must now always necessarily locate itself" (“Cultural Studies and its theoretical legacies” 271). What exactly is the crisis of historical materialism to which Aronowitz refers? And how do divergent views of materialism within cultural studies answer to or seem to stem from this crisis?



2. In “Cultural Studies and its Theoretical Legacies,” Stuart Hall addresses Antonio Gramsci’s influence on cultural studies. Most important for Hall is the way(s) in which Gramsci "displaced some of the inheritances of Marxism” (266-7). Without a doubt Gramsci’s theory on hegemony has influenced the way various cultural theorists think about ideology. While, as Lawrence Grossberg argues, there have been (mis)readings of “the conjuncturalist form of cultural studies” as defining “the problematic of cultural studies within the ideological” (“The Formations of Cultural Studies” 56), for Grossberg (drawing on Gramsci), “Hegemony is a historically emergent struggle for power called into existence by the appearance of the masses on the political and cultural scene of civil society” (57). In this way, hegemony is not purely ideological, and it encompasses a conjuncturalist conception of historical specificity. In “Beyond ‘Doing’ Cultural Studies,” Eric Weiner distinguishes hegemony from ideology by saying it is not the process of establishing “false consciousness.” On the other hand, he does see it as somewhat similar by describing it as the process through which "discursive absences are generated, and those parts of the narrative that are left in place are represented as the whole" (65). He describes their relationship as hegemony being the “underbelly” of ideology. And Hall also seems careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water as he tries to hold onto the problem of the class structuring of ideology by drawing on Gramsci and arguing that "ideological struggle does not take place by displacing one whole, integral, class-mode of thought with another wholly-formed system of ideas." How do definitions of hegemony both relate to and break from definitions of ideology? And how might this affect a pedagogy of cultural studies or critical pedagogy?

13 comments:

Ben said...

What?

VTmtngrrl said...

Sorry, Ben, can you be a little clearer as to what it is you're asking and/or are confused about?

Ben said...

Haha, sorry. I was just expressing my utter confusion over what it is that you're studying. That's okay, though; a lot of people get the same feeling when I tell them what I'm doing.

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