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Ideology Theory

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A: nazarīyat al-’idiyulōğiyā.G: Ideologietheorie.F: théorie d’idéologie.R teorija ideologii.S: teoría de ideología.C: yishi-xingtai lilun.

The concept of «ideology theory» was coined in the 1970s in order to designate a refoundation of Marxist research into ideology stimulated by Louis Althusser. It was distinguished from three other approaches: 1. the reduction of ideologies to epiphenomena of the economic («economism»); 2. an ideology-critique that focuses on the critique of «false consciousness» from the standpoint of a «correct consciousness»; 3. bourgeois «legitimation theories» from Max Weber to Niklas Luhmann, which pose the question of the capacity of ideological integration in a «social-technological» way, from the perspective of domination and its self-justification.

The need for ideology theory resulted from the fact that none of these traditions were able to explain the stability of bourgeois society and its state, let alone to develop a strategy of socialist transformation capable of gaining hegemony. The approaches of ideology theory attempted to fulfill this need by inquiring into the social constitution and unconscious modes of functioning and efficacy of the ideological. Ideology theory focuses upon ideology’s «materiality», i.e. its existence as an ensemble of apparatuses, intellectuals, rituals and forms of praxis.

Ideology theory should not be comprehended as a new discovery, but, rather, as a re-articulation and new re-evaluation of questions that had already been worked on by Marx and Engels and later, in particular, by Antonio Gramsci. The distinction from the approaches of «ideology-critique» is not absolute: on the one hand, because these also deal with the social conditions of constitution and efficacy of ideologies; on the other hand, because ideology theory approaches also contain a component of critique, which differs, however, in that the paradigm of the truth-falsity dichotomy is transferred to the analysis of the mode of efficacy and the opposition is transformed into one of the reproduction of domination versus emancipation.

1. The term ideology was introduced in 1796 by Destutt de Tracy as a neologism (analogous to ontology) to signal an analytical science that aimed, following the model of the exact natural science (in particular, physiology), to dissect ideas into elementary component parts and – derived from the Greek sense of eidos as visual image – to investigate the perceptions upon which they were founded (Memoire sur la faculte de penser, 1798 , 324 ). Underlying this, following Locke, Condillac and Cabana, is the sensualist conviction that sense perceptions are the only source of our ideas. Based on the principle of movement of D’holbach and Spinoza’s concept of the capacity to act [potentia agendi ], it is supposed to overcome the dualism of materialism and idealism. Destutt de Tracy also takes over from Spinoza the rejection of free will, so that the physiological and social determinants of ideas, feelings and actions moved into the central focus (cf. Kennedy 1994, 29, 31; Goetz 1994, 58f, 61 et sq.).

In opposition to metaphysics, and claiming its position, ideology should be exact in the style of the natural sciences and practically useful (Moire, 318). All other sciences are subordinated to the new «super-science», which claims to establish their unity (Kennedy 1994, 18, 25). «This common denominator, this foundation underlying all knowledge, this origin expressed in a continuous discourse is Ideology» (Foucault 1970, 85). It forms the foundation of grammar, logic, education, morality and, finally, the greatest art: «de régler la société» (Memoire, 287). Rational derivation of meanings and goals of action should balance out the social oppositions of bourgeois society and thus contribute to the overcoming of its class struggles in an enlightened representative democracy (cf. Goetz 1994, 71).

Ideology, appearing here as a non-partisan and universalistic foundational science, is nevertheless «inseparable from the material practices of the ideological state apparatuses» (Eagleton 1991, 69). Destutt de Tracy introduced the concept into the debates of the Institut national which was created in 1795 after Thermidor as a state institution bringing together the leading republican intellectuals for the reorganisation of the system of education. The Enlightenment was thus institutionalised in the state at the very moment when Jacobinism was politically defeated. Ideology conserved the republican achievements while eliminating the plebeian elements; in the brief period of the Directory, it was accredited with the status of a state philosophy (Denys 1994, 109, 117 et sq.).

This «passive revolution» (Gramsci) of the mode of science and education could only be unstable and temporary. After General Bonaparte had initially supported the «ideologistes», as Emperor Napoleon he accused the «phraseurs ideologues» of undermining the state’s authority with rationalistic and natural right abstractions, of depriving the people of religion and salutary illusions and flattering it with a sovereignty that it and not exercise (cf. Kennedy 1978, 189). In the end, the concept became a «weapon in the hand of an Emperor […], who desperately fought to silence his opponents and to maintain a regime in dissolution» (Thompson 1990, 31). All the unhappiness of our beautiful France must be ascribed to ideology, he claimed in 1812 after the defeat against Russia: «this dark metaphysic, which seeks in an artificial way for the foundations upon which it can then erect the laws of men, instead of adapting these laws to the knowledges of the human heart and the lessons of history» (cited in Corpus 26 / 27, 145).

An echo of this semantic displacement occurs in the doctoral dissertation of the 23 year old Marx in 1840 / 41, when he ascribes to Epicurus: « Our life does not need ideology and empty hypotheses, but rather, that we live without disturbance» (MECW 1, 68; trans. modified). Of course, it is no longer «the autocratic power» that forms «the silent centre of the discourse that dismisses every claim against it as ‹ideology. Rather, power and domination, together with their changing strategies in relation to ideas, come into the picture» (Haug 1993, 9).

2. The critical-theoretical ideology concept is a coinage of Marx and Engels. The fact that they deployed it in different contexts in different ways led to the situation that three chief directions could be derived from their texts: first, a critical conception, represented in particular by Georg Lukács and the Frankfurt school, which interprets ideology as «inverted» or «reified» consciousness; second, a «neutral» conception, formulated in particular by Lenin and dominant in Marxism-Leninism, which comprehends ideology as a doss-specific conception of the world; and third, a conception that goes from Gramsci to Althusser to Wolfgang Fritz Haug and the «Projekt Ideologietheorie» (PIT), which understands the ideological as the ensemble of apparatuses and forms of praxis that organise the relation of individuals to the self and the world. The three interpretations can also overlap and be combined with each other.

2.1 The critique of ideology as necessarily inverted consciousness can appeal to numerous formulations in which Marx and Engels (for example, in relation to religion) speak of «inverted world-consciousness’, «independent kingdom in the clouds», «distorted conception», «standing on its head» and so forth (e.g. MECW 3, 175; MECW 5, 27 et sqq. ; MECW 35, 19). Ideology is accomplished by the thinker with a «false consciousness» who misses the real motives impelling him; «otherwise», notes the late Engels, « it would not be an ideological process» (MECW 50, 164). Ideologists regard «their ideology both as the creative force and as the aim of all social relations» (MECW 5, 420). Such an inversion is compared to that of a camera obscura: «If in all ideology men and their circumstances appear upside-down as in a camera obscura, this phenomenon arises just as much from their historical life-process as the inversion of objects on the retina does from their physical life-process» (MECW 5, 36).

The context shows that the claim that Marx understood ideology as «empty reflex» and as «form of consciousness [forme-conscience ]» (Althusser, EphP 1, 496 et sq.; cf. SLR, 294 et sq.) cannot be sustained. It leaves out the «historical life process» that is at stake here: the situation of «standing on its head», a characteristic of ideology, is treated as an effect of the social division of material and intellectual labour. For only by means of this can consciousness really «flatter itself that it is some-thing other than consciousness of existing practice, that it really represents something without representing something real»; only now is there «the formation of ‹pure› theory, theology, philosophy, morality» (MECW 5, 45), which, separated from relations, are practiced by specific intellectual groups «as a profession, that is, as a business» (379; cf. 62, 92). What makes possible and produces the reversal of consciousness is the real detachment of intellectual activities from social production, their growing independence and their pre-dominant position in relation to production.

The separation of material and intellectual labour is, in its turn, embedded in the formation of private property, classes and the state (46 et sqq. ), so that the camera obscura is to be understood as a metaphor for the «idealistic superstructure» of doss society as a privileged sphere reserved for the mental labour of the ideologues (89). In this sense, it has been proposed that the attention of ideology theory should not remain bound to the inner image of the camera obscura, but should come in from the side and investigate the material arrangement and thus the socially unconscious of the discourse of consciousness (Haug 1984, 26) : «The detachment of consciousness is framed and constituted by the material arrangement [dispositif, in a Foucauldian sense] of social domination» (24).

2.2 Another way of developing the «reversals» of consciousness from social structures is proposed by Marx with the concept of «fetishism», which he used from the 1844 Manuscripts onwards in order to study economic relations. The term was initially deployed for the characterisation of bourgeois economic thought, until it appeared in the appendix of the first edition of Capital Volume I (1867) for the first time as characteristic of the equivalent-form of the commodity itself (MEGA II.5, 637 et seq.). The passage was then enlarged into a whole sub – chapter in the second edition in 1872 (C1, 163 et sqq. , MECW 35, 81 et sqq. ). Stimulated by the original meaning of «fetish» used by Portuguese missionaries to describe «primitive» African religions (fetiço, something made or produced by humans that gains power over its makers), Marx deployed the «fetish character of the commodity» in order to characterise the process in which the social connection of the producers is only established in commodity exchange and thus a posteriori and behind their backs as a foreign, reified power, in the same way that the «law of gravity asserts itself when a persons house collapses on top of him» (C1, 168; cf. MEG W 35, 80 «Their own movement within society has for them the form of a movement made by things, and these things, far from being under their control, in fact control them» (C 1, 167 et sq.; cf. MECW 35, 85).

As the analysis of the critique of political economy ascends from the commodity to money, then to the commodity of labour-power, wages, capital and rent, the fetish concept also remains a constitutive part, until the «reification» and «mystification» of the capitalist mode of production is finally completed in the «trinitarian formula» of capital, land and labour as a «religion of everyday life» – a «bewitched, distorted and upside-down world haunted by Monsieur le Capital and Madame la Terre who are at the same time social characters and mere things» (C 3, 969; cf. MECW 37, 817). The combination of «reification» and «mystification» shows that Marts fetishism analysis attempts to comprehend different phenomena in their interconnection: first, the efficacy of a reified modern form of domination in which the capitalist market functions as a higher power; the producers, consumers and even the capitalists themselves are at its mercy, so that the relation of supply and demand «hovers over the earth like the fate of the ancients, and with invisible hand allots fortune and misfortune to men, sets up empires and wrecks empires, causes nations to rise and to disappear» (MECW 5, 48); second, the self-mystifying naturalisation of this reified domination into inherent necessity [Sachzwang ]: movements of things as «natural forms» of social life (C 1, 168; MECW 35, 86); and finally, the production of spontaneous consent so that the producers feel themselves «completely at home» in these «estranged and irrational forms» (C 3, 969; MECW 37, 817). The different meanings – reification, dissimulation and «voluntary» subordination – are, for Marx, not only related to each other, but are also immediately inscribed in the material arrangement [dispositif] of bourgeois domination: as «socially valid, and therefore […] objective thought forms» (C 1, 169; MECW 35, 87) which are reproduced directly and spontaneously as «current and usual thought forms» (C1, 682; MECW 35, 542). The sphere of circulation is «in fact a very Eden of the innate rights of man. It is the exclusive realm of Freedom, Equality, Property and Bentham» (C 1, 280; MECW 35, 180.

How Marx’s analyses of fetishism can be used for the analysis of bourgeois ideologies is contested. Unnoted by Kautsky, Plekhanov and Lenin, they play a central role neither in the tradition of «Marxism-Leninism» nor in Gramsci. For Althusser, they are a relict of a pre-Marxist phase and, furthermore, «fictitious theory» (EphP 1, 487, 497; cf. FM, 230). Lukács, on the other hand, makes the commodity fetish into a universal category of bourgeois society. For some, the fetishism chapter of Capital Volume I is the «exposure of the contents of the foundational structure of bourgeois consciousness in all its manifold forms» (e.g., Sorg 1976, 45). Philologically, it is to be noted that Marx deploys the concept of ideology in the context of his fetishism analyses at the most indirectly: on the one hand, by means of the inversion metaphor, which refers back to the ideology concept of The German Ideology ; on the other hand, through association with religion as the historically first form of ideology. According to the Projekt Ideologietheorie (PIT), the «objective thought forms» support the efficacy of bourgeois ideologies in integrating the society, but do not themselves yet constitute an ideology (1979, 186). Also for Sebastian Herkommer, who understands them as real fictitious modes of bourgeois everyday life, they only become ideologies through systematic elaboration and «translation» by specialised intellectuals (1985, 23 et sq., 44, 130).

Marx treated such ideologisation with the example of the «vulgar economists» who «translate» the ideas of economic actors into a doctrinaire language, precisely «from the standpoint of the ruling section, i.e., the capitalists, and their treatment is therefore not naive and objective, but apologetic» (TSV 3, 453; cf. MEW 26.3 / 445), according to what is «useful to capital or harmful, expedient or inexpedient» (C 1, 97; MECW 35, 15). He sees such reproduction of the «superficial appearance», determined by interests, in opposition to the «urge of political economists like the physiocrats, Adam Smith and Ricardo to grasp the inner connection» (TSV 3, 453; MEW 26.3, 445). From another perspective, The German Ideology had found a division of mental and manual labour even in the midst of the ruling classes: their «conceptive ideologists» appear as thinkers «who make the formation of the illusions of the doss about itself their chief source of livelihood», while the «active members» of this class barely have the time «to make up illusions and ideas about themselves» (MECW 5, 60).

2.3 The interpretation of the ideological as a neutral medium of class interests claims to find confirmation in a passage of the Preface of 1859, where Marx distinguishes between the «material […] transformation in the economic conditions of production» and the «ideological forms», «in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out» (MECW 29, 263). Following the young Lenin (LCW 1, 151), this passage was interpreted in Marxism-Leninism to the effect that the social relations and be divided into material and ideological relations (e.g., Bauer 1974, 19). The dichotomy of «material vs. ideological» reduces the ideological to «ideas» and thus overlooks the fact that, according to this passage, conflicts are not only made conscious but also practically out» (MECW 29, 263) in the «juridical, political, religious, artistic or philosophic […] forms» that are summarised as «ideological». This suggests that the concept of «ideological form» deployed here should be ascribed a stronger «materiality» and a more independent inner logic than a rhetoric of «expression» allows. In this sense, the late Engels developed the concept of «interaction [Wechselwirkung ]» and emphasised that the ideological (and in particular political and juridical) «forms of the doss struggle […] also have a bearing on the course of the historical struggles of which, in many cases, they largely determine the form» (MECW 49, 34 et sqq.). The argument indicated here can be generalised in the sense of a «strong» concept of form: just as Marx deciphered in the critique of political economy the social-historical specificity of the commodity in the commodity form with the help of a form-analysis (cf. Haug 2005 / 1974, 117 et sqq), so ideological forms are to be analysed as institutionally anchored «forms of individuality» and praxis (cf. Sève 1978).

Above all, the «neutral» concept of ideology overlooks that Marx and Engels continuously deploy the concept of ideology critically. Antagonisms in material production make a «superstructure of ideological strata» necessary (TSV 1, 287; cf. MEW26.1, 259). It is not a determinate content of consciousness that makes intellectuals ideologues, but a determinate «positioning in the structure of domination» (Haug 1984, 25), which is to be reconstructed socio-analytically, starting from the contradictions in society.

2.4 The foundation of the concept of ideology in a critical theory of the state was further developed by the late Engels, taking up the theoretical sketches of The German Ideology and calibrating them with new research (above all, that of Morgan). The state is now regarded as the «first ideological power over man» (MECW 26, 392), a «power having arisen out of society but placing above it, and alienating itself more and more from it» (269). Its functionaries are «organs of society, above society» and «respect for them must be enforced by exceptional laws, by virtue of which they enjoy special sanctity and inviolability» (270). Already in The German Ideology there was this notion of a «series of powers which determine and subordinate the individual, and which, therefore, appear in the imagination as ‹holy› powers» (MECW 5, 245).

3. The orientation towards the conquest of state power that was established in the Marxism of the Second and the Third International enhanced a development in which the ideology critique of Marx and Engels and, in particular, its connection with a foundational critique of the state was repressed by a widely diffused neutral concept of ideology. That was promoted by the fact that The German Ideology was only published first in 1926 in an abridged form and then integrally in 1932, which thus could not have been read by the first generation of Marxists. While Antonio Labriola, dose to Marx, could say that Marxist theory had once and for all overcome any form of ideology (Labriola 1908), and Franz Mehring, for example, spoke critically of the «Hegelian ideology» (Karl Marx, GS 3, 29), the young Russian delegate to the founding conference of the Second International in 1889, Georg Plekhanov, spoke of «our revolutionary ideologues» (cited in Jena 1989, 67). Kautsky tends more and more to a «neutral» concept, e.g. when he uses «intellectual [geistig ]» and «ideological» interchangeably (cf. 1906, 128 et sq.), and a similar tendency can be found in Eduard Bernstein’s writings, which contrast economic power to ideological power (1993 / 1899).

3.1 The young Lenin drew the conclusion from Marx’s distinction in the Preface of 1859 between the economic basis and ideological forms «that social relations are to be divided into material and ideological relations», with the latter forming «merely a superstructure above the former» (LCW 1, 151; trans. modified). Looked at from an ideology-theory approach, the concepts «material» and «ideological» constitute a false opposition, because it overlooks the materiality of the ideological. The definition of ideal forms of expression of doss interests as «ideology» furthermore opens the way to the definition of Marxism as the «ideology of the labouring class» (LCW 1, 394). This poses the problem of delimiting Marxism from other ideologies, such as, for example, Catholicism. Lenin does this with the concept of «scientific ideologies», whose specificity is supposed to consist in the fact that «the objective truth» corresponds to them (LCW 14, 153). Underlying this is a fundamental dichotomy between subjective and objective, which falls short of the praxis philosophy of Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach and corresponds, instead, to the «contemplative» or «metaphysical» materialism – Gramsci will call it «philosophical materialism» – that is criticised in that text. In confrontation with the subjectivist agnosticism of, for example, Bogdanov, Lenin adopts a fundamental dichotomic of «doctrine of two kingdoms» and takes up the position opposed to subjectivism, that of «objective truth, independent from humanity» (PIT 1979, 23).

In What Is to Be Done? (1902), Lenin takes up from Kautsky the idea that the working doss can develop spontaneously only a trade-union «seed form» of doss consciousness, which is still subordinate to bourgeois ideology, since this «is much older than socialist ideology, because it is much more complexly developed, because it has at its disposition incomparably more means of diffusion» (LCW 5, 386-7; vgl. 374 et sqq.). Political doss consciousness «can only be brought to the workers from out-side», from the sphere of the interactions between all classes’, or the relations between «all classes and strata to the state and government» (420 et sqq.6). The argument contains an anti-economistic insight, which Gramsci will extensively elaborate in the sense that the transition of a doss from the corporative to the hegemonic phase requires a «catharsis» of group egoisms (Q 10.II, §6). However, while Gramsci proposes to elaborate critically the «spontaneous philosophies» of «bizarrely» composed everyday common sense [senso comune] (Q 11, §12), Lenin’s «from outside» suggests an educationalistic relation between the working doss and a separate layer of organisers and ideologues (the later «nomenklatura»).

«If we can now not speak of an independent ideology elaborated by the working masses in the course of their movement itself, the question can only be: bourgeois or socialist ideology», Lenin concludes: «There is no middle position here» (L5, 385 et sq.). The opposition bourgeois / socialist is inaccurate, because one pole lies on the level of the social structure while the other is located on the level of a political project. The dichotomy is linked to the reductionist postulate of «seeking behind all the possible moralistic, religious, political and social phrases, explanations and promises the interests of this or that doss» (L19, 27), and tends towards a theory of manipulation (for example, in relation to the «freedom of the press» of the rich, L26, 283). Just as religion is interpreted in a pre-Feuerbachian way as «deceit of the priests» (opium for the people rather than, as in Marx, of the people), the ideologue appears as a mere deceiver.

3.2 From the combination of class reductionism and educationism, Marxism-Leninism derived legitimation to define the «proletarian» ideology through the politburo of the «parry of the working class» and to prosecute contradiction as «deviation». It was thus obscured that Lenin had implicitly developed an «operative» ideology theory that is oriented to the self-determined activities of the masses and opposed to the reideologisation of Marxism (cf. Pit 1979, 24 et sqq.). Paradoxically, this was manifested in the fact that in the phases of upsurge of the revolutionary movements in 1905 and 1917, the concept of ideology receded behind that of hegemony. With the concept of hegemony, Lenin oriented towards driving further the movement for democracy (LCW 8, 72 et sqq.), towards the «purification» of the allied strata from undemocratic and nationalistic admixture (L17, 60 et sqq.) and towards the democratic functions of the unions (LCW 32, 19 et sqq.). It was a matter of the «discipline of conscious and unified workers, who recognise no order higher than themselves and no per outside the per of their own association» (LCW 29, 423). This perspective breaks with all ideology in the sense of an alienated socialisation from above. Nevertheless, historically, it failed due to low social levels of development and the thus conditioned limited capacity for action of the working class, as well as due to the unfavourable international power relations. All this favoured the tendencies towards the statification and reideologisation of Marxism.

3.3 Subsequently, the problem of ideology was subordinated to a «materialist» response to the «fundamental question of philosophy». It opposes an economic base, which alone was ascribed the status of «matter», to an ideology, which was defined as a «system of social […] views that express determinant class interests» (PhWb, 504). At the same time, ideology was also identified with the «superstructure», so that «ideological relations» could include both the «forms of consciousness» as well as «social institutions» (Bauer 1974, 23). As a result, the dualistic method led to depriving of the «base» of its constitutive moments of conscious activity and to the identification of the ideological, sometimes with consciousness, sometimes with the superstructure in se. Even when it was recognised that «certain appearances not be distinguished into the purely material and the purely ideal» (Rogge 1977, 1373), or that the idea of ideology «as product of the reflection of the material» was not adequate to the complicated mediations (Dold 1979, 746), the debates remained within the prescribed dichotomy of material and ideal and petered out into hair splitting. According to the PIT, this «dualistic approach» missed the constitution of ideological forms and mystified their determinateness, instead of explaining them functionally-historically on the basis of their necessity in terms of life practices (PIT 1979, 87, 91). Despite continuing reference to the «ideological doss struggle», therefore, no theory of it could be developed (83).

4. Even though Lukács sometimes used the Leninist rhetoric of a neutral concept of ideology, his chief category is that of the «ideological phenomenon of reification» (1971, 94). He thus sought to explain the defeat of socialist revolution in the West after WWI and to re-define the aim of revolutionary theory as that of «destroying the fiction of the immortality of the categories» (14).

Characteristic of Lukács’s method is an interpretation of the commodity fetish, which makes it – differently from Marx – into the «universal category of society as a whole» (86). With its help, «the ideological problems of capitalism and its downfall» can be deciphered (84). Here, Lukács links Marx’s fetish analysis to Weber’s «formal rationalisation», which is supposed to merge state and society into an «iron cage» of bondage (Weber 1930 / 1922, 181). From the «basic phenomenon of reification» (1971, 94), Lukács derived the «ever more reified levels» of social consciousness. The relationships of these levels are grasped as «analogy» and «expression» (cf. 46 et sqq., 95, 97) and it is supposed that «the structure of reification progressively sinks more deeply, more fatefully and more definitively into the consciousness of men» (93).

Differently from Weber, Lukács reinterpreted the process of rationalisation on the basis of an underlying Taylorism. He opposed the instrumental rationality [Zweckrationalität] that rules in singular sections of the system to the irrationality of the entire process based upon the anarchy of the market (102). From this he derived the ideological effect of a comprehensive passivisation with regard to society as a whole: the attitude becomes «contemplative», that is, it «does not go beyond the correct calculation of the possible outcome of the sequence of events (the ‹laws› of which he finds ‹ready-made›), […] without making the attempt to intervene in the process by bringing other ‹laws› to bear» (98). From «critical philosophy» since Kant, bourgeois thought is marked by the dichotomy of «voluntarism» and «fatalism». Activity is reduced to «the evaluation for [the single] (egotistical) interest of the necessary course of certain individual laws» (135; trans. modified).

Lukács’s «model of the diffusion of an ever more reified reification» (PIT 1979, 53 et sq.) discounts not only what Ernst Bloch famously described as «non-contemporaneities» of social development (1990, 97 et sqq.), e.g. the coexistence of capitalist and pre-capitalist forms and the multiplicity of systems of domination, but also eclipses the heterogeneity and contradictoriness of everyday consciousness (senso comune in the Gramscian sense). It is economistic insofar as it does not ascribe to the ideological its own reality: integration appears to follow from the commodity fetish itself, without requiring ideological powers, hegemonic apparatuses, ideologues etc. The thesis of passivisation undervalues, furthermore, the ability of bourgeois society to set free activities in private-egoistical form, and misses the «multi-formed dimensions of the Do it Yourself of ideology» (Haug 1993, 227). Confronted with «ordinary» people reduced to reified-passified subjects, critical intellectuals assume the function of clarifying the «truth» of the social context – a concept that will influence several strands of leftist academics enduringly.

5. Gramsci, who did not know The German Ideology, published in 1932, and was not interested in the fetish analysis of Capital based himself on, among other texts, the passage of the Preface of 1859 (also referred to by Lenin), which he translated into Italian at the beginning of his time in prison (cf. Q2358 et sqq.). This translation already displays a particular interest for the specific reality of the ideological: where the German text speaks of the «ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out» (MECW 29, 263), Gramsci translates «in which» with «on which terrain [nel cui terreno ]» (Q 2359), as if he wanted to prevent the common misunderstanding of mere forms of consciousness from the outset. The «ideological terrain» that from now on will continually accompany the treatment of ideologies shows that these «are anything but illusions and appearance», but rather, an «objective and effective reality», the terrain of the «superstructures» (Q 4, §15; cf. Q 10.II, 441; Q11, 464; Q13, 418). Thus he developed a theory of ideology that is diametrically opposed to the dualistic separation of «material» and «ideal» of Marxism-Leninism. With reference to Marx’s political texts (e.g. the 18 th Brumaire, Civil War in France and Class Struggles in France ), he wants to show that the «approach of deducing and presenting every movement of politics and ideology as an immediate expression of the structure […] must be combated as a primitive infantilism» (Q 13, §18). Opposition to the treatment of ideology as expression of the economic, as illusion and mere appearance is pervasive. The term itself, however, oscillates between very different meanings.

5.1 A critical concept of ideology is to be found when Gramsci uses the term in opposition to the concept of the philosophy of praxis, which attempts to liberate itself from any «one-sided and fanatical ideological element» (Q 11, 462; cf. Q 16, §9). He criticises as «ideological» the tendency emerging in the Comintern of comprehending theoretical debates as a «law-suit», «in which there is an accused and a prosecutor, who, on the basis of his official function, must prove that the accused is guilty and deserves to be taken out of circulation» (Q 10.II, §24). In opposition, he demands a scientific attitude that takes seriously the opponent’s standpoint and builds it into one’s own construction. It is precisely this that he means when he speaks of having «freed oneself from the prison of ideologies (in the negative sense of blind ideological fanaticism)» (ibid.). While «economism» overvalues mechanical causes, «ideologism» is fixated on the at individual personalities and absolutises the «voluntaristic and individual element» (Q 13, 417; cf. Q 19, 45). «Ideological» is also the theoretical disarming of dialectics by Benedetto Croce (Q 10. II, 441. xvi ).

Under the title «Concept of ‹ideology›», Gramsci goes back to the original meaning coined by the «ideologistes», for whom ideology signifies the analytical procedure of tracing ideas back to «sensations» (Q 11, §63). In this sense, he asks if Bukharin is not also entrapped in ideology and claims «that Freud is the last of the ideologists» (ibid.). Here he refers to the physiological foundations of the Freudian theory of drives, which were later criticised in Lacanian-influenced psychoanalysis as «biologism». Gramsci also explains with the sensualistic meaning of the word why the concept of ideology implicitly has a «devaluing judgement» in the philosophy of praxis, which «historically sets itself against ideology» and represents its «definitive superannuation», because it seeks the origin of ideas not in sensations, but analyses it historically as a superstructure (ibid.).

5.2 At the same time, Grated turned against the attempt to oppose ideology to the «objective truth» of a science, because fundamentally the idea of an objective reality is also a «particular conception of the world, an ideology» (Q 11, §37). Science is also an historical category. If its «truth» were definitive, science would no longer exist, and an objective reality without humans would be at the most a chaotic void (ibid.; cf. Q 11, §17). Nevertheless, science is conceptually distinguished from ideology: as «methodology», it is not absorbed into ideology, for it is able «to separate objective knowledge from the system of hypothesis» through a process of abstraction, so that the science of a social group can be appropriated while at the same time its ideology is rejected (Q 11, §38). What distinguishes science from the ideology that «coats» it (ibid.) and at the same time connects it with good sense [buon senso] is a specifically experimental attitude, «the theoretical […] or practical-experimental activity» (Q 11, §34), unremitting correction and refinement of the experiment (Q 11, §37). Althusser’s critique that Gramsci misconceives the «epistemological break» between ideology and Marxist theory and dissolves science into ideology (RC, 134 et sq.), can therefore not be maintained (cf. Spiegel 1983 / 1997, 61 et sqq. ; 137 et sqq.).

5.3 Gramsci uses the concept of ideology positively for when a philosophy goes beyond the bounds of the intellectuals and is diffused in the great masses (Q10.11, §41.i). In this context, ideology signifies the «element of the masses of any philosophical conception» (Q10.11, §2), its «moral will» and its norm of behaviour (Q10.11, §31). The fact that philosophy becomes a «cultural movement» and brings forth a «practical activity and a will», could also be described as «ideology», if it is ascribed with «the higher meaning of a conception of the world which is implicitly manifested in art, in law, in economic activity in all individual and collective expressions of life» (Q 11, §12). When philosophies become «ideologies», this means that they assume the «granite fanatical compactedness of the ‹beliefs of the people›, which take on the same energy as the ‹material forces›» (Q 11, §62). Gramsci refers here to the passage of the young Marx , that theory becomes a «material power as soon as it has gripped the masses» (MECW 3, 182 et sq.). Contrary to the reflection theory metaphors of «expression» and «appearance» that were widely diffused in Marxism, he defined ideologies as «practical constructions» which are «anything but arbitrary», but, rather, represent «real historical facts» (Q10.11, §41).

Gramsci himself refers to a polysemy of the concept of ideology, which is applied both to «arbitrary elucubrations of determinate individuals» as well as to the «necessary superstructure of a determinate structure» (Q 7, §19). Consequently, one must thus distinguish between «historically organic ideologies, which […] are necessary for a determinant structure, and arbitrary, rationalistic ‹wished› ideologies». If the latter produce «only individual polemical ‹movements›», the former «organise» the masses, «forming the terrain upon which humans move, conscious of their position, struggle, etc» (ibid.).

5.4 Gramsci attempted on numerous occasions to define the ideological as the «entire ensemble of superstructures» (Q 10.II, 1.I). The «ideological terrain», which Gramsci had already introduced in his translation of the passage from the Preface of 1859, is specified as the «objective and effective reality» of the superstructural (Q10.11, §41.XII). Marx’s statement that men become conscious of their conflicts on the «ideological terrain of the juridical, political, religious, artistic, philosophical forms», must be developed «with the entire ensemble of the philosophical doctrine of the meaning of the superstructures» (Q 11, §64).

The terminological ambiguity of the concept of ideology is a symptom of the fact that it represents, for Gramsci, a transition to the elaboration of the more specific categories of his theory of hegemony. The identification of ideology and «superstructures» is to be understood as the foreground of his wide concept of the «integral state», with which he brings together the two decisive functions, usually separated, of «political society» and «civil society», violence and hegemony (Q6, §88; cf. Q 6, §155). Just as Gramsci subordinated the question of utopias and (rationalist) ideologies to the problem of the elaboration of an enduring collective will (Q 8, §195), he wants to treat the «meaning of the ideologies» in the context of the «war of position» and «civil hegemony» (Q 13, §7; cf. Q 11, §12). Thus his theory of ideology turns into a theory of the intellectuals: the «ideological panorama» of an epoch can then only be transformed if «intellectuals of a new type can be brought forward who come directly out of the masses and stay in contact with them, becoming their ‹corset braces›» (Q 11, §12). He characterised the connection between structure and superstructure achieved by «historically organic ideologies» also as an «ideological bloc» (Q 1, §44), which he then successively substituted with «historical bloc» (Q10.11, §41.I). Gramsci also applies this category to individuals and their inner relations of forces (Q 10.II, §48). This can be fruitfully taken up as a contribution to a theory of the subject in ideology theory (cf. Hall 1988, 56).

5.5 Gramsci was particularly interested in the positively organising function of the ideological. In this, he neglected the structures of alienated socialisation, which Marx and Engels proposed as the core of the ideological (cf. Pit 1979, 80). This can be seen, for example, in the lack of an analytical distinction between ideology and culture. On the other hand, however, the perspective of ideology critique that is often lost in the application of the term of ideology is fundamentally maintained in the context of the philosophy of praxis: whereas ideologies aim «to reconcile contradictory and oppositional interests», the philosophy of praxis is the «theory of these contradictions themselves» and at the same time the expression of the «subaltern class who want to educate themselves in the art of governing» (Q10.11, 1).

Correspondingly, Gramsci provides worth-while hints as to how ideology-critique can be further developed on the basis of a materialist ideology theory. First, it is an important part of Gramsci’s concept of a critique of everyday consciousness [senso comune ], whose main elements he sees provided, in his Italian context, by the popular religion of Catholicism (cf. Q 11, §13). To work critically on the coherence of people’s worldviews implies a continuous critique of the way ideologies exploit the incoherences of «common sense». Second, «ideology critique, in the philosophy of praxis, invests the entirety of the superstructures» (Q 10.II, §41.XII; cf. Q 13, §18). It attempts to intervene in this structure effectively, in order to induce a process of distinction and change in the relative weight»: «what was secondary […] is assumed as principal, becomes the nucleus of a new ideological and doctrinal complex. The old collective will disaggregates into its contradictory elements» (Q 8, §195). Cultural studies elaborated these thoughts in terms of discourse theory as «disarticulation» and «rearticulation» of ideological formations (cf. Hall 1988, 56). Ideology-critique becomes effective as an «interruptive discourse» that does not unmask the ideological bloc of the opponent from outside, but intervenes in it, in order to decompose it, to reshape it and build effective elements into a new order (Laclau 1981; evaluated in Pit 1980, 37).

6. The ideology-critique of the «Frankfurt school» sets out in particular from the Lukács of History and Class Consciousness, without familiarity with Gramsci’s considerations on ideology and hegemony in the Prison Notebooks, which were first published in 1948. For Lukács, the proletariat becomes capable, precisely due to the most extreme reification, of recognising in the crisis the totality of society and thus to break through the reification structure. This perspective, however, is lost for Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno under the conditions of Stalinisation of the Soviet Union and the emerging hegemony of American Fordism. at is retained is the concept of ideology developed within the paradigm of the commodity fetish, which is declared, however, to be no longer effective.

6.1 Dialectic of Enlightenment is in the first place concerned with the efficacy of a «new» positivistic-technocratic ideology based on the «omnipresence of the stereotype» enforced by technology (Horkheimer / Adorno 1995 / 1944, 136). Instead of appealing to «truth», it is pragmatically oriented to the business purpose and «conceals itself in the calculation of probabilities» (145, 147). It limits itself to elevating «a disagreeable existence into the world of facts by representing it meticulously» and thus fulfills the positivistic «duplication» of a consistently dosed being (148, 151 et sq.). The fatal context of alienation then becomes dear when the dominated develop an «evil love» for that which is done to them: «Immovably, they insist on the very ideology which enslaves them» (134).

The concept of this new ideology oscillates between positivistic reflection of the given and manipulation (deception and business). Its apparatus is identified as the «culture industry». As Adorno (1963) explained, this was supposed to dose off the interpretation that it was a case of a «culture that arises spontaneously from the masses themselves»: «the masses are not primary, but secondary, they are an object of calculation; an appendage of the machinery. The customer is not king, as the culture industry would have us believe, not its subject but its object» (1991, 85). This approach has been accused of the assumption of a «perfect» context of manipulation (e.g. Kausch 1988, 92) in which active cultural activity and subversive oppositional decoding is excluded (cf. Hall 1981, 232; 1993, 510; capitalist society is comprehended as a «monolith of a dominant ideology» without contradictions in itself (Eagleton 1991, 46). One could explain this with the procedure of transferring categories from Taylorist production immediately onto the culture industry: the latter appears to be a mere continuation of «what happens at work, in the factory, or in the office» into free time, in order «[to occupy] men’s senses from the time they leave the factory in the evening to the time they dodo in again the next morning» (Horkheimer / Adorno 1995 / 1944, 131, 137). The functional definition can be made fruitful for the investigation of structural analogies. In this generalisation, however, it misses both the contradictions in the hegemonic apparatuses as well as the efficacy of compensatory oppositional worlds: «under monopoly all mass culture is identical» (121).

6.2 Instead of using the analysis of the «culture industry» for the further development of an ideology theory, Horkheimer and Adorno draw the conclusion after their return from exile in the USA of declaring socialisation through ideologies to be irrelevant. This appears to be plausible insofar as they have previously limited the concept of ideology to a classically bourgeois-liberal form of ideology characteristic is a concept of justice developed from commodity exchange as well as an «objective spirit» reflected in it that has been disconnected from its social basis (IFS 1956, 168 et sq., 170. In an implicit opposition to Gramsci, they declare: «Ideology can only be meaningfully discussed in terms of how a spiritual dimension [ein Geistiges] emerges from the social process as independent, substantial and with its own claims» (176; cf. Adorno, GS 8, 474). The task of ideology-critique is then to confront «the intellectual dimension with its realisation» (169 / 466). This concept of ideology, which is linked to relatively petty-capitalist market relations and the «grand narratives» of idealist philosophy, is indeed hardly adequate for an analysis of both fascist ideologies and the culture industry in the USA. Horkheimer and Adorno take this weakness as a reason to dismiss the concept of ideology altogether in the name of «simply immediate», allegedly «transparent» power relations as well as manipulatively thought out mere means of domination (168 et sq., 170; 465, 467). This can be seen as a regression from the material richness of their own investigations of the «culture industry» into a conception of instrumentalist manipulation. A translation of the culture-industry investigations into the terms of ideology theory still remains to be undertaken.

The dismissal of the concept of ideology is however not definite. Adorno’s Jargon of Authenticity not only refers with its original German subtitle «Zur deutschen Ideologie» to the classic work of Marx and Engels but also uses the concept throughout. Focusing on Heidegger’s ontological jargon of «authenticity [Eigentlichkeit ]» and its discursive diffusion in post-fascist Germany, Adorno’s critique targets «ideology as language, without any consideration of specific content» (1973a1 1964, 160). When, in Prisms, he explains the differences between a «traditional transcendental critique of ideology» and his concept of immanent critique, he describes the latter according to the dialectical principle «that it is not ideology in itself which is untrue but rather its pretension to correspond to reality» (1967 / 1955, 32 et sq.; GS 10.1, 27 et sq.).

For Negative Dialectics, ideology «lies in the implicit identity of concept and thing» (1973a, 40). Identity is the «primal form [Urform] of ideology», and ideology’s power of resistance to enlightenment is due to its complicity with identifying thought, or indeed with thought at large (19736 / 1966, 148; cf. GS 10.1, 151). Critical theory intersects here with Althusser’s concept of «ideology in general», which approaches the ideological evidence of «identity» by means of Lacan’s psychoanalytical theory of the «imaginary». Both approaches also share the weakness that the concept of ideology, by its identification with human acting, thinking and feeling in general, risks losing its connection to the specific alienated structures of antagonistic doss societies.

6.3 Following Herbert Marcuse, according to whom ideology is now incorporated in the process of production itself (1972, 22 et sqq., 188 et sq.), Jurgen Habermas displaces ideology into technology (1970). He thus also comes to the diagnosis that the «late-capitalist» societies have lost their possibilities for the formation of ideology and have instead developed a functional equivalent: «In place of the positive task of meeting a certain need for interpretation by ideological means, we have the negative requirement of preventing the emergence of efforts at interpretation onto the level of the integration of ideologies. […] In the place of ‹false consciousness› we today have a ‹fragmented consciousness› that blocks enlightenment by the mechanism of reification» (1987, 355). Also here a narrow understanding of the ideological (as totalising and «false» representation of order) leads to the positing of an opposition between it and fragmentation, instead of treating the latter as an integral component part of ideological socialisation.

By erecting his social theory on the opposition of «instrumental» and «communicative» reason , Habermas carries out two complementary strategic modifications: on the one hand, following Weber’s «value rationality», he reintroduces a positive, neo-Kantian revaluation of morality and religion, which are called upon as component parts of the «life world» against the «system world» (1984, 345 et sqq.; 1987, 326et sqq.); on the other hand, «ideology-critique» increasingly becomes a deprecatory term, with which he attributes to Horkheimer and Adorno together with Nietzsche and Heidegger an anti-modernist and potentially totalitarian «rebellion against all normativity» (1987, 106 et sqq.), which places the «achievements of occidental rationalism» diagnosed by Weber in question (131 et sqq.). Even if Habermas and Axel Honneth in some ways differentiated the analytical instruments of critical theory, this occurs at the price of cancelling its radical potential for critique and carrying it over into a normative discourse.

7. While Althusser criticised in Gramsci’s «historicist» theory a lads of distinction between «ideology» and «science» (RC, 134 et sqq.), his own ideology theory is based in essential aspects On Gramsci’s notes on «civil society» and on «hegemonic apparatuses». As Althusser himself admitted, (L&P, 142; SLR, 281), his distinction between the repressive state apparatus and the ideological state apparatus is formed following the model of Gramsci’s differentiation of «political society» and «civil society», coercion and hegemony (Q 6, §88; cf. Q 6, §155); the ISAs reproduce the relations of production under the «shield / cover [bouclier ]» of the RSAs (L&P, 150; SLR, 287); even the treatment of the ideological apparatuses as state apparatuses would not be comprehensible without Gramsci’s enlargement of the traditional Marxist concept of the state into the concept of the «integral state»; their «plurality» emphasised by Althusser presupposes Gramsci’s pluralisation of the «superstructures» (in opposition to the then usual singular term «superstructure»). Althusser refers to Gramsci when he declares that the distinction between «public» and «private» institutions is secondary and claims that their ideological «functioning» is decisive (144 / 293). The insight that the resistance of the subalterns can On a hearing in the ideological state apparatuses by using the contradictions that exist there or conquering «combat positions» (147 / 284) takes up in its turn implicitly elements from Gramsci’s considerations on the «war of position».

However, whereas Gramsci was primarily interested in the «working upwards» of a subaltern class into the storeys of the superstructures, Althusser’s attention is directed to the ideological subjection under the capitalist order accomplished by the ISAs. He justifies this with the primacy of the bourgeois class struggle in relation to that of the workers’ movement and with the asymmetrical relations of force implied by this (185 / 266). Hegemony unfolds despite its spontaneous origins into forms that are integrated and transformed into ideological forms. New in comparison to Gramsci are particularly the concepts of the subject and the voluntary subjection [assujettissement] that Althusser develops on the basis of the psychoanalysis of Jacques Lacan. Psychoanalytical categories enable him to understand the ideological as an unconscious, «lived» relation and to illustrate the dynamic and active character of ideological subjugation. At the same time, the integration of Lacanian psychoanalysis exposes Althusserian ideology theory to the tension between the historically specific ISAs concept and an unhistorically conceived «ideology in general» – a contradiction, which led to divided receptions (cf. Barrett 1991, 22, 109) and finally contributed to the disintegration of the Althusser school.

7.1 The methodological point of departure for the ISA essay, first published in 1970, is the question concerning the «reproduction of the conditions of production» – on the one hand, of the commodity of labour-power, on the other, of the relations of production. Althusser is interested in particular in the point at which both of these overlap: the reproduction of labour-power proceeds not only by means of wages, but also by means of «qualification», which is predominantly produced outside the apparatus of production in the school system and involves ideological subjection [assujettissement] (L&P, 132; SLR, 274). On this basis, Althusser comprehends the school as the dominating ISA, because like no other it can draw upon an obligatory attendance for so many years (156 et sqq. / 289 et sqq.). An «empirical list» includes, beyond this, the religious, familial, juridical, political, trade-union, cultural and information ISAs (143 et sq. / 282). Even though a RSA also produces ideological effects and repression also plays a role in the ISAs, the specificity of the ISAs is that they predominantly aim at the voluntary subjection of those addressed. Unification occurs not, as with the RSAs, by way of centralisation but rather through the «dominant ideology», which establishes the (sometimes) «teeth-gritting» harmony between the RSAs and ISAs and between the ISAs themselves (150 / 287).

Already in his earlier writings, Althusser had opposed determinism with the concept of «overdetermination» and the Hegelian model of expressivist totality with the concept of a heterogeneously composed «structured whole» (FM, 193). Against the idea of a linear and homogenous temporality, he suggests that every social level has its own relatively autonomous temporality (RC, 100 et sqq.). These approaches are also to be found in Althusser’s ideology theory. The ISAs vary, on the one hand, regarding the different «regional» specificities; on the other hand (apart from the power relations reigning in them), regarding the effectiveness of their ideological integration. Instead of being a mere «expression» of a foundational economy, the ideologies have their own «materiality»: individuals are moved by a system, that goes from its particular apparatus to material rituals to everyday practices of the subject and produces ideological effects there: «kneel down, move your lips in prayer and you will believe» (L&P, 168; SLR, 301; taken from Pascal’s Pensées, Aph. 944). If ideology was originally comprehended by Destutt de Tracy as the analysis of «ideas», these are now re-interpreted as integral elements of ideological practices and rituals (168 / 302).

7.2 Althusser’s «point of view of reproduction» (128 / 270) has been criticised as a «functionalism» that disregards the contradictions and struggles in the ideological in favour of considering the stabilisation of domination (e.g. Hall 1983, 63; Lipietz 1993). Althusser responded to such objections already in the «Postscript» to the ISA essay, by emphasising the primacy of the «class struggle» and referring to the emergence of the ideology of the dominated classes outside of the ISAs (L&P, 185; SLR, 313 et sq.). In «Remarks on the Ideological State Apparatus» (1976), he introduced the concept of «proletarian ideology», which is formed under the primacy of (and against) the bourgeois class struggle and calls upon individuals as militant subjects (SLR 263 et sqq.). This raises, on the one hand, the problem that different contradictions and struggles are subsumed reductively to «class struggle». This prevented Althusserianism from opening itself towards a theoretical elaboration of gender relations. On the other hand, the professed primacy of doss struggle remains unproductive because the ideological is primarily thematised as a phenomenon formed from above and organised through apparatuses. It is certainly an advance that Althusser analysed the dimension of socialisation from above neglected by Gramsci. However, on the other hand, this aspect is absolutised, so that the interface between ideology and the contradictorily composed forms of everyday consciousness falls out of view. Non-ideological material and its ideological organisation are not distinguished. Thus Althusser cannot make his reference to the emergence of ideologies outside the ISAs theoretically productive. «The ISAs produce their rituals and practices almost out of nothing, that is, without recognisable connection with the practices and thought forms of those who are subjected» (PIT 1979, 115).

While ideology and hegemony in Gramsci signify a consensus-oriented dimension of socialisation that traverses all instances of the «integral state», Althusser’s ISA concept focuses upon determinant state apparatuses. Stuart Hall criticises a neglect of «private» institutions, which, for example, played a significant role in the ideological preparation of neoliberalism (1988, 46 et sq.). According to Pierre Bourdieu, the ISA concept misses the economy of the culture producing institutions, their character as culture industry as well as the material and symbolic interests of the actors (1982, 51, 24). Nicos Poulantzas holds the distinction between RSAs and ISAs to be too schematic: it assigns functions in an essentialist way and thus misses that a number of apparatuses «can slide from one sphere to the other and assume new functions either as additions to, or in exchange for, old ones» (1978, 33) – for example, when the military becomes a central ideological-organisational apparatus and functions chiefly as the political party of the bourgeoisie. Stimulated by Michel Foucault, he argued that Althusser’s binary opposition of repression and ideology is one-sidedly fixated on the negative functions of prohibition and deception and misses the state’s «peculiar role in the constitution of the relations of production», thus becoming unable to understand adequately the bases of the dominant power in the dominated classes: the state is effective in the economic itself and produces the «material substratum» of the consensus that binds the subalterns to domination (30 et sq.); additionally, it places techniques and strategies of knowledge at the disposal of the rulers, which are certainly built into ideologies, but at the same time go beyond them (32); finally, the state also works on the «spatio-temporal matrices» according to which social atomisation and fractionalisation occurs (65 et sqq.).

7.3 In direct opposition to the reduction of ideology to false consciousness or manipulation, Althusser emphasises its meaning as lived and believed reality: it is «fundamentally unconscious», its representations are «usually images, sometimes concepts, but they impose them-selves on the majority of humans above all as structures» (FM, 233). Even when people use it, they are entrapped in it, «the bourgeoisie must believe in its own myth before it can convince others» (234). This thought is developed further in the ISA essay in subject-theoretical terms: ideology in general is defined through the function of «constituting» concrete individuals as subjects. Corresponding to the double meaning of the term (subject / subjected), «subject» means the subordinate individual who (mis-)understands him or herself as autonomously self-determined – subjected in the form of autonomy (L&P, 169, 148; SLR, 302 et sq., 310 et sq.). Althusser thinks this voluntary subjection with the image of the call (interpellation, literally: call and interrogation) by a superior ideological instance, which he names SUBJECT: it interpellates the small subject as an identity of its own, with name and social status (God calls Moses as «Moses»); the small subject confirms with its answer the interpellated identity (Moses answers: Yes, Lord, I am here’); and thus recognises itself in the calling SUBJECT (179 et sq. / 308 et sq.), so that it gains «the absolute guarantee that everything really is so, and that on condition that the subjects recognize what they are and behave accordingly, everything will be all right» (181 / 310). Subjects constituted in this way now function as a rule «on their own», except for the «bad subjects» who are given over to the custody of the RSA (181 / 310 et sq.).

The presentation of a temporal succession (from individual to subject) is chosen for didactic clarity, for in reality ideology has «always already [toujours-déjà ]» called individuals as subjects (172 / 306 et sq.). Althusser demonstrates this with the «ideological rituals» with whose help the child already before its birth is «expected» by a (familial) order and through which it must become the «sexual subject (boy or girl) which it already is in advance» (176 / 307). The observation can serve as an indication that ideological subjection does not occur uniformly, but, rather, that it should be investigated as «a process split into two genders» (cf. Frigga Haug 1983, 653 et sqq. ). It serves Althusser, however, as proof for the theoretical assumption that ideology is without history and «eternal, just as the unconscious is eternal» since both inwardly cohere (L&P, 161; SLR, 295). Here, he refers to Sigmund Freud’s description of the unconscious as without contradictions and «timeless» (Vol. XIV 186 et sq.). The concept of an ideology in general, mediated by Lacan’s structuralist interpretation of psychoanalysis (cf. L&P, 189 et sq.), leads to treating the human – following Aristotle’s noon politikon (Politics, 1253a) – as an «ideological animal» (L&P, 171; SLR, 303). Thus, the ideological, against Marx’s location of it in doss-antagonistic societies, is once more relocated in the individual and comprehended as an unhistorical-anthropological essence.

In this over-general version, ideology represents «the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence» (162 / 296). Taken in itself, the formulation could be made fruitful for a determination of the relation between the «imaginary» forms of everyday understanding and their «ideological» processing. However, the concept taken over from Lacan of the «imaginary» is oriented not to an investigation of objectively mystified forms of thought and praxis of bourgeois society (cf. Marx’s concept of «objective thought forms»; MECW 35, 85), but moves away from them and towards unhistorical level of a narcissistic «mirror stage», in which the small child «jubilantly» recognises itself in the mirror as an unitary image, even though the child’s motor activity still functions to a large extent non-uniformly (Lacan 1977, 1 et sq.). «Recognition [reconnaissance ]» in the mirror is thus from the outset accounted for as a «misrecognition [méconnaissance ]», an «alienating identity, which will mark with its rigid structure the subject’s entire mental development» (4). Althusser’s ideology in general extends to ego formation in general and thus coincides with social praxis and the capacity to act as such. Against the omni-historical and omnipresent ideological subject form, only «science» resists, but only at the price of disengagement from the human life process: as a process independent from subjects. «The negation of the ideological by science remains abstract: without a standpoint in human praxis itself» (PIT 1979, 127).

7.4 Althusser’s contradictory combination of historical-materialist ideology theory and Lacanian psychoanalysis has been criticised from opposed sides. Michele Barrett accused him of a «colonialist» integration of Lacan in Marxism that marginalises the meaning of the unconscious (1991, 104 et sq). According to Rosalind Coward and John Ellis, the materiality of ideology does not lie in the ISAs but in the ideological praxis of subject production itself, which can only be analysed by psychoanalysis, not by Marxism (1977, 69). Slavoj Zizek identifies ideology with a «fantasy» anchored in the economy of the unconscious, which structures our social reality itself and supports the ideological interpellation as a specific «enjoyment-in-sense», ideological jouissense (1994, 316, 321 et sqq. ). Judith Butler also argues along this line, when she comprehends Althusser’s model of interpellation on the basis of a preceding psychological «founding submission», which she interprets as «a certain desire to be beheld by and perhaps also to behold the face of authority» (1997, 111 et sq.).

On the other hand, the PIT, following the approach of «critical psychology» (Klaus Holzkamp and others), argued that Althusser’s ideology in general was caught in the problematic psychoanalytical opposition of a «needy individual» and a necessarily «repressive society» – a dichotomy, in which the formation of self-determined capacity to act could not be conceptionalised (1979, 121 et sqq.). Instead of developing the «celestialised forms» of the ideological out of the «actual relations of life», which Marx called the «only materialist and therefore scientific method» (C 1, 494, fn 4; MECW 35, 374), or, instead of developing «from the actual, given relations of life the forms in which have been apotheosized», Althusser foists on all human action and thought a «unsocial foundational structure» that replaces concrete analysis of the current conditions of action with a reductionalist procedure: «in the night of the subject-effect all practices are grey» (PIT 1979, 126).

8. After the dissolution of the Althusserian school, ideology theory suffered a deep going crisis in the course of which the concept of ideology was successively displaced by that of «discourse» and «power». According to a division proposed by Jorge Larrain (1994, 68 et sqq., 85 et sqq.), Althusserian ideology theory decomposed into three main currents: first, a line around Michel Pêcheux developed a materialist discourse theory in the context of a communist doss project; second, a «middle» neo-Gramscian line around the early Ernesto Laclau and Stuart Hall («Hegemony Research Group») integrated linguistic and semiotic approaches into an ideology theory in order to be able to analyse neoliberalism, right-wing populism and popular culture; third, under the influence of Foucault, somewhat later there was constituted a poststructuralist line around Laclau and Chantal Moe, who now accused Marxism of «essentialism» and replaced the concepts of ideology, culture and language with that of discourse as the paradigmatic principle of constitution of the social.

8.1 The discourse concept was initially developed by a group around Paul Henry and Pêcheux in the framework of Althusserian ideology theory. The task was seen as bringing together linguistics and Lacanian psychoanalysis with Althusser’s model of interpellation, in order to be able to explain the production of evidences of meaning (Pêcheux 1975, 137). Identification with a «preconstrued» meaning [effet de preconstruit] occurs through language (88 et sq., 243). The «discourse formation» defines in the framework of a dominant ideology what (corresponding to the rules of an speech, a sermon, a programme etc) «can and must be said» (144 et sq.). The evidence of meaning corresponds to the illusion of an immediate transparency of language (that a word «has» a meaning, directly signifies a thing etc; 137 et sq., 140. Insofar as individuals are called upon as subjects of «their» discourse, the constitution of the subject and that of meaning coincide in one and the same process (137 et sq., 145).

In order to incorporate Althusser’s remarks on «proletarian resistance» (cf. SRL, 263 et sqq.) more strongly in terms of ideology theory, Pêcheux proposed to enlarge the standpoint of reproduction with the conceptual couple of «reproduction / transformation» (Pêcheux 1984a, 61 et sqq. ). The modification can be interpreted as an attempt to break out of the «eternity» of the Althusserian «ideology in general» without placing it in question explicitly: if bourgeois ideology called out to an «autonomous» subject, proletarian ideology called out to the «militant» subject (Pêcheux / Fuchs 1975, 164, 207). For this, Pêcheux proposes the concept of «de-identification», that is, a «transformation of the subject-form», in which the evidences imposed by the ISAs are reversed: «The ‹eternal› ideology doesn’t disappear, but rather, functions to a certain extent reversed, that is , upon and against itself» [«à l’envers, c’est-à-dire sur et contre elle-même»; Pêcheux 1975, 200 et sq.; cf. 1984, 64]. This does not mean the exit from subjection, but a permanent «work in and with the subject-form», so that within the subject-form this can at the same time be placed in question (1975, 248 et sq.).

This anti-ideological «counter-strike [contrecoup ]» regards, on the one hand, the appropriation of scientific knowledges (200 et sq, 248), on the other hand, the political perspective of the «non-state», which is supposed to make it possible to overcome representative politics in the proletarian revolution with a revolutionary mass democracy (19846, 65). This means, at the same time, an «ideological de-regionalisation» which drives politics beyond the limits of parliamentarism and creates a politics of the «broken line» which – without the certainties of the master and the know-ledge of the pedagogues – consists in endlessly displacing the questions at stake (66). Here Pêcheux refers to Lenin’s praxis and the Chinese Cultural Revolution in which the «multi-formed network of the […] dominated ideologies immediately begins to work in the direction of the non-state through the de-identification of the juridical ego-subject and the de-regionalisation of ideological functionality» (ibid.).

8.2 Laclau was initially concerned to distinguish the material of ideological struggles from elaborated class ideologies: the single dements have no necessary relation to doss, but obtain it only through their articulation in an ideological discourse whose unity is produced by a specific interpellation (1977, 99, 101). We should distinguish between interpellations as doss and popular-democratic interpellations in which subjects are called upon as the «people» against the ruling per bloc (107 et sq.). «Class struggle at the ideological level consists, to a at extent in the attempt to articulate popular-democratic interpellations in the ideological discourses of antagonistic classes» (108). The defeat of the workers’ parties by fascism was connected, according to Laclau, to their limitation to a large extent to proletarian class discourses, while the Nazis developed a populism that was able to occupy the contradictions between the ruling per bloc and the «people» and to incorporate them into a racist anti-democratic discourse (124 et sqq., 136 et sq., 142).

While Pêcheux sought to develop further the dimensions of ideology-critique of Althusserian ideology theory in his concept of «proletarian ideology», Laclau based himself upon a model of interpellation that functioned «in the same way» for ruling ideologies and for the ideologies opposed to these of the oppressed (101, fn 32). By neutralising ideology as a practice that produces subjects (ibid.), the way was free to replace it with the concept of discourse. This occurred in the poststructuralist turn in which Marxist theory was bade farewell in the name of an in principle indeterminism of the social au / Moe 1985, 85 et sqq.). Whereas Laclau had earlier emphasised the necessity of linking popular-democratic ideologies with the doss discourse of the workers’ movement, in order to avoid the alternative between left radical sectarianism and social-democratic opportunism (1977, 142), the centrality of the working doss was now regarded as an «ontological» prejudice (Laclau / Mouffe 1985, 87). That Gramsci and Althusser related the materiality of the ideological to the social superstructures was interpreted as an essentialist a priori assumption (109). Ideology is replaced by discourse, which is defined as a «structured totality» of articulation activities that, in turn, are supposed to include both linguistic and non-linguistic elements (105, 109). With this comprehensive definition it is tautologically established that there is no object that is not «constituted discursively» (107). The concept of discourse has here absorbed into itself so many meanings from the different fields of ideology, culture and language that it becomes analytically unuseful (cf. Sawyer 2003).

8.3 Stimulated by Laclau’s studies on right-wing populism, Stuart Hall investigated how Thatcherism «set out to and has effectively become a populist political for, enlisting popular consent among significant sections of the dominated classes, successfully presenting itself as a force on the side of the people» (1988, 40).t is to be explained is «an ideology that has successfully penetrated, fractured and fragmented the territory of the dominated classes, precipitating a rupture in their traditional discourses (labourism, reformism, welfarism, Keynesianism) and actively working on the discursive space» (42).

From this perspective, Hall criticised different concepts of ideology: the Leninist equation with the dominant class consciousness misses the «internal fractioning of the ideological universe of the ruling classes» as well as the specifically new combination of «iron regime» and populist mobilisation from below (41 et sqq.). Just as language is «multiply accentuated» (cf. Volosinov 1973, 65 et sqq.), so also is the ideological «always a field of overlapping accents», so that the representation of fixed doss ideologies is to be replaced by the concept of «ideological field of struggle» and the task of «ideological transformation» (Hall 1983, 78 et sq.). The critical conception of ideology as «false consciousness» misunderstands that the ideological «reversals» analysed by Marx in Capital are not «false» but rational in the context of real levels of reality that are one-sidedly generalised (72 et sq.). The sphere of circulation with its values of «Freedom, Equality, Property and Bentham» (C 1, 280; MECW 35, 186), deduced by Marx from the contract relation of exchange, is a reality without which capitalism could not function; the experience of the market, of the wage packet, of the penny in the automat etc is for anyone «the most immediate, everyday and universal experience of the economic system» (Hall 1983, 72, 75). Inasmuch, both reformist and revolutionary ideologies «are ways of organizing, discursively, not false but real, or (for the epistemologically squeamish) real enough, interests and experiences» (1988, 40. The most important question regarding an «organic» ideology is «not what is false about it but what about it is true», i.e. what «makes good sense», which is usually «quite enough for ideology» (ibid.).

Althusser’s theory of the subject cannot, as Hall further shows, analyse how «already positioned subjects can be effectively detached by their points of application and effectively repositioned by a new series of discourses», since the «transhistorical speculative generalities of Lacanianism» neglect the appropriation of the respective concrete «languages» through its fixation on the first entrance into language as constitutive for the subject (50). Gramsci’s concept of hegemony is best suited to the analysis of neoliberalism, because he deals with the central problem of the consent of the masses without the mistaken path of a false consciousness and mediates ideology with the contradictory composition of everyday understanding [senso comune] (53 et sqq.)

Hall’s criticisms of concepts of «false consciousness», doss reductionism, and of «trans-historical» psychoanalytical accounts led him to go back to a «neutral» conception in which ideology signifies the «mental context» that «different classes and social groups deploy in order to make sense of, define, figure out and render intelligible the way society works» (1983, 59). Against the critical meaning in Marx and Engels, he wanted to use the concept in a «more descriptive» sense «in order to refer to all organised forms of social thought» (60). With that, of course, both the ideology-critique aspects in Gramsci and also its foundation in material hegemonic apparatuses are once again excluded from the concept of ideology. That corresponds to a diffuse relation to both «culture» and also to «discourse» (cf. Koivisto / Pietilä 1993, 242 et sq.). A dissolution of the ideological in discourse, as it is practised by Foucault and Laclau / Mouffe, is nevertheless refused by Hall: this would lead to a new «reductionism» that could not thematise the relationships between the horizontal powers of civil society and the vertical powers in the state (1996, 135 et sq.; cf. 1983, 78; 1988, 51 et sqq.).

8.4 The dissolution of the Althusserian school and the «crisis of Marxism» were intimately intertwined with various «superannuation» of ideology theory by theoretical approaches of discourse and power. Most of them referred in particular to Foucault, who had already in 1969 dissolved ideology into the concepts of «knowledge» and of «discursive practice» (1972 / 1969, 185 et sq.). He reacted, as Dominique Lecourt has shown (1972, 114 et sq.), to Althusser’s For Marx and Reading Capital ; in which the ideological is not yet comprehended as material instance of ideological apparatuses and practices, but in general terms, as a necessarily imaginary, «lived» relation to the world. Where Althusser opposes ideology to science, which transformed spontaneous perceptions through «theoretical practice» into a «thought-concrete» (FM, 186 et sq.), Foucault proposes to place in question both science and knowledge as «discursive formations» (1972 / 1969, 180. Where Althusser develops methodological criteria of a text immanent ideology-critique with the concept of a «symptomatic reading» (RC, 28 et sq.), Foucault claims to describe discourse formations in their «positivity» (1972 / 1969, 180. In the «happy positivism» (125) he propagated, he abandoned the analytical task of relating the respective formations of knowledge and science to the underlying social perspectives and of identifying the ideological forms and modes of functioning that strengthen the tendency towards subjugation under the relations of domination. Lecourt could thus describe the Foucauldian archaeology as a «theoretical ideology» that is not able to think the connection between ideological subject production and social mode of production (1972, 127, 133).

Following Nietzsche, for whom the true world is a «mere fiction formed from fake things» (Unpublished Fragments, Spring 1888 , 14 [ 93 ]; KSA 13 / 270), Foucault replaces ideology theory with a fictionalism, which totalises the perspective dimensions of social practices by declaring them to be un-truth. (cf. Dits et Ecrits, II, 280 et sq., 506; IV, 40, 44). The ideological is dissolved into a negative epistemology of «everything is fake», which, in opposition to the «inverted consciousness» of Marx and Engels, leaves the underlying social phenomena of «inversion» out of the picture. Instead, it is Marx’s and Freud’s ideology-critique itself that is placed under suspicion of being ideological, because, on the basis of their claims to truth and perspectives of liberation, they apparently chased after a hidden essence (1970 / 1966, 261 et sq., 327, 340 et sqq. ).

While Foucault’s point of departure was an earlier version of «Ideology in general», he then stopped explicitly engaging with Althusser’s development of the ISA concept. Instead, referring back to Nietzsche, he carried over the ideology concept, now dissolved into «knowledge» via an underlying «will to knowledge», into a concept of «power» that levels out the oppositions between a dominating power from above and a collective power to act from below (cf. Spinoza’s concept of potentia agendi ). Foucault has in fact adopted a neo-Nietzschean metaphysics in which per is brought into position behind social relations, instead of being developed out of them. As can be exemplary observed in Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, the rhetoric of a pluriform «microphysics of power» (1977, 26) is contradictorily combined with a «monistic» conception (Honneth 1991, 176 et sqq.) in which disciplinary power goes through the entire society right into the innermost recesses of the «modern soul», without encountering any contradiction and resistance. As Poulantzas observed, the concept of relational power underhandedly becomes an all-powerful «Power-Master [maitre pouvoir] as the prime founder of all struggle-resistance» as well as a «phagocytic essence [essence phagocyte ]» that contaminates all resistances (1978, 149, 151; cf. Rehmann 2004, 172 et sqq. ). Gramsci’s distinctions between coercion and consent, political society and civil society remains just as unnoted as Althusser’s modifying distinction between the RSA and ISAs.

Postmodernism inherited Foucault’s farewell to ideology theory in numerous respects. Lyotard denounced ideology-critique as the «terror» of truth (Lyotard 1984). His concept of «master narratives», whose end he announced, is aimed not so much against the metaphysical novels of traditional philosophy as against the «emancipation of rational and working subjects» (1984), as well as against the progressive «project» that draws its legitimation not out of an origin but from a «future that is to be redeemed» (1990, 49 et sq.). The discourse of postmodernism is here blindly entrapped in its opposite: «it delivers the greatest meta-narrative imaginable, the narrative after every narrative, which is so clever that it always already knows everything to be non-knowledge» (Haug 1993, 11). Jean Baudrillard expanded the concept of ideology initially to the form of material and symbolic production par excellence (1981a, 143 et sqq.), in order finally to replace it with the fictionalist categories of «hyperreality» and «simulacrum»: the concept of ideology belongs to an outdated concept of the sign which is supposed to conceal something real, but the sign merely conceals that it does not conceal anything because there is nothing behind it. In this sense, Disneyland only «conceals» that the real America is Disneyland, prisons conceal that the whole society is a prison etc. (1981b, 24 et sqq). Already in 1935, Ernst Bloch had pointedly summarised the corruption of critique implicit in this: «Fictionalism devours […] knowledge completely», it transforms scientific concepts or ideal convictions most skillfully into «share certificates which fluctuate according to the given situation» and «makes doubt about the reality that is comprehensible today into one about anything and everything. It thus runs through large parts of modern thinking, easy, comfortable, faithless» (Bloch 1990, 257; cf. GA 4, 281 et sq.; GA 10, 24).

The postmodern farewell to ideology theory has itself been described and criticised as an integral component of neoliberal ideology. Fredric Jameson understands postmodernity as a «force field in which very different kinds of cultural impulses […] must make their way», however with a «cultural dominant» defined as an increasing integration of aesthetic productions into the logic of late capitalism’s commodity production (1992, 4, 6). According to Terry Eagleton, postmodernism operates in the functional context of capitalism both iconoclastically and also in an incorporated way, because capitalism itself is divided into an anarchic market logic that permanently decomposes higher values anti-ideologically, and a systemic need for compensatory ideologies: postmodernism «scoops up something of the material logic of advanced capitalism and turns it aggressively against its spiritual foundations» (1996, 133; cf. 1990, 373 et sq.). «No other ideological form seems to be better suited than postmodernism to defend the system as a whole, because it makes chaos, bewildering change and endless fragmentation the normal and natural state of society» (Larrain 1994, 118).

9. The «Projekt Ideologietheorie» (PIT) founded by Wolfgang Fritz Haug in 1977 carries on essential aspects of Gramsci’s theory of hegemony and Althusser’s ISA theory on the basis of a theoretical elaboration of ideology-theory approaches in Marx and Engels. By analysing the ideological powers, apparatuses and forms of praxis from the perspective of an «association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all» (Manifesto, MECW 6, 506), the polarisation between a «critical» perspective, fixated however on the critique of consciousness (e.g. Larrain), and a concept of ideology that breaks with the critique of consciousness but instead posits a «neutral» concept of ideology (e.g. Hall) is over-come with a «critical- structural conception of ideology» (Koivisto / Pietilä 1993, 243). Thus an ideology-critique becomes possible which operates with a theory of the ideological as «conceptual hinterland» (Haug 1993, 21).

9.1 Following Engels’s concept of «ideological powers» (MECW 26, 392), the Pit distinguishes between the individual ideologies and the «ideological». It comprehends the latter not primarily as something mental, but as an «external arrangement» in the «ensemble of social relations» and as a specific organisational form of class societies reproduced by the state (Haug 1987a, 60 et sq.; Pit 1979, 179 et sq.). It constitutes the basic structure of ideological powers «above» society and thus the functioning and efficacy of an «alienated socialisation from above» (Haug 1987a, 63, 68; Pit 1979, 181; 187 et sq.). Specific ideological «forms» (e.g. politics, the religious, moral, aesthetic) correspond to the ideological powers. In analogy to what Marx described as «objective thought forms» (C1, 169; cf. MECW 35, 87), they are to be investigated as objective formations of praxis and discourse which are pregiven to individuals and in which these must navigate in order to be capable of acting. Against the background of these processes of subjectivisation, the edifices of ideas are secondary and represent «the most variable, tactical dimensions» (Haug 1987a, 69; Pit 1979, 188).

Foundational for the ideological is the emergence of the state, linked to the elaboration of doss domination, and the transfer of initially «horizontal» competencies of socialisation (of labour and other forms of life competences) to superstructural instances and their bureaucratic apparatuses (62 / 181). The state constitutes a terrestrial «beyond of society» in the sense of a «socially transcendent instance» that fixes and regulates the antagonistic doss interests from above (61 / 180 et sq.). The genealogy of the ideological is to be differentiated by the analysis of patriarchal gender relations which were exercised in the pre-statal «gerontocracies» above all via the «matrimonial regime», that is, the directive of the elders over the exogenous marriage of women (cf. Meillassoux 1981 / 1975, 42 et sqq., 58 et sqq.). According to Haug (1993, 197), the «pre-statal» patriarchy is to be considered as a type of «state before the state», which essentially supports the emergence of the state and also later continues to exist as the «foundational cell of the state». The fundamental fact of the patriarchy’s disposing over female labour-power, which Marx and Engels described as the first form of property («latent slavery in the family») or the «first doss antithesis» and «doss oppression» in monogamous marriage (MECW 5, 46; MECW 26, 173), also marks the ideological mode of functioning: while the community of genders is actually destroyed in the social reality, it is «illusionarily restored» in the heaven of the ideological; the compensatory compromise character of the ideological is borne by the symbolic representation of gender relations, the familial becomes an emotional and imaginary vehicle of any subordination and supraordination, in which women represent the imaginary community of the family (Haug 1993, 197 et sq., 200).

Concretising Althusser’s conception of the subject, Haug proposes to conceptualise a «sexual subject-effect» in which social gender is imposed on individuals as a preshaped ideological form that «they have to be» without every fully corresponding to it: the subject «takes itself on [übernimmt sich ]» in the double sense this term has in German: on the one hand, that of taking up responsibility for one-self and, on the other hand, that of taking on more than one can handle, of making overwhelming demands upon oneself. Gender thus becomes «the most intimate form in which the order of domination is opened up to the individual» (201). In the puritan formation from circa 1850-1950, which at the same time was the most intense period of modern racism, the ideological values of health, beauty and spirit [Gesundheit, Schönheit, Geist] were linked with sexual abstinence, while syphilis functioned as a catalyst for a medicalisation of the public’s body (1986, 126 et sqq.). «‹Self-control› […] becomes precisely the individual form of uncompelled subjection» (145).

9.2 In distinction to Althusser’s concept of the ISAs, the ideological for the Pit signifies not primarily a social «region», but rather the dimension of a socialisation from above which penetrates through different social levels. In distinction to Hall, it is not used as a descriptive but as an abstractive concept designed to lay out analytically different aspects of the activities of socialisation. The counter-concept to the ideological here is the perspective of a «self-socialisation [Selbstvergesellschaftung ]» of humans in the sense of a common-consensual control of the conditions of social life (Haug 1987a, 59; Pit 1979, 178). From here one can identify anti-ideological impulses that desacralise and ridicule verticalist interpellations in a plebeian way by unveiling their «naked» doss interests – see e.g. the literary figures of «Hans Wurst» (literally «John Sausage», the German brother of the English «Pickle Herring» or the French «Jean Potage»), or Jaroslav Hašek’s The Good Soldier Svejk. In opposition to the verticalism of the ideological there are «horizontal» forms of socialisation in which individuals regulate their social life without the intervention of superordinate ideological instances and in which they develop corresponding social experiences and competencies. The meaning of the «anti-ideological» can be defined against this foil as the re-appropriation of the «commons», the «commune», that has been alienated in the ideological.

To be distinguished from the ideological are also the dimensions of the «cultural», in which individuals, groups or classes «practise what appears to them to be worthwhile living». The analytical differentiation is necessary if we want to observe the specificity of ideological transformation: «cultural flowers are continually picked by the ideological powers and handed back down from above as ‹unwithering› artificial flowers, integrated into the vertical structure of the ideological» (Haug 1987a, 65; Pit 1979, 184). The concept of the «proto-ideological» signifies in its turn the material that nourishes and supports «from below» the ideologisation «from above», e.g. in the form of elders that stand out against the community, of ancestor worship, of medicine men, pre-statal sanctuaries etc, which then are reorganised in the emergence of the state in ideological form (62, 64 / 180, 183 et sq.). Also under the conditions of ideological socialisation, self-determined «horizontal» forces and forms of social cohesion are continually exposed to the reach of ideological powers, while, at the same time, ideological phenomena can also be profaned and assimilated in popular culture (65 / 184).

As Frigga Haug (1980) has shown in the example of female self-subjugation, individuals themselves are actively entrapped in their ideological subjection. Everyday life, which in bourgeois society is extensively marked by market competition and «possessive individualism» (Macpherson 1962), creates not only the «reified» thought forms highlighted by Lukács, but also unleashes multifarious private-egoistical activities and capabilities which are directed against each other. Under these conditions, «self-determination» takes place as «social distinction» (Bourdieu 1987 / 1979) from others. Identity is determined on the basis of antagonism, «the frightened mutually accuse each other of being cowards» (Haug 1986, 106, 124 et sq.). The decomposition of communal solidarities functions like a «body of resonance» that provides the elaborate ideologies with the consensual power over human minds and hearts. Institutionalised ideological practices have their informal correspondances in everyday life as a «multiformed Do it Yourself of ideology» in which individuals struggle over the constitution of their own «normality» (1993, 172, 227).

9.3 The duality of «above» and «blow» turned out to be too abstract in order to comprehend concrete ideological procedures. As can be seen in an exemplary form in the genesis of law, the elaboration of the ideological can also occur under pressure from below, forcing domination into ideological form (Haug 1987a, 69 et sq.; Pit 1979, 188 et sq.). The concept of «compromise-formation» can be made fruitful for the analysis of the inner contradictoriness of ideological socialisation. Freud used this concept to describe the constitution of the neurotic symptom, which is so resistant, because it is «supported from both sides» (Vol XVI, 359), i.e. from the «super-ego» and the «id». Converted into social-theoretical terms, it signifies «a condensation of antagonistic forces […I M the framework of the structure of domination». It is a contradictory form «in which the dominated forces are compelled […] and in which the system of domination concedes them an outlet» (Haug 1987a, 72; Pit 1979, 190f).

The young Marx in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 had already encountered a peculiar mode of efficacy of the ideological that later further escalated during the differentiation of modern societies, namely, «that each sphere applies to me a different and opposite yardstick […], for each is a specific estrangement of man» (MECW 3, 310). In the modern bourgeois state, «man – not only in thought, in consciousness, but in reality, in life – leads a twofold life, a heavenly and an earthly life: life in the political community, in which he considers himself a communal being, and life in bourgeois society [bürgerliche Gesellschaft ], in which he acts as a private individual» (MECW 3, 154; trans. modified). This division into opposed «value spheres», as Weber later formulated it (RS I, 541 et sqq. ; WL, 605), is comprehended by Haug as the «law of complementarity of the ideological» (1993, 19). Relations of domination are reproduced via imaginary communities that establish a «complementary counter-appearance» to capitalist private property and the state (147,183, 199). Where in patriarchy and doss society the principle of division actually rules over the common, «the ideological imaginary compensatorily places the common over the element of division» (197).

By nourishing themselves permanently from «horizontal» energies, ideologies (insofar as they are effective among the masses) make possible an «antagonistic reclamation of community» (Haug 19876, 94; 1993, 84) in which the opposed classes and genders claim and interpret the same ideological instances and values (e.g. God, justice, morality) in opposed ways. The point of condensation of antagonistic interpellations is dependent on the relations of per and hegemony of the social forces. «In the symbolic form the antagonists are congruous. The symbolic form is that which is identical in the antagonistic articulations» (95 / 85). But «underneath» the identical interpellative instances, the ideological is multifariously divided. The ideological powers compete with each other over where to draw the boundaries between their fields of competence, which must be ever newly fortified (cf. Nemitz 1979, 67 et sqq). In crisis of hegemony there are regularly divisions between the hallowed values of an ideological power and its necessarily «unholy» apparatus, so that the ideological «above» doubles into a «worldly heaven and a heavenly world» (Haug 19876, 95; 1987a, 75 et sq.). As can be shown, for example, in the Lutheran Reformation’s deployment of the central instances Scripture / Grace / Faith against the «devilish» church apparatus of the Catholic Church, this cleavage can in specific constellations be used by oppositional movements.

The dialectic of the ideological consists in the fact that it can only compensatorily contribute to the reproduction of domination by also «meaning», in however displaced a form, a liberation from domination: «Every ideological power articulates a relation to community, which […] is negated by doss society» (Pit 1980, 77). It is this double character that makes possible that ideological subjugation is performed in the form of self-activity, and also, on the other hand, that anti-ideological, plebeian elements can be combined with the claims of the highest ideological values: «Self-subordination under the celestialized communitarian powers can become a vital form of the liberation struggles of the oppressed» (Haug 19876, 96; 1993, 86). Of course, resistance can also be weakened again via the ideological form in which it is articulated and incorporated into the order of domination, so that, for example, the «sigh of the oppressed creature» (MECW 3, 175) contained in the religious can fuse with the organisation and reproduction of oppression (1987a, 74; Pit 1979, 192 et sq.). An ideology critique informed by ideology theory will therefore seek to decipher the elements of doss-less communities represented in the ideological, unhinge them and win them back for the development of a capacity to act in solidarity.

9.4 An historical concretisation of ideology theory followed subsequently in a two-volume study on Fascism and Ideology (PIT 1980). While Horkheimer and Adorno abandoned the ideology concept for German fascism, because it did not correspond to their definition as a classically bourgeois-liberal form of consciousness, the Pit does not look for a specific content of ideas but concentrates from the out-set on the Nazis’ practices of ideological transformation (47). The material studies show a continuous primacy of ideological arrangements, practices and rituals over the edifice of ideas (51). «Much more than any fascist orthodoxy, there was an ‹orthopraxis›, to be understood as a sequence of ‹performative acts› with ideological subject effects» (74), e.g. marching, mass assemblies, collecting foodstuff and money for those exposed to the cold [Winterhilfswerk ], living in camps, company fetes (83 et sqq., 167 et sqq., 209 et sqq., 238 et sqq.). The fascist specificity lies in the effort to occupy the entirety of the ideological and to transform, anti-democratically, the bourgeois power bloc via the articulation of struggle-life risk-faith (48 et sq., 53 et sq., 59). With the help of anti-Semitism, the multiplicity of populist [völkisch] ideological dements was early on arranged into a strict supra / sub order. The German volk was constituted discursively through the opposition to the Jewish gegenvolk, whose places were however open: «whoever stood against the Nazis fell into this position and that means, finally, in the domain of the SS» (72). «Fascism understood in an unprecendented manner how to organise self-alienation as enthusiastic self-activity» (77). Framed by unrestrained, legally unbound violence, all types of appealing elements, regardless of their heritage, were integrated. «Everything that marked everyday life as its disruption» was occupied, «any interest, any love, any idealism and any capacity for enthusiasm – everything was roped in» (80).

In a further investigation, Haug (1986) showed with the example of the annihilation of «life unworthy of life» that the Nazis’ policies of extermination did not break into psychiatry and medicine from the outside but were actively supported by the respective ideological strata. Gassing was organised as a «medical competence» – the participating doctors were involved at all levels of the killing, even as regards the pushing of the gas lever; they were not forced to do so, but rather, «authorised» (1986, 26 et sqq. ). The question of the ideological constellation underlying the complicit perpetration of these deeds leads into an extensive network of «powers of normalisation» that worked towards the «fascisisation of the bourgeois subject» already a long time before 1933. In the centre of the psychological-apparatuses and of a widely ramified counsel-ling literature is the protection of ideological subjection. This occurred, on the one hand, through the constitution of idealised images of health and beauty, which were increasingly articulated in racist terms; on the other hand, through the constitution of «asociality» and «degeneration» which were approved for eradication.

In his book on the «churches in the Nazi state», Jan Rehmann investigated how in both the Roman-Catholic and the Protestant Churches collaboration with the Nazi state and resistance on peculiar partial issues were indivisibly intertwined with each other: «The same churches that acknowledge the murderous fascist state right up until the very end as divinely established authority have the capacity, like no other ideological power, of defying its attempts at bringing them into line [Gleichschaltung] and destroying their zones of influence» (1986, 13). Both churches want to be «public corporations», in and next to the state and are in the majority ready to support the «authority established by God» as long as they are accepted as relatively autonomous ideological powers. However, as soon as the Nazis violate this hegemonic arrangement, there is on the side of the Catholic Church in particular a bitter «war of position» (Gramsci) over ideological competencies in public education and morality, during which the NS government has to withdraw on numerous occasions, e.g. in the battle over the crucifixes in classrooms [Kreuzeskampf] and when the Catholic bishop Galen publicly denounced the practice of «euthanasia». On the Protestant side, the violation of church autonomy had the effect that the traditional unity of inner attachment to state authority and to the church’s creed entered a state of crises and fell apart to a large extent, which was experienced and articulated by pastors and faithful as «pang of conscience [Gewissensnot ]» (111). The «dialectical theology» of Karl Barth, which refused any connection with other ideological values in the name of the reformatory principle of «scripture alone» [sola scriptura ], mobilised the contradiction between the heaven of values of the ideological and its «unholy» apparatus and showed in an exemplary fashion that resistance can be articulated effectively in the form of ideological subjection, namely, of obedient submission to the Holy Word «It is precisely the authoritarian adherence to the exclusive and conditionless submission to ‹God’s word› that sets free forces that fascism could not integrate anymore in its church politics: the specific capacity of unflinching no-saying in opposition to the hegemonic claims of other powers» (Rehmann 1986, 118).

Another central point of research of the Pit (1987) related to the emergence of bourgeois hegemonic apparatuses in the 17th and 18th centuries. Peter Jehle (1996) investigated the opposition to France that was constitutive for the «German» constellation of the ideological with the example of Romance languages and literature in academia. The studies initiated by Pit on ideological powers in national socialism were followed by a subsequent project, from which emerged numerous studies on the position of German philosophers under German fascism (cf. Haug 1989; Laugstien 1990; Leaman 1993; Orozco 1995; Zapata Galindo 1995).

10. In «disciplinary neoliberalism», as it has developed above all in the USA, the Fordist modes of regulation that were based upon a doss compromise with relevant components of the labour movement and oriented toward a consensual inclusion of the subaltern classes, have been displaced by strategies of supremacy that are primarily based upon the depoliticisation and fragmentation of oppositional forces. The «repressive» aspects of panoptic surveillance, incarceration and coercion play a central role (cf. Gill 2003). To the «atrophy of the social state» corresponds a «hypertrophy of the punitive state» (Wacquant 2002). The prognosis proposed by Foucault of an increasing «normalisation» through the social pedagogisation of punishment (1977, 300 overlooked the bifurcation of social controls between the «self-policing» among the «middle classes», in which the offers of the psycho-market play an important role (cf. Castel / Lovell 1982), and a external discipliniing of potentially «dangerous classes», which is marked by ostentatious state and police violence as well as a rhetoric of evil and war (cf. James 1996, 34; Parenti 1999, 135 et sq.).

In order to comprehend the new constellations, the ideology-theory approaches developed in the «social-democratic» epoch of the 1970s and 1980s must be modified. Althusser’s thesis that the dominating ISA of bourgeois society is the school is to be revised under the conditions of the neoliberal dismantling of the public school system. Also the original approach of the Pit that fixes the ideological above all in the «social transcendence» of the state (1979, 180) is marked by the model of the European social state in the period of system competition and needs to be supplemented by the US-American tradition, already noted by Marx (MECW 3, 149 et sqq. ) and Weber (RS I, 215 et sqq.; 2001, 127 et sqq.), of an ideological socialisation by sects and private associations, which – even though also components of the «integral state» (Q 6, §155) – are immediately linked with bourgeois business interests (cf. Rehmann 1998, 28 et sqq.).

To the extent that the «socially transcendent», that is, the redistributive and compromise-building sectors and functions of the state are rolled back by the instrumental aspects of neoliberal class domination, the inner composition of ideological socialisation is also transformed. This is the case both for the articulation between «repressive» and «ideological» apparatuses as well as, within the latter, the relation between political-ethical consensus formation, on the one hand, and manipulation as well as distraction based on the media and high technologies (cf. Bourdieu 1998), on the other. While the deconstruction of the welfare state leads to the rise in crime rates, the police and security apparatus itself becomes an effective centre of articulation of «civil society» (cf. Klingenberg 2001), and «internal security» becomes a theme that sets the stage for electoral victories or defeats. The dominating tendencies go towards rolling back the universal ideas of a human community represented in the ideological imaginary and replacing them with obsessions with crime and terrorism. One of the modes of ideological processing is an attitude that Peter Sloterdijk has described as a cynically «enlightened false consciousness» (1983, 37 et sq.; cf. Žižek 1994, 312 et sqq.).

The new ideological constellation appears at the same time to connect up with some traits of the «ancient» socialisation, glorified by Nietzsche, in which the relation of violence between classes is complemented by a elitist «pathos of distance» (Genealogy of Morals, I, Nr. 2; KSA 5, 259). As the social reproduction of classes occurs increasingly in separated residential locations, there is a spatial segregation in which ghettoised poverty and gated communities are no longer integrated but held at a distance. If this tendency is combined with the biotechnologies of human breeding, it could be that the doss barrier will become at some stage a biological barrier so that the rulers and ruled at the same time directly represent different «races». In such conditions, the ideological could once again approach the ancient paradigm of the Pergamon Altar analysed by Peter Weiss in which the victory of «highbred» aristocratic forms is exalted over the «barbaric mongrels» (2005, 8), while the aesthetic forms in which the rulers immortalise themselves are gained by imitating the ruled. Similar to the paradigm of the Roman pantheon of gods, a «postmodern» superstructure could rise over the relations of domination regulated by military violence – an ideological constellation, in which the particularistic differences and identity politics of the co-opted beneficiaries are celebrated and elevated. An ideology-critique with the «conceptual hinterland» of an ideology theory is well advised to study the transformations in the ensemble of the ideological instances concretely in each case in order to be able to calibrate both the «arms of critique» (MECW 3, 184) and the alternative proposals to the current fronts of struggle.


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Alltagsverstand, Althusser-Schule, Antiideologie, Artikulation, Basis, Bewusstsein, Camera obscura, chinesische Kulturrevolution, Denkform, Diskursanalyse, Diskurstheorie, Dispositiv, Ethik, Ewigkeit, falsches Bewusstsein, Faschismus, Fetischcharakter der Ware, Fiktionalismus, Fordismus, Funktionalismus, Geist, Gemeinwesen, Genesis, Geschlecht, Geschlechterverhältnisse, gesunder Menschenverstand, Gewalt, Gramscismus, Habitus, Hegemonialapparate, Hegemonie, Himmel/Hölle, Ideal, Idealisierung, Identifikation, Ideologe, Ideologiekritik, ideologische Staatsapparate, Illusion, Imaginäres, Indeterminismus, Individualitätsformen, Innenwelt/Außenwelt, integraler Staat, Intellektuelle, Jakobinismus, Katharsis, Konsens, Kultur, Kulturindustrie, Kulturstudien (Cultural Studies), Lacanismus, Legitimation, Leninismus, Macht, Manipulation, Massenkultur, Normalisierung, passive Revolution, Philosophie der Praxis, Postmodernismus, Regulationismus, Religion, Religionskritik, Schein, Sein/Bewusstsein, Sexualität, Sinn, Stellvertreterpolitik, Subjekt, Subjekt-Effekt, Überbau, Überdeterminierung, Verdinglichung, Vorbild, Warenästhetik

Common sense [senso comune ], Althusserianism, anti-ideology, articulation, base, consciousness, camera obscura, Chinese Cultural Revolution, thought-form, discourse analysis, discourse theory, dispositif, ethics, eternity, false consciousness, fascism, fetish character of the commodity, fictionalism, Fordism, functionalism, spirit, social life/common being, genesis, gender, gender relations, good sense [buon senso ], violence, Gramscianism, habitus, hegemonic apparatus, hegemony, heaven/hell, ideal, idealisation, identification, ideologue, ideology critique, ideological state apparatuses, illusion, imaginary, indeterminism, forms of individuality, inner world/external world, integral state, intellectual, Jacobinism, catharsis, consensus, culture, culture industry, cultural studies, Lacanianism, legitimation, Leninism, power, manipulation, mass culture, normalisation, passive revolution, philosophy of praxis, postmodernism, regulationalism, religion, critique of religion, appearance, being/ consciousness, sexuality, sense, representative politics, subject, subject-effect, superstructure, overdetermination, reification, paradigm, commodity aesthetics.

Ir arriba

Artículo: Ideology Theory

Autor: Jan Rehmann

Traducción al Inglés: Peter Thomas

Publicado en inglés en: Historical Materialism, volume 15 (211–239); © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2007.

Título del original en alemán: Ideologietheorie; publicado en el Historisch-Kritisches Wörterbuch des Marxismus, Tomo 6/I, 717-760; Argument Verlag, Hamburgo, 2008; ISBN 3-88619-436-1.