Proposal of a Hegelian Marxism - Section: Short note on the concept of ideology - Text

De Carlos Pérez Soto
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Section: Short note on the concept of ideology

My impression is that the innumerable and flourishing literature generated around the concept of ideology only has its origin and meaning in the Enlightened concept that associates it to the order of representations and thoughts, and that an important part of these efforts is directed to a vague criticism against this perspective, the Marxist tradition of the twentieth century never managed to get liberated from.

I argue that a Hegelian treatment of the idea of ​​class consciousness, like the one I've outlined in this chapter, and of the operations of thought, as I've started in my text On Hegel (Ithaca, Mexico, 2008), make that the concept loses much of its appeal, and that most of the discussions developed around it lose their meaning.

Of course, and immediately, from what I have argued follows that the ideological struggle is always a political struggle, and that its only possible effectiveness is in the field of political action. It also follows that ideology is an expression of the contradictions of real life, and that it is constituted as alienated consciousness.

As the concept so considered is generally a bit poor, and having exercised its moment of fame in the typical role of a wildcard in Social Sciences that seems to explain everything without explaining anything, I will stop by briefly at only two aspects. The relationship between ideology and institution (the famous "ideological apparatuses"), and the relationship between ideology and truth.

It is only under the avoidable and unnecessary assumption that ideology is primarily a set of representations that it makes sense to insist on the phenomenon of institutionalization. If that assumption is not made, it is obvious that it can only be expressed in this way (and then the emphasis is trivial), and reflection can move conveniently and simply to the fact that not only the church, parties, courts and schools (ok, ok ... well let's add the asylum and prison ...) are institutions, but also common sense, the forms of family, or the everyday contexts of ritualized actions. Assuming the contrary obvious assumption (that it is not representations but of sets of events), it is immediate that the general problem is the ritualization that prevents them as human products, and reflection can just move towards that reification of social relations in general, and toward its source.

It was only the enlightened concept that led to the nonsense of claiming that there are specifically ideological institutions (all are), as if they could be distinguished in this respect from others (which would only be productive?). And this nonsense itself led to the idiotic extreme of believing it was necessary to acknowledge relationships of "over-determination" between the ideological struggle and the struggle at a productive level. All this, of course, presided by the enlightened, avoidable and unnecessary habit of considering the social mode of production, the "legal-political structures" and ideology as part of an aggregate, a joint, which leads directly to the completely artificial matter of wondering about their relationship and the priority of their mutual determinations.[1] "Over determination" and "determination in the last instance" are but the attempt to somehow unite what was absolutely unnecessary to separate. These are attempts to put in motion what was absolutely unnecessary to fix as structure. Of conceiving as a whole what was absolutely unnecessary to compose as an aggregate of parts. All this is trivial and unnecessary from the point of view of achieving an effective use of the Hegelian logical categories.

Also the specters of the external relation and the articulation of parts, typical of structuralism, are haunting the relationship between ideology and truth. The term "false consciousness" was interpreted as "a consciousness that is false" in the epistemological sense from what obviously had to arise a clash between ideology and science, considered the latter to be true.

In Hegelian logic, the epistemological aspect of truth, which can certainly be opposed to the false at the purely formal surface, is only a consequence and an aspect of its material nature. Hegel held an ontological notion of truth, where falsehood is only a stage of development, or a partial and abstract aspect of truth, a concept where truth is the material reality, the real and effective.

When we consider this Hegelian notion from a Marxist point of view, ideology is truth. It is the truth of something. Of a situation in which antagonism and contradiction prevail. As I have argued before, this is not a truth against an error, but one truth against another. Ideology is the expression, as a concept, of a constitutively violent situation, of a situation in which the essential dialogue is not possible because the sides are consecutively constituted as true to themselves. There isn't ideology against truth. All social thought, and the acts themselves in which it is contained, are ideological.

But this whole affair, that might seem purely theoretical, and even trivial, is relevant, again, for its political projection. When removing the claim that there would be a truth against error, that there would be a non-ideological thinking opposed to an ideology, what is removed at the same time is the claim that science could be this area of thinking being already true or in any case, perfectible by itself, abstractly, over any social contradictions.

Considered on a larger scale, this claim is merely repeating, now in a bureaucratic key, the claim of universal truth that the Lords wielded with their universal faith against the "myths and fantasies" of polytheism, and later the same claims of bourgeois universal reason against "religious obscurantism". Bureaucratic power now, as any new ruling class, presents its own interests as universal interests, and supports them on science, that pits the "metaphysical speculation" and the "narrow interests" that it denounces in bourgeois tradition.

As I have argued, the Marxist critique that points toward communism, must fight to distinguish, in that abstract construction that is called science, strongly supported today by a whole institutional world, to know how much it has of operational, effective knowledge, and how much of legitimizing pretension of knowing.

For deep philosophical approach, from what science might have of genuine human, relatively disinterested creativity, what must be disassembled is the claim of pure objectivity, it must be radically historicize, it must be put in the sequence of the large (effectively large) narrations in which humanity has put ITS concepts (magic, myth, universal faith, substantive reason, science), and has produced in a literally genuine way what it has experienced as a world.

  1. As should be obvious, all these false problems constituted the fashion of structuralist Marxism, which arose from them a whole rhetoric that, at least in an inertial manner, had some political effectiveness in Latin America, especially by Marta Harnecker . The resulting fashion, Marxist post structuralism, has been nothing else but a lengthy deconstruction, extended ad nauseam, of these issues, which already were avoidable nonsense from their origin, through a flowery and plenty rhetoric that has not had any social or political effect except, of course, that of its own reproduction. A o the deconstruction, moreover, that only knows the art of disarming, being led by its own lack of fundamentals to the idiotic idea that there is no foundation and no foundation can be formulated.