By David Harris
An advent to present debates round the subject matters of tradition, id and way of life. Such debates frequently start with the statement that we are living in a "society of signs". positive aspects comprise: precis and significant dialogue of a few uncomplicated methods in social conception and cultural research; key readings of a few of the paintings of writers together with Barthes and Giddens; reports of labor in additional conventional components, for instance, the sociology of identification and the embedding technique present in social lifestyles; and suggestion on extra examining.
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The forms in which commodities or political institutions actually appear (the ‘phenomenal forms’) are misleadingly simple and abstract and must be grasped by a particular method which refuses altogether to employ them, and generates correct scientific knowledge instead. This sort of argument is really similar to ones that we shall discuss which claim to have replaced their rivals and thus made them and the objects they study ‘disappear’. Marx (and Marx and Engels) claim, for example, to have solved the mystery of Christian religion by exposing its basis in material conditions, or to have ‘put an end’ to (Hegelian) philosophy or to the ‘German ideology’.
The processes of differentiation and development of culture can be read as a struggle over the production of culture, and this enables the analyst to connect the cultural sphere (or ‘level’) to the economic and political. In this reading, ‘mainstream’ culture should best be seen as a set of values and practices which somehow favour the dominant social class, allowing for certain complications, as in the famous term ‘ideology’. Sometimes the connections are clear and obvious, and ‘vulgar’ interests (in Marx’s phrase) are detectable behind the promotional efforts of big business which wishes to conceal the undesirable aspects of its activities, stresses the good that it does for the community as a whole, and pleads for even more exemption from taxation or restrictive health and safety regulations or whatever.
Marx also refers, after writing the Manifesto, to political ideas having a reasonable autonomy, not so closely tied to the immediate vulgar interests of the ruling class nor to the existing technological needs of producers. Political ideas of the past can have effects, and they can be wielded to produce specific cultural or political support, for example, for the rather curious regime of Louis Bonaparte in France in the 1850s and 1860s. For the more developed theoretical ideologies, like Ricardo’s political economy or Hegel’s philosophy, there are different analyses again, devoted to the concepts themselves, so to speak, rather than attempting to reduce their effects immediately to the class position of those who advocate them.
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