- Capitalism and Alternatives -

More economics and ideology

Posted by: Samuel Day Fassbinder ( Citizens for Mustard Greens, USA ) on April 15, 1999 at 11:25:00:

In Reply to: For teh twentieth time.... ;) posted by Red Deathy on April 13, 1999 at 14:47:50:

: Gotta reply AGAIN!!!!! One day my wisdom shall shine forthe....

SDF: I'd like to congratulate you, RD, for your tenacity in posting to McSpotlight...

: : As I said here, ideology is a derivative phenomenon of the lifeworld experiences of the people it possesses.

: I would say, in part, correct, although personally I would want to distinguish ideology from culture, or in Lukacs' terms weltungshauung otheriwse ideology just becomes another term for sensory experience or mental world- and we get teh image of one of my empriricst linguistics lecturers saying 'everyone has an ideology', it kinda mutes the terms usefullness, and detratcs from its main thrust. It also takes us to the whacky world of Althiusser.

SDF: At the bottom of this post I discuss the two definitions of the word "ideology" that I've seen used before. I'd still like to know where you stand on this, what your definition is.

: Likewise I am against ideology in terms of 'dogma', because we see politicians saying 'he is driven by ideology, I am driven by practicality' etc.

: I think Ideology is distinct from culture, in that while culture forms our sets of values, our 'morality' etc., ideology is a function of power, and is itself a subset of culture.

SDF: But isn't dogma a set of beliefs that has power over people?

: Back to my division of Labour model, if there is a group of people who are paid solely to think, solely to produce ideas and morality, and they are all drawn from the same class, and have privelleged access to the communal public space (in the old days the church, nowadays the media) then they will be able to represent, describe, the world in terms of their own signifying praxis, and use authority, and exclusion of other ideas, to impose this praxis upon different classes. Hence it is a model of 'false consciousness'.

: : But there's more to distinguish Dickens' ideology, laced as it was with sympathy for the poor (read HARD TIMES or A CHRISTMAS CAROL or George Orwell's famous essay on Dickens) from the most prominent ruling class ideologies of today.

: As I noted, Hard Times was written with a distinct paternalism in mind- the failure is one of power to care for teh poor, who are no longer happy in their place (he lashes trades unions, but says that the poor have been driven to it), look at the Meeting between Blackpool and Bounderby (noticeably, this great confrontation is made over Divorce, not workplace cruelty), and see bounderby fail by the expectations of paternalism, he is selfish and exploitative, he doesn't care for his workers like a good master would. Likewise Harthouse, the lapsed and bankrupt (intelectually) Aristocrat.

: The only solution Dickens offers is 'fancy', or ęsthetic pleasure, but time and again, quite ideologically, we see working cvlass misery excluded from teh text, for what can only be ęsthetic reasons- Blackpool's woman's Sister, originally was intended to die 'wi 'er child arm tore off', but Dickens removed that, and later killed her with 'bad air'- now we know that in the same issues of Household works, he was campiagnining for guards, and against mutiliations in factories, but he didn't feel that he could include such things in a novel- significant I think. Liekwise, the cirumnabulous manner in which he describes Blackpool as deafend by his work, suggests that he cannot admit such traumas into his fancy.

: He was a good paternalist, an admirer of Carlyle, and his offered solution in Hard Times is ideology, he wants to have a social aspct, of morals and values, because he sees that they are necessary to ophold teh current order. That this comes from the qua reactionary 'Romantic Anti-Capitalist Wing' can be expklained by the fact that such conservatives backed the aristocracy, which by its very form is a social rather than economic formation.

SDF: Yes, fine, and Orwell notes this too, but this is different from the utter disregard for the problems of poverty that the mainstream media in the US project today. This is why we have idiocy such as the 1996 Welfare Bill today.

: : The difference between Dickens' time and ours is something that can't merely be explained by a discussion of ruling class economic and political formations. What's happened is that Dickens was operating under a "Whiggish version of history" that we've lost today. As Jurgen Habermas points out in a 1984 essay ("The New Obscurity:

: I dunno, the Robert Brmaner Article you mention contains a Graph of rate of profit for G7 countries over the last fifty years. in the mid sixties it was very high, and everything was groovy, then in '68 it slumped quite seriously, and then in rose a little, and then in '73 it totally dived, and has only really slowly crept up since, effectively the economy is in permenant crisis, stagnating- Liberalism can only offer Hope, or utopias, as long as it is a progressive force, as long as it increases affluence (the affluent 60's being a fairly liberal liberating period) but without that hope its screwed, it can no longer offer dreams of gradual reforms into socialism and abolition of wealth (viz: the British Labour Party), it can't offer any future.

SDF: Precisely -- but mainstream politics is no longer offering hope because the official ideology has restricted the benefits of Keynesianism to the military sector of the US government, not necessarily because providing the poor with a decent subsistence is today a bad economic strategy for the elites. I'm not clear that there's any practical reason for the persistence of right-wing economic policy in terms of providing long-term prosperity for the ruling classes: Robert Brenner, both in his New Left Review issue 229 and here, points out that the IMF imposition of austerity has been disastrous (Brazil for instance, looks like a disaster in the making) but, even so, the ruling classes are unlikely to change course. After all, their enormous profits during the '80s and '90s have been made possible not by (minimal) economic growth, but by the race to the bottom in wages. Why should they change course now? Well, of course, there are objectively good reasons why they should change course now, for their sake and for everyone's, especially given the widespread criticism the IMF has received even within the ranks of the ruling class, but it's still not likely to happen. Why? Well, dogmas possess people, and right-wing monetarism is one such dogma. For another example: let's take, for instance, the general failure of Western governments to bail out their economies after the Depression starting in 1929-1932. They were all afraid of inflation, weren't they? It also seems to me that the only thing ending Keynesian policy in the US was the double whammy of 1971's inflation and 1974's oil embargo, and that they would have gone on forever with Keynes, then, had there been no repercussions in terms of their rates of profit. Ruling classes in general will apparently stick with an economic ideology until its failings hit them over the head like a plyboard with a nail sticking out of it.

: : The result is a general tendency of the Left to despair, accompanied by a triumphalist version of ruling-class ideology shared by the communities of the rich and powerful (the most current manifestation of which are the bombings of Yugoslavia, Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan etc., the domination of Russia by Thatcherists, the Netanyahu regime in Israel, the persistence of IMF policy despite obvious failures etc.).

: I don't think its so much triumphalism as making a virtue of necessity, they have no longer got any ideological under pinnings, now they have mere performativity, simple doing what we do, and doing it well, because they can't offer any future, any consumation, tehre is no light at the end of the tunnel.

SDF: Oh, but here in the States there's incredibly widespread self-congratulation amongst the rich, given the Dow Jones Industrial Average's daily smashing of record high stock values, the incredible inflation of Internet stocks, the accelerating trend in mega-mergers, the Clinton Administration's very high ratings in the opinion polls amidst distorted statistics "revealing" a robust consumer economy as they are reported on the evening news each day... they think they can bomb Belgrade into submission without so much as sending a battalion of troops into Kosovo, they're adding countries right and left to NATO, they've subdued Russia, photo-opped Africa, "saved" Brazil, made a new IMF loan to Russia, lowered the US crime statistics, gotten everyone off of welfare here... there's a lot of hubris out here, RD...

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