> Yes, these are slippery questions and relationships. For grounding I
> often invariably come back to someone like Voloshinov, and think about
> how a sign is a "material" thing...
Yes, Voloshinov's work is also important. Another lesser known discussion along the same lines is Stephen Feuchtwang's "Investigating Religion" in MARXIST ANALYSES AND SOCIAL ANTHROPOLOGY, ed. by Maurice Bloch, London Tavistock, 1975. From his essay:
"The separation of conciousness or the 'ideal' from non-consciousness or the 'social' as independent factors of human reality either takes ideas and consciousness out of reality or divides every social unity into two 'aspects' on these same categorical lines. It is often thought that Marx's historical science does this...But marx's materialism precisely is not a fundamental categorical separation of thought from material being... Ideological production, the production and communication of ideas, is no more purely ideal a practice than economic production is purely material. It is nothing if not social." (pp. 67-68)
In the same piece Feuchtwang makes a point relevant to the 'transhistorical' discussion, and issues raised around the discussion of "universalism" and capitalism and racism in theory and history:
"Marxist analysis produces a theory of the system of practices, a theory from which can be derived all the forms which make up the complex unity of the society in question. This must involve marking its difference from other societies. A theory of a specific socio-economic formation shows it to be repeatable. That is to say it shows it to be the constitution of a specific set of conditions, and not any other set. But marxist analysis neither starts from nor seeks to discover some universal object, like Human Nature, or Society, or Power, or Ideology, or Religion, which is a non-historical 'fact.' Rather it produces theories by which historical reality can be known and changed." (p. 68)