fighting ideology

S Pawlett epawlett at
Sat Apr 10 11:01:06 PDT 1999

> "In battling ideological regimes, the main thing is to refuse - without
> discussion - the description of reality that it proposes. You have to stick
> to this line until the bitter end. Once you put your finger into the
> gearworks and grant that their description has an 'element of
> truth''re lost, and your political will can only respond with a
> falsified intelligence.... In ideology, the 'element of truth' that
> provides the seductive power is precisely the place of falsification - and
> the biggest falsehood of all."

This is interesting but evasive as is usually the case with French theory. Not sure what is meant by 'falsified intelligence'.Ideology works in subtler ways. You cannot order someone to have certain beliefs and desires. Often, the ideology that regimes (presumably he means state by regime) propagate e.g. the USSR or its satellites is often so obviously false as a description of reality that nobody believes it. Nobody *can* believe it because it is in contradiction to one's lived experience. These societies were not held together by ideology but by brute force. It doesn't matter whether you believe the official ideology or not you must comply or go to jail. Because nobody believes the official ideology including the people propagating it, you run into some odd paradoxes. As Jon Elster and Alexander Zinoviev argue, the official ideology exists only by being denied. Only the dissidents take it seriously and thus want to be arrested since this involves recognition. This means that the state is in a catch-22 because it cannot ignore the dissidents without admitting that they are right nor can the state arrest them without drawing attention to their views. In the USSR and Nazi Germany books on banned art immediately sold out because you cannot criticize the art without reproducing it. In the USA, the Meese report on pornography immediately became an instant success because it had to show pornography in order to criticize it. Same with Diana Russell's book _Against Pornography_. The official state ideology is dead only when noone argues against it. So, the very people who want to change the system are the ones who preserve it, while the ones who want to preserve the system ( e.g. Gorbachaev) are the ones who change it.

Western societies work a bit differently. The state cannot force people to act the way it wants so it must get people to act through ideological means. That is, the oppressed classes must believe in the justice of the system that oppresses them. The oppressed in capitalism like in feudalism believe they are dependent on their masters for their living and thus their existence. If I'm worse off without a master (i.e. without a job) then a society without masters must be worse than a society with masters. Because of their place in the economic structure the oppressed and exploiting tend to view society in a way that is not i their interests but in the interests of their masters.

Sam Pawlett

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