Worm Either Way (was Despair & Utopia)

Carrol Cox cbcox at ilstu.edu
Tue Nov 9 08:25:53 PST 1999

"Mr P.A. Van Heusden" wrote:

> a) The reality of ideology: as Marx said, when sufficient numbers of
> people believe in an ideology, it becomes a material force. (Gramsci used
> to quote this all the time when developing his thinking around hegemony)

Just a note. Marx never said this. He said that when *ideas* (not "ideology") grip the masses they become material forces. This thread (or related ones) has among other things raised the issue of what we mean by "ideology." Whatever we mean by it, it is not wise to substitute the word for another one in quoting Marx. Moreover, the emphasis of the statement is on ideas *becoming* a material force, not on their being a material force in and of themselves. *Also* he said nothing either way about the materiality of ideas other than revolutionary ones, which are the specific focus of this passage.

Finally, "reality" is not a wise word here. Of course ideas are part of reality. That is tautological. The questions at issue are otherwise focused.

I think when we speak of "ideas" we usually mean self-consciously held concepts, which can be articulated and responded to. This is not true of ideology in most conceptions of it. Ideologies are not countered, for the most part, by arguments but by actions which undercut the grounds for the ideology in question.


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