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Marxism 2: Ideology & Hegemony. Althusser, Louis (1918-1990). Antonio Gramsci(1891-1937). Marx and Vulgar Marxism Western Marxists : Althusser ’ s theory of Ideology & Gramsci ’ s Hegemony American & British Marxism: Jameson and Eagleton Foucault & 文學社會學的多重互動模式.

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Marxism 2 ideology hegemony l.jpg

Marxism 2: Ideology & Hegemony

Althusser, Louis (1918-1990)

Antonio Gramsci(1891-1937)

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Marx and Vulgar Marxism

Western Marxists : Althusser’s theory of Ideology & Gramsci’s Hegemony

American & British Marxism: Jameson and Eagleton

Foucault &文學社會學的多重互動模式

Dialectic Materialism, Class and Commodification

Literature & Society

Marxist Literary Criticism

Literature as Discoure

Marxism: Topics & Schools on Focus

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  • Marx: Q & A

  • Superstructure and Base: Debates and Related Issues

  • Ideology defined

  • L. Althusser

  • Examples of Ideology

  • A. Gramsci

  • Examples of hegemony

  • References and for next time

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Marx: Q & A

  • What is materialist determinism? (chap 5: 212)

  • What are the evils of capitalism according to Marx? (e.g. chap 5: 213; chap 6: 83)

  • What solutions does he offer and will it work? (chap 5: 213)

  • Why are commodities fetishized?

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Marx, Lenin  Stalin’s politicization of literature;

Marx, Lenin  Western Marxism (e.g. Lukacs, Brecht, Benjamin, Adorno)

(chap 5: 214-16;

chap 6: 84)

Poststructuralist Marxism -- Althusser;

Neo-Marxists’ use of Gramsci

(lit. as propaganda)

Realism vs. Modernism debate; their critique of culture industry; (variations of reflectionism)


Conflicting Hegemonies

Superstructure vs. Economic Basein the History ofMarxism:

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Literature & Society (1)

  • Literature of Commitment & Reflectionism (chap 5: 215)--

    Related questions:

    -- What are the functions of literature?

    -- Is good literature politically committed literature?

    -- Does literature have to “reflect” its society, or help promote a certain political cause?

    -- On the other hand, can literature be completely un-political?

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Literature & Society (2)

  • Ways of reflecting society indirectly

    • not through content but through forms (e.g. fragmentary form as a way to reflect social fragmentation);

    • incorporating differentideologies

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Ideology Defined

  • “rigid set of ideas”; e.g. somebody refrains from eating meat “for practical rather than ideological reasons.”--negative

  • ruling ideology: legitimating the power of the dominant group--negative

  • sets of ideas to justify certain organized social actions --could be positive or negative

  • *sets of ideas to justify certain actions while masking their real nature. –negative (chap 6: 84-85)

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Althusser, Louis (1918-1990)

  • Born 1918 in Algiers;

  • Joined the Communist Party in Paris in 1948.

  • Murdered his wife in 1980, and was confined to an asylum till his death in 1990.

  • Influential works: For Marx (1965) and Lenin and Philosophy (1969).

  • Attempted to reconcile

    Marxism with Structuralism.


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Althusser’s Revision of Marxism

  • Sees Ideology –not as just ideas or “false consciousness” (which implies “true consciousness”);

  • Argues for Literature’s “Relative autonomy” from Base; it is determined by Base in the last instance (ultimately);

  • Explains both social structure and individual subject’s position in relation to ideology.

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Ideology Defined by Althusser

  • (chap 6: 85; chap 5: 217)

  • Ideology is a ‘Representation’ of the Imaginary Relationship of Individuals to their Real Conditions of Existence.

  • Ideology has the function of constituting individual as subjects. (Interpellation)

    * Ideology is not any idea; it should be a system of ideas (representation) produced by some institutions (state apparatuses 國家機器)

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God is truth.

The Earth is round.

It is human nature to love.

Men are from Mars; women from Venus.

Nationalism; patriotism;

“The Taiwanese”; populism;

ISA = school in patriarchal society;


--so the myth of 女媧補天 is a mere superstition.

--so I can love anyone I’d like.

--so we should not expect men to comfort or support others.

Ideologies: Examples

  • Which of the following are part of a certain ideology

  • -- produced by some ISA, distorting some reality ?

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Social Structure—of Vulgar Marxist

Ideology: the ruling ideas of the ruling class imposed on the other classes.

  • Superstructure

  • e.g. Literature of the middle class,

  • of proletariat

Parallel, reflect

Base(as foundation, center)

relations of production,

means of production

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Literature/Culture & Economic Base

relatively autonomous from;

  • reflect, embody, perform, transform, critique


Social Levels

Multiple Ideologies

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Social Formation -- de-centered

  • State Apparatuses (Repressive & Ideological)









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Lit. work: Relative autonomous

  • over-determined;

  • economic influences mediated (媒介) through various ISA’s

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Ideology: an Artistic Example

  • From Titian’s Venus of Urbino (1538)

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Ideology: an Artistic Example

  • To Manet’s Olympia (1863) pay attention to her gaze, her hand, the black woman and the black cat.

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Ideology: an Artistic Example

  • Manet’s Olympia

    --multiple ideologies:

  • sexual capitalism critiqued;

  • the blackness inscribed as a backdrop.

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Contemporary Ideology of Love : stereotypes

  • Love = motorcycle or car; wayward or weepy women + tolerant and strong men

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Contemporary Ideology of Love – no fixed or human object of love

  • 遠傳電信-預付卡-愛情告白 (cell phone as my dear )

  • 遠傳電信-i拉列369費率-愛情無價 (because the cell phone rate is cheap)

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Literary Example -- of loveThe Great Gatsby –first reunion

  • How are images of romance and money intertwined in the first excerpt?

  • Images of romance: beauty, tears, light, flowers,

  • Light  G’s house, how he earn the money.

  • Images of nature + culture in G’s mansion  the guests

  • G’s romantic sentiments throwing cloths at Daisy

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Literary Example -- of loveThe Great Gatsby –the past

  • What does Daisy mean to Gatsby?

  • Images of ascendance (ladder) and of life and wonder;

  • An elusive rhythm, a fragment of lost words,

  • Daisy– perishable, only an incarnation of something else.  social position or fullness of life, or both?

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The Great Gatsby –the ending of love

  • Green light –again more important than Daisy

    “ He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in the vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

    Gatsby believes in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch our arms out farther . . . so we beat on, boats against the current, born back ceaselessly into the past.”

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The Great Gatsby: of love undesirable desire

  • Tom’s for Myrtle;

  • Nick’s relationship with Jordan Baker;

  • Gatsby’s love for Daisy

  • Nick's interest in Gatsby the bootlegger, hoodlum, millionaire, and what he represents The American Dream (green backs + Nature)

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The Great Gatsby: of love undesirable desire (2)

  • The American Dream for Fitzgerald – pure at first but polluted by materialism

  • G: “Her voice is full of money”

  • N: “It was full of money—that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the cymbals’ song of it . . . High in a white palace the king’s daughter, the golden girl.”

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GG in the context of Modernism of love(for your reference)

  • The moderns -- a simultaneity of incongruities and paradoxes.

  • Modernism was defined as a time of "refusal"--of middle-class pieties, scientific or philosophic certainty, propriety, tradition, and faith (Hoffman 32-33, 40 qtd Kaplan 145).

  •  setting up untraditional tradition; looking for undesirable desire.

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GG in the context of Modernism of love(for your reference 2)

  • Undesirable desire is a guilty pleasure, not a mere paradox or incongruity.

  • The trope of undesirable desire provided a covert means of getting in on cultural debates over national belonging, of participating--through the construction of desirable and undesirable love objects--in the national debate over who was and was not a desirable American and why. (Kaplan 147)

  •  G –the desirable, Daisy and Tom, the undesirable. But the problem is that it’s hard to distinguish them from each other.

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From Ideology to Hegemony of love

Hegemony = Dominant Ideology, but not always controlling us;

Gramsci: considers the role of the organic intellectual and competing hegemonies.

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Supporter of Russian revolution and activist in socialist transformation throughout the advanced capitalist world.

Arrested in 1926, kept in prison 1928 – 1937, where he wrote the Prison Notebook.

Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937)

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Hegemony: control by consent transformation throughout the advanced capitalist world.

  • Chap 6: 88-89)

  • Ideological leadership; consensual control;

  • "...Dominant groups in society, including fundamentally but not exclusively the ruling class, maintain their dominance by securing the 'spontaneous consent' of subordinate groups, including the working class, through the negotiated construction of a political and ideological consensus which incorporates both dominant and dominated groups." (Strinati, 1995: 165)

  • (source )

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Gramsci– hegemony not secure transformation throughout the advanced capitalist world.

  • not given to the dominant group, but "has to be won, reproduced, sustained." Hegemony can only be maintained so long as the dominant classes succeed in framing all competing definitions within their range... so that the subordinate groups either controlled or contained within an ideological space. . . (13; Norton 2455)

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Hegemony: examples –images of the Blacks transformation throughout the advanced capitalist world.

  • Winning spontaneous consent through granting of superficial 'concessions' (Strinati,1995:167 qtd Mystry). This involves the dominant group making 'compromises' that are (or appear as) favourable to the dominated group, but that which actually do nothing to disrupt the hegemony of the dominators.

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black images transformation throughout the advanced capitalist world.

  • I. Three stereotypes: Mammy, slaves, clown spontaneous consensus to their slavery or inferiority.

  • II. Positive images based on normative white ideals

  • Images in late 80’s: e.g.

  • --the middle-class household of

    The Cosby Show points out that

    there is 'nothing black' about

    the Huxtable's lifestyle

    (Mercer 1989:6 qtd in Mystry).

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e.g. Cry Freedom; The Last of the Mohicans, Dances with Wolves

Counter Hegemonic Practices: e.g. Hip Hop.

Strategies of containment

Sympathy shown for the minorities,

but with the whites as the real heroes.

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References Wolves

  • Louis Althusser Archive

  • Kaplan, Carla “Undesirable Desire: Citizenship and Romance in Modern American Fiction”Modern Fiction Studies 43.1 (1997) 144-169.

  • An Introduction to Gramsci's Life and Thought

  • Antonio Gramsci

  • Mistry, Reena. “Can Gramsci's theory of hegemony help us to understand the representation of ethnic minorities in western television and cinema?”

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Next time: Marxist Literary Criticism Wolves

  • (Reader: chap 5 pp. 217-22; chap 6 to p. 89-94 )

  • P. Macherey, F. Jameson & T. Eagleton as a focus.

  • "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock“ ideologies of the author, the genre and the time?