Literary Theory and the Claims of History: Postmodernism, Objectivity, Multicultural Politics

By Satya P. Mohanty | Go to book overview

3 THE LIMITS OF ALTHUSSER'S POSTSTRUCTURALIST MARXISM

My discussion thus far has indicated the need to understand how language use is related to social organization. We have seen in a more general way why an adequate theory of signification would depend on a detailed understanding of the social nature of both language and knowledge. In this chapter and the next, I turn to questions of ideology and "history," dealing directly with contemporary poststructuralist theorizations of textual interpretation and its social contexts. This chapter elaborates an understanding of ideology and examines its implications for contemporary critical debates. Louis Althusser's influential work in particular has made the discussion of ideology a major constituent of the interpretive and political problematic in which my discussion has been situated.1. For a good theory of ideology grounds epistemological questions in practical contexts and explains how "truth" and "error" are lived and experienced by socially situated subjects. In fact such a theory can help explain the relevance of sound theoretical knowledge to everyday social struggles by exploring the links between subjective experience and objective knowledge, between "values" and "knowledge."

____________________
1.
Louis Althusser, "Ideology and ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation)," in Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays, trans. Ben Brewster ( New York: Monthly Review Press, 1971), pp. 127-86, hereafter cited parenthetically in the text as ISA. I shall also be quoting from For Marx, trans. Ben Brewster ( London: New Left Books, 1977), cited as FM; Essays in Self-Criticism, trans. Grahame Lock ( London: New Left Books, 1976), cited as ESC; and Louis Althusser and Etienne Balibar, Reading "Capital," trans. Ben Brewster ( London: New Left Books, 1970), cited as RC.

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