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David Couzens Hoy DECONSTRUCTING "IDEOLOGY" I In The German Ideology Marx and Engels insist that when one speaks, one should always ask oneself who is speaking and from where. The contrast is to the left Hegelians who try to speak from above and outside the world. Marx's critique ofHegel and the Hegelians is repeated in an attack on deconstruction in its earliest days by Lucien Goldmann. Goldmann follows not only Marx but also Lukács, and says, "To know what one is speaking about, Marx veryjustifiably requires that one know who is speaking and from where: it is necessary to know that one always speaks from within a world from which comes the structure of consciousness of the one who is speaking and who, in order to know what he [or she] is saying, must know this world and this structuration at the risk of otherwise remaining within an ideology."1 This remark from lectures in Paris during the turbulent academic year that resulted in the events of May 1968 is aimed against those like Derrida and Foucault who seem to follow Heidegger rather than Lukács by eliminating the vocabulary of subject and object, and related terms like ideology, consciousness, and alienation. Goldmann's critique ofDerrida is thus a continuation of Lukács's critique of Heidegger, which mirrors Marx's critique of the Hegelians in the famous line from The German Ideology, "life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life."2 Poststructuralism in general and Derridean deconstruction in particular do indeed seem to make Goldmann's desire to know who is speaking and from where impossible. Foucault applauds the indifference in Beckett's line: "'What does it matter who is speaking,' someone said, 'what does it matter who is speaking.'"3 From Derrida's perspective the ethical importance of "who is speaking" is undermined if what is Philosophy and Literature, © 1994, 18: 1-17 2 Philosophy and Literature said is not the result of a transparent intention to utter a decidable meaning. Derrida might be read as taking Marx one step further if, contrary to Goldmann, the meaning of language is not constituted by the "who," but the "who" is constituted by language (or différance). Similarly, the deconstructive strategy seems to bracket Goldmann's appeal to a real "world"from which one speaks (the "where"), and about which one speaks (the referent). Deconstruction thus challenges the ideal that Goldmann takes as self-evident, namely, "to know what one is speaking about." Goldmann thinks that not knowing what one is speaking about runs "the risk of otherwise remaining within an ideology." In contrast, deconstruction can be seen as suggesting that there is no "otherwise," that there is no case in which one knows fully who one is, from where one is speaking, and what one is speaking about. The critique of deconstruction from a neo-Marxian standpoint is repeated over and over again for the next two decades, and we can still find it today. Recently, for instance, much the same criticism is made by Terry Eagleton in two books, The Ideology of the Aesthetic (1990) and Ideology: An Introduction (1991), as well as by Mas'ud Zavarzadeh and Donald Morton in Theory, (Post)Modernity, Opposition (1991). In Ideology ofthe Aesthetic, Eagleton groups Derrida and Foucault with the "libertarian pessimists" (p. 387), a position that is engaged in the performative contradiction of continuing to dream of liberty in the face of a pessimistic skepticism about revolutionary emancipation or total change. In Ideology: AnIntroduction (pp. 40-41), Eagleton levels this charge more explicidy againstJonathan Culler: In much deconstructive theory, the view that interpretation consists in an abyssal spiral of ironies, each ironizing the other to infinity, is commonly coupled with a political quietism or reformism. If political practice takes place only within a context of interpretation, and if that context is notoriously ambiguous and unstable, then action itself is likely to be problematic and unpredictable. This case is then used, implicitly or explicitly, to rule out the possibility of radical political programmes of an ambitious kind. ... It is a case which the post-structuralist criticJonathan Culler, among others, has several times argued. One would, then, be...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 1-17
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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