In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

140 the minnesota review ty of a structured whole containing what can be called levels or instances which are distinct and "relatively autonomous," and co-exist within this complex structural unity, articulated with one another according to specific determinations, fixed in the last instance by the level or instance of the economy (Reading Capital, trans. Ben Brewster [London: New Left Books, 1970], p. 97). Within a given structure, the variety of practices (Juridical, political, religious, philosophical, cultural) operate in a relatively autonomous manner, not merely as mechanical functions of a determining economic base. The concept of "relative autonomy" enables Althusser to reformulate the category of mode of production in such a way that all the various "levels" or "instances" within a social formation can be seen to be both determined and determining — which is just that rethinking of the "base" demanded by Williams. Moreover, by postulating the different practices as relatively autonomous, Althusser generates a theory of what could be called the "uneven development" of the different social practices. This is what is meant by the "peculiar time and history" of a given practice within a mode of production. Thus, in the Althusserian projection, there can be no such thing as a pure form of capitalism with a set of predetermined elements and institutions . There is not, then, any "capitalist culture" or "socialist culture" in a strict sense; a variety of cultural and social practices are possible within a given mode of production, either capitalist or socialist. From the Althusserian theory of structure emerges a more adequate conception of ideology, one that can be reUeved of the stigma of "false consciousness" which hangs over the Marxist tradition of thought in this area. Though Althusser's own programmatic essay on the subject, "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses," is notably deficient (see, for a lucid criticism of this essay: Terry Eagleton, "Ideology, Fiction, Narrative," Social Text 2 [Summer 1979]: 62-70), a passage from his earlier work lays the foundation for a more useful theory of ideology than Althusser himself has developed: In ideology men do indeed express, not the relation between them and their conditions of existence, but the way they Uve the relation between them and their conditions of existence: this presupposes both a real relation and an "imaginary," "lived" relation. Ideology, then, is the expression of the relation between men and their "world," that is, the (overdetermined) unity of the real relation and the imaginary relation between them and their real conditions of existence. In ideology the real relation is inevitably invested in the imaginary relation, a relation that expresses a will (conservative, conformist, reformist or revolutionary), a hope or a nostalgia, rather than describing a reality (For Marx, trans. Ben Brewster [London: New Left Books, 1977], pp. 233-34). Eagleton's gloss on the theory of ideology proposed in this passage is to the point: "Ideology, then, is not to be reduced to miscognition, but is to be seen as signifying a set of practical relations with the 'real'" (p. 63). For "practical relations with the 'real,'" one could readily substitute "structures of feeling" without undue violence to either concept. Williams's once lonely project can thus be connected to a burgeoning group of investigations in England, France, and the United States into the theory of ideology. In this area, the work of Althusser can be seen as virtually the discovery of a new intellectual continent. Problems in Materialism and Culture charts the terrain across which many new explorations might profitably be launched. At the same time, it consoUdates the gains previously made for Marxist cultural theory by the exemplary critical practice of Raymond Williams. MICHAEL SPRINKER Rudolf Bahro. The Alternative in Eastern Europe. Translated by David Fernbach. London : New Left Books, 1978 (distributed in this country by Schocken). 464 pp. $17.50 (hardbound ), $9.50 (paper). Daniel Singer. The Road to Gdansk: Poland and the U.S.S.R. New York: Monthly Review Press. 256 pp. $15.00. That the publication of Rudolf Bahro's Die Alternative has been a major intervention in the history of Marxist theory and political analysis can be demonstrated by the flood of evaluations, criticism, and acclaim it has provoked from the...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 140-144
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.