Cambridge English: Compact Advanced by Peter May

By Peter May

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This is not merely to say that no such body of theory is as yet even remotely visible. Rather, such an expectation is forestalled by some of the more searching criticisms to which Marxist thought has been subjected in the process of post-Marxism’s emergence. Although his purpose is to check and limit their potentially disruptive effects, Hall is right to argue that criticisms of the concept of ideology have played a particularly important role in this regard. For these have supplied the main route through which perspectives derived from linguistics, semiology, discourse theory and deconstruction have been brought into critical contact with Marxist thought.

All these inscriptions have effects which are real. 31 The crucial slippage here occurs between the fourth and fifth sentences. In the first of these, Hall’s contention is that ideological discourses situate social actors by inscribing them in differing and OUTSIDE LITERATURE 27 particular relations to the same real process of capitalist production and exchange. The following sentence, however, although seeming to elaborate the same point, advances a quite different argument: that ideological discourses produce positions for social actors by inscribing them in a relationship not to the real process of capitalist exchange and production but to an ‘account of the process as depicted in discourse’.

This merely fetishises Marxism, as if it were important to keep it alive at any price and, seemingly, just for the sake of it. For, ultimately, it is not Marxism’s openness that is in question but our own, and that openness will prove an empty gesture unless we can say of Marxism as we would of any other body of theory—for Marxism has no claim to be special in this regard—that it is characterised by specific forms of reasoning whose capacity for adjustment in response to new developments is subject to definite limitations.

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