Ideology, An Introduction (more Terry)

It is important to see that, in the critique of ideology, only those interventions will work which make sense to the mystified subject itself. In this sense, ‘ideology critique’ has an interesting affinity with the techniques of psychoanalysis. ‘Criticism’, in its Enlightenment sense, consists in recounting to someone what is awry with their situation, from an external, perhaps ‘transcendental’ vantage-point. ‘Critique’ is that form of discourse which seeks to inhabit the experience of the subject from inside, in order to elicit those ‘valid’ features of that experience which point beyond the subject’s present condition. ‘Criticism’ instructs currently innumerate men and women that the acquisition of mathematical knowledge is an excellent cultural goal; ‘critique’ recognizes that they will achieve such knowledge quickly enough if their wage packets are at stake. The critique of ideology, then, presumes that nobody is ever wholly mystified – that those subject to oppression experience even now hopes and desires which could only be realistically fulfilled by a transformation of their material conditions. If it rejects the external standpoint of Enlightenment rationality, it shares with the Enlightenment this fundamental trust in the moderately rational nature of human beings. Someone who was entirely the victim of ideological delusion would not even be able to recognize an emancipatory claim upon them; and it is because people do not cease to desire, struggle and imagine, even in the most apparently unpropitious of conditions, that the practice of political emancipation is a genuine possibility. This is not to claim that oppressed individuals secretly harbour some full-blown alternative to their unhappiness; but it is to claim that, once they have freed themselves from the causes of that suffering, they must be able to look back, re-write their life-histories and recognize that what they enjoy now is what they would have previously desired, if only they had been able to be aware of it. It is testimony to the fact that nobody is, ideologically speaking, a complete dupe that people who are characterized as inferior must actually learn to be so. It is not enough for a woman or colonial subject to be defined as a lower form of life: they must be actively taught this definition and some of them prove to be brilliant graduates in this process. It is astonishing how subtle, resourceful and quick-witted men and women can be in proving themselves to be uncivilized and thickheaded. In one sense, of course, this ‘performative contradiction’ is cause for political despondency; but in the appropriate circumstances it is a contradiction on which a ruling order may come to grief. – Terry Eagleton, Ideology, An Introduction, (unpaginated forward)

Well fuck.