The Real World of Ideology, Joe McCarney 1980

Chapter 3
The Burden of Epistemology

THE thesis of this essay is that the role of ideas in the class struggle constitutes the substance of Marx’s conception of ideology. To say this is to imply a systematic indifference on his part to other sorts of consideration; an indifference that extends to the cognitive status of the forms of consciousness that fall within the ideological realm. For Marx, it may be said, ideology is not an epistemological category. Thus, in particular, it has no necessary connection with what is cognitively suspect or deficient in any of the ways these qualities may show themselves. It may safely be remarked that these assertions run counter to an established tradition of interpretation and comment. Examples of it have already been noted, and others will occur from time to time in the course of the discussion. It may be unnecessary, even invidious, to cite references apart from those that arise naturally in this way. The tendency in question is so prevalent that even a slight acquaintance with the literature yields a wealth of illustrations. The epistemological theme is affirmed there again and again, often as the one certain factor in an otherwise chaotic situation or as the kernel of the original doctrine untouched by later revision. It is an important part of our thesis that such claims have no basis in Marx’s thought and, hence, that this body of literature is dealing in a fantasy. It is a conclusion which has now to be firmly established by developing the arguments for it in detail.

To begin with, it should be noted that there is no difficulty in citing textual evidence in its support. In the 1859 ‘Preface’ ideology is seen as supplying the intellectual weapons of all parties to the social conflict.[1] As Marx is far from supposing that there is nothing to choose between the merits of their ideas, the implication of cognitive indifference seems clear. In The Communist Manifesto one learns that when the class struggle nears the decisive hour ‘a portion of the bourgeoisie goes over to the proletariat, and in particular, a portion of the bourgeois ideologists, who have raised themselves to the level of comprehending theoretically the historical movement as a whole’.[2] Theoretical comprehension of the whole is, it appears, accessible to bourgeois ideologists: what is incompatible with their status is rather the decision to go over to the other side in the class struggle. All this is quite in line with what our thesis would lead one to expect. An equal significance should be attached to the sustained evidence of his practice in the writings on contemporary history. As we have seen, the concept of ideology has a strategic role in the analysis of The Class Struggles in France. Any attempt to read the work on the assumption that its operation there is constrained by considerations of cognitive status would, however, be doomed to fail. There is no suggestion in it that anything would be gained by correlating the views of the various groups with points on a cognitive grading chart. Such a project could have little point in the context of an attempt to cope with the myriad forms that consciousness takes in a particular, dynamic phase of class struggle. What is required for that is a categorial concept, embracing all the phenomena in question and yielding an idiom in which they may be discussed. It is precisely this requirement that is met by ideology, and its ability to meet it is the key to its role in the analysis. The ability rests on the kind of epistemic neutrality being argued for here.

The argument has, however, not yet come to grips with the chief source of the vitality of the opposing view. The assumption that ideology has an epistemological significance for Marx is all too often made with little regard to the need for evidential support. Indeed there may be said to exist a tradition in this respect which by now has its own momentum. Nevertheless, there is a particular text which is almost invariably pressed into service when the need is felt with special urgency or when it can no longer be ignored. A misreading of The German Ideology lies close to the heart of the complex of assumptions we wish to challenge. There is another point which should be mentioned here. It is that even commentators who are not committed to the epistemological doctrine in a general way have sometimes believed that the links between ideology and cognitive defect are drawn with unusual tightness in that work. Such a belief may then encourage attempts to exhibit Marx’s career as a succession of discrete phases or at least to emphasize the episodic character of its development. It is part of our argument that his treatment of ideology lends no support to such attempts, but rather testifies to a deep-seated continuity of thought. For these reasons it is necessary to suggest at least the outlines of a reading of The German Ideology that will fix it in its proper place within the general picture.

There is a contrast used by Gramsci in connection with another work by Marx that may help, if not pressed too hard, to suggest the kind of perspective that is needed. For The German Ideology, too, should not be viewed as primarily a ‘theoretical’ work but rather as ‘a chapter of cultural history’.[3] The point of this emphasis is specifically to deny that it is concerned to develop a theoretical account of ideology. It offers no shortcuts to wisdom on the subject but shares in all the obliqueness and reticence one finds elsewhere. These extend in particular to the failure to provide a definition of what is presumably the key term in the analysis.[4] When we have worked one out for ourselves it turns out not to be significantly different from that implicit in the other writings. As a chapter of cultural history the work has to be set in all its concreteness against the background of the period. Its concern is not with ideology as such but with a particular variety, the German Ideology, through its ‘representatives’ and ‘prophets’. This ideology is grounded in a philosophical system, Hegelian idealism, with which Marx fundamentally disagrees. It is, moreover, a system which he regards as peculiarly seductive, which dominated the intellectual climate of his time and place, and from which he had only lately succeeded in freeing himself. The German Ideology is the settling of accounts with this ‘erstwhile philosophical conscience’ through the exposure of quite specific kinds of error and confusion. It is these circumstances which account for the frequency and intensity of the aspersions cast on the ideological forms discussed in the work. Such attempts to characterize particular cases are, however, not to be inflated into a full-scale, theoretical commentary.

At this point one may begin to move closer to the details of the text. Its treatment of ideas is, from the outset, firmly situated within the context of antagonistic relations between classes, and is pervaded above all by the recognition that: ‘The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas’.[5] Throughout the work the reader is never allowed to forget that the thinkers are the spokesmen of classes, for the most part of the German petty bourgeoisie, and that their ideas have implications for the balance of class forces. The prospects of inserting any wedge at this point between The German Ideology and the later writings seem hopeless. It should also be remarked that ideology is sometimes referred to in it in ways that are strikingly difficult to reconcile with any suggestion of cognitive defect. There is, for instance, that account of how large-scale industry, through universal competition, ‘destroyed as far as possible ideology, religion, morality, etc., and where it could not do this, made them into a palpable lie’.[6] This is one of the rare occasions on which the use of the unqualified substantive signals a temporary shift of attention away from the main target. Significantly, it is accompanied by an equally temporary loss of interest in castigating ideological error. Hence, it accords well with the suggestion that ideology tends to appear in a poor light simply because Marx is almost exclusively concerned with ideological beliefs which he rejects. Some extra light is shed on the particular case by the later return to the theme of the ‘great revolution of society brought about by competition’.[7] On this occasion Marx draws attention to the way it ‘destroyed for the proletarians all naturally derived and traditional relations, e.g., family and political relations, together with their entire ideological superstructure’. It is hard to detect a hint here that there is something necessarily amiss with the ideological superstructure of the proletarians. Indeed, in view of Marx’s respect for it and for natural and traditional relations generally, the critical drift might well be supposed to be the other way. At any rate one must surely be the slave of a theory to insist on reading a sense of cognitive stigma into references such as these.

There are others in The German Ideology which might be regarded as more promising. Thus, one hears a good deal on such topics as ‘ideological deception’, ‘ideological distortion’, and ‘the illusions of the ideologists’.[8] It was suggested above that the frequency of such references may be explained by the particular circumstances of the work. It should now be added that so far from lending support to the epistemological thesis, it constitutes rather a problem for it to solve. For if it is correct, the references turn out to have a pleonastic character, and on a scale that would be quite uncharacteristic in Marx. It might perhaps be said that they are saved from complete redundancy through a concern, on the occasions of their use, to contrast ideological and non-ideological kinds of error. But the suggestion does not fit the particular cases very well, and relies on a distinction which has little resonance in Marx’s work in general. It seems more reasonable to suppose that these cases rely for their point rather on the contrast with the many ‘neutral’ references to ideological matters; to, for instance, ideological ‘theories’, ‘postulates’ and ‘methods’ and to ‘the thoughts and ideas of the ideologists’.[9] Marx can make use of this contrast precisely because he does not conceive of ideology as necessarily connected with cognitive defect. Thus, the very frequency of the references to ideological error suggests that it cannot be a conceptual truth about ideology that it is erroneous.

The focus of the discussion may now be narrowed still further. So far it has served to suggest that the great bulk of the evidence in The German Ideology is readily compatible with, or lends active support to, our thesis. It should be noted, however, that exponents of the epistemological doctrine seldom trouble to range over the work as a whole, or even substantial portions of it, in their search for support. All too often they rest content with a single passage which is taken as decisively settling the issue by itself. Of course, too much account need not be taken of isolated quotations which are in opposition to the main body of evidence. Nevertheless, the passage in question has traditionally been accorded a great deal of significance. It does not seem adequately dealt with by the arguments advanced so far, and might well be regarded as constituting a genuine prima facie difficulty for our thesis. At any rate it constitutes the last serious obstacle in the way of assimilating the work as a whole and as such deserves consideration in some detail. The passage is the well-known one containing the metaphor of the camera obscura.

It may help in getting our initial bearings to quote from the standard translation we have been using up to now:

Men are the producers of their conceptions, ideas, etc. – real, active men, as they are conditioned by a definite development of their productive forces and of the intercourse corresponding to these, up to its furthest forms. Consciousness can never be anything else than conscious existence, and the existence of men is their actual life-process. If in all ideology men and their circumstances appear upside-down as in a camera obscura, this phenomenon arises just as much from their historical life-process as the inversion of objects on the retina does from their physical life-process.

In direct contrast to German philosophy which descends from heaven to earth, here we ascend from earth to heaven.[10]

This is, it should be said, one of the passages in Marx most often treated as a source of ‘isolated aphorisms’. In the light of our earlier warnings, it is important not to be satisfied with such a treatment, but to insist on seeing it in the context of the work as a whole. The main features of the context have already been sketched. The work is primarily a critique of ‘German criticism’ which has ‘right up to its latest efforts, never quitted the realm of philosophy’, and specifically that of the Hegelian philosophy.[11] Marx’s overriding concern, as was remarked earlier, is with the persistence of the idealist ontology, the primacy in the world accorded to concepts. In developing the case he provides, as is conventionally said, the first major exposition of the materialist world-outlook. The main theme of the exposition, recurring again and again with variations of detail, is the idea most aphoristically expressed in the saying ‘Life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life.’ This formulation occurs just after the passage we are concerned with, but the theme itself is already dominant there and is overtly present in the earlier part which provides the immediate background to the camera obscura reference. As questions of translation will, of necessity, be of some significance in the discussion, it may be well to cite the sentence in which the reference appears in its original form. It runs as follows:

Wenn in der ganzen Ideologie die Menschen und ihre Verhältnisse wie in einer Camera obscura auf den Kopf gestellt erscheinen, so geht dies Phänomen ebensosehr aus ihrem historischen Lebensprozess hervor, wie die Umdrehung der Gegenstände auf der Netzhaut aus ihrem unmittelbar physischen.[12]

A crucial point to attend to here is the rendering of the phrase ‘in der ganzen Ideologie’ as ‘in all ideology’.[13] The use in the original of the definite article with an adjective might rather be taken to suggest that it is some particular ideology that is in question. Hence, it might be thought more natural to translate it as, simply, ‘in the whole ideology’. If this version were adopted the only possible referent would be the ‘German’ or ‘Hegelian’ ideology. Such a reading fits perfectly with the chief preoccupation of the work as a whole, and, more significantly, is supported by features of the immediate context. In particular, one should note the use of the phrase ‘upside-down’ (auf den Kopf gestellt). This is not to be taken as a vague, umbrella expression for things going awry or being misconceived in a general sort of way. The image of things upside-down, placed on their heads, is a favourite recourse with Marx when he wishes specifically to characterize his relationship with Hegelianism. It crops up in this connection in The Holy Family and, perhaps the best-known instance, in an ‘Afterword’ to Capital, as well as elsewhere in The German Ideology.[14] It is significant that these usages may in their turn be regarded as deliberate echoes of phrases from Hegel’s own writings; most obviously, from the ‘Preface’ to the Phenomenology.[15] We are dealing with a device which Marx found congenial in a certain context to denote a determinate kind of misconception, and this fact in itself tells against the assumption that its use here is part of a general characterization of ideology. It is intended rather to point to the central Hegelian doctrine that is under attack in The German Ideology, the reversal of the true order of priority of consciousness and material reality. The sentence that immediately follows shows that the descent from heaven to earth in German philosophy is right at the forefront of Marx’s attention at this stage, and so bears out the contextual appropriateness of our reading. The point he wishes to make might now be paraphrased as follows:

If in the German ideology as a whole the primacy of material life over consciousness is reversed, still this phenomenon itself arises from the real conditions of historical existence and is susceptible to a materialist explanation.

This interpretation accords well with the idea that the main theoretical achievement of the work is its explanation of materialism. Read in such a way it is obvious that the camera obscura passage presents no difficulty whatever for our thesis.

It is, however, not easy to feel satisfied that matters may simply be left like this. For one thing our discussion has the effect of placing other features of the familiar translation in a new light. Thus, it might be thought slightly surprising that Marx should have felt the need at this stage to present his view of the upside-down character of the German ideology in the shape of a hypothesis. In this connection it may be well to bear in mind that the rendering of ‘wenn’ as ‘if , while no doubt legitimate, is not actually obligatory here. Indeed, it may be preferable to recognize its role as concessionary rather than suppositional in character, with something of the force of ‘given that ... ‘. In following up this suggestion the sentence may be recast in the following sort of way:

The phenomenon that in the whole ideology men and their circumstances appear upside-down as in a camera obscura arises just as much from their historical life-process as the inversion of objects on the retina does from their physical life-process.

This reading has the merit of testifying in the clearest way to the conclusion that Marx’s prime concern is to bring the insights of materialism to bear on a specific ideological phenomenon of the time. But, as we have seen, the same general point can be made through the use of the hypothetical form, and in truth nothing of consequence for our argument hinges on whether that form is retained. Much more important are some misgivings that may remain concerning the contextual appropriateness of the phrase ‘in the whole ideology’, regardless of how the surrounding sentence is structured. For it may be thought not to fit as smoothly as one could wish with what immediately precedes it in the passage. It is true that the theme being pursued there, the relationship of existence and consciousness, is fully in keeping with our reading in a general way. Nevertheless, the phrase may still be experienced as signalling a switch to a new level of particularity with an abruptness that gives one something of a jolt. In itself this consideration is by no means decisive. Smoothness of texture is not a notable feature of Marx’s work. Sudden transitions do occur in it, as, indeed, they do in writers whose manner is less energetic and abrasive. Moreover, the text we have of The German Ideology is particularly illustrative of the tendency. The point involved is, nevertheless, serious enough to encourage one to look for a reading that will remove any sense of unease while continuing to do justice to the original impression of a certain degree of specificity of reference. A natural suggestion is that one might be able to interpret the focus of concern not as one particular ideology but as any individual ideology as such. It should be possible to achieve this while remaining sensitive to the linguistic pressures of the text. Some such formula as ‘in the whole body (or “the totality”) of an ideology’ seems to be indicated. For convenience in using it one has to return to the hypothetical structure of the standard translation. The consequent of the statement remains as before, but its purpose now is to guarantee the possibility of a materialist explanation not just where the entire German ideology gets things upside-down, but in the case of any ideology that fully shares the German upside-downness. This represents a more substantial claim and one that is, perhaps, more appropriate to the stage reached in the discussion. Hence, it may well constitute a better reading, one that more adequately captures the shade of meaning that Marx had in mind. But, of course, it offers as little encouragement as do our previous suggestions to any tendency to view ideology, as such, as a cognitively-deficient category.

So far the discussion has served to suggest that in this case the standard translation should be treated with caution. It does not attempt a literal rendering, but embodies an element of interpretation in a stronger sense that one has to accept as normal or inevitable. The element stands in need of justification which could only be supplied by drawing on some larger assumptions about the nature of Marx’s concern with the ideological. This is the point to be emphasized for purposes of the present discussion. The translation may be said to presuppose the epistemological thesis, but it does not provide any independent support for it. As the thesis can rely on no such support from elsewhere in Marx, the flimsiness of its foundations now stands clearly revealed. It would, however, be misleading to leave the impression that issues of translation are crucial at this stage of our argument: it is, fortunately, not dependent on any scholarly claims, however modest, in the way that would suggest. The standard translation is indeed tendentious and makes it difficult to see what is at issue but, given an adequate discussion, no dire consequences need follow on its acceptance. That is to say, even if it is allowed that the referent is ideology as such, ‘all ideology’, and if, as a corollary, the statement is explicitly cast in the hypothetical mode, our view of the general point of the passage will not need to be significantly revised. To bring this out, one may adopt the procedure most favoured by supporters of the epistemological doctrine, and concentrate attention on the antecedent clause by itself: ‘in all ideology men and their circumstances appear upside-down as in a camera obscura’.[16] This has now to be considered as a theoretical statement about the nature of ideology. On general grounds it might be thought unlikely that Marx would wish to be committed to an image with so much specificity as the emblem of the ideological realm. Such misgivings are greatly reinforced if one bears in mind what was said above about the particular associations the image has in his work. There is no good reason to saddle him with the view that all ideology has inevitably a Hegelian-idealist character. In a previous chapter it was argued that this attribution fails to take account of important areas of his practice and would considerably reduce the value of the concept for theoretical inquiry.[17] It may be added that supporters of the epistemological doctrine do not usually seem to want to tie their interpretation down in any such manner: the usual aim is to let ideology denote not a particular style of error but a mode of cognition that is defective in some more pervasive way. At any rate the point is that the claim represented by the antecedent as stated above would quite certainly have been regarded by Marx as false: it is not his view that ideology necessarily partakes of the Hegelian reversal of existence and consciousness. If one recalls the hypothetical character of the statement as a whole, it now has to be recognized that what one is dealing with is an unfulfilled or contrary-to-fact conditional, a conterfactual in the current jargon. This is a standard and obvious device for illustrating the explanatory force of a scientific hypothesis by showing how it would apply in circumstances that have not in fact been realized. What Marx may be presumed to have had in mind on this interpretation could be brought out in the following sort of way: ‘Even if, as is not the case, all ideology had an idealist character, still that fact too could be explained on the materialist hypothesis.’ The point would be that even idealism has a material base: the seemingly frictionless descent from heaven is in reality a laborious product of earth. Once again the explanatory thrust of the statement, such as it is, is seen to be directed towards Marx’s materialism rather than his conception of ideology. It is perhaps ironic that the standard translation, by forcing the conterfactual interpretation on us, should bring this out even more decisively than do the alternatives suggested above. But whichever reading one cares to adopt, it is clear that the threat to our thesis from the camera obscura passage has vanished. By displaying its true significance in the argument we have removed any temptation to suppose that a definition of ideology is being canvassed there. In particular, it is not the case that it attempts to establish any theoretical connection with error or illusion. This apparently awkward case now slips with ease into the perspective on the work that was suggested earlier, and with it the last obstacle in the text has disappeared. Marx’s aim in The German Ideology is to unmask some powerful tendencies in the ideological world of the time. The frequency with which their defects are pointed out should not, however, be allowed to invade one’s sense of what is essential to his conception of ideology. What that is lies beneath the surface here as elsewhere, and when it is recovered turns out to be in no way unique. So far as the treatment of ideology is concerned, the text does not constitute an anomaly of any kind in the pattern of the life-work as a whole.

A question that now presses even more strongly than before is why it is that the nature of the pattern has been so widely misconceived. In particular, one must ask how to account for the prevalence of the assumption that for Marx ideology has a distinctive epistemological status. Any serious attempt to do so will have to respect the scale of the phenomenon by working on a variety of levels. It is clear, however, that at some point reference has to be made to the role of Engels in mediating the original body of thought. It is true that on the whole his dealings with the ideological fit readily within the thesis of this essay. For one thing, that thesis has been developed, at least in part, on the basis of works of which he was co-author with Marx. While there can be little doubt as to whose is the dominant intellectual influence, there is no reason to suppose that either felt any discomfort with the views they express.[18] Moreover, the writings of Engels after Marx’s death contain many striking formulations of the authentic doctrine. Thus, for instance, in the ‘Preface’ of 1885 to the third German edition of The Eighteenth Brumaire he refers to Marx’s discovery of ‘the great law of motion of history, the law according to which all historical struggles, whether they proceed in the political, religious, philosophical or some other ideological domain, are in fact only the more or less clear expression of struggles of social classes’.[19] The ideological domains constitute, it appears, a medium for the expression of class struggles. This, of course, takes one to the heart of the Marxist conception, and Engels may be seen as providing here a more explicit version of the formula of the 1859 ‘Preface’, incorporating the same suggestion of indifference to the cognitive status of the warring ideas. Elsewhere, when he puts the notion of ideology to concrete use in historical analysis, it is the role of ideas in serving class interests that holds the centre of the stage. The discussion of the ideological significance of religion in Ludwig Feuerbach (1888) may serve as an illustration:

The Middle Ages had attached to theology all the other forms of ideology – philosophy, politics, jurisprudence – and made them subdivisions of theology. It thereby constrained every social and political movement to take on a theological form. The sentiments of the masses were fed with religion to the exclusion of all else; it was therefore necessary to put forward their own interests in a religious guise in order to produce an impetuous movement.[20]

Engels goes on to remark how, at a later stage:

... the Calvinist Reformation ... provided the ideological costume for the second act of the bourgeois revolution which was taking place in England. Here Calvinism justified itself as the true religious disguise of the interests of the bourgeoisie of that time ...[21]

Later still, when ‘Christianity entered into its final stage’, it became ‘incapable for the future of serving any progressive class as the ideological garb of its aspirations’. Instead, it ‘became more and more the exclusive possession of the ruling classes and these apply it as a mere means of government, to keep the lower classes within bounds’.” It is clear that this entire discussion is directly founded on the premise of the classical Marxist conception of ideology. Its ruling assumption is that the serving of class interests is the raison d’être of the ideological realm and that recognition of this fact is constitutive of the standpoint of ideological analysis.

It would be possible at this point to go through the rest of the work produced for publication by Engels in order to show in detail the congruence between his treatment of the ideological and that of Marx. In doing so one might, of course, have to recognize some differences of emphasis. It might have to be said, for instance, that the settling of accounts in The German Ideology proved less conclusive in Engels’s case. At any rate, his ideological concerns continued to revolve to a significantly greater extent around the German idealist philosophy. To put the point at its strongest, this body of work may be said to have gone on providing for him the paradigms of bourgeois ideology while Marx, as we have noted, was to shift his main attention elsewhere. Thus, in Anti-Dühring the ‘old favourite ideological method’ is still ‘the a priori method’ which ‘consists in ascertaining the properties of an object, by logical deduction from the concept of the object, instead of from the object itself ‘.[23] This enduring concern with the shortcomings of idealism may reflect a taste for metaphysics not sustained by Marx. On the other hand it may be that the impression of a contrast simply results from the division of intellectual labour that grew up between them in later years .[24] It is natural enough that this particular case should reveal the influence of old habits of thought, since the analysis of The German Ideology applies in all essentials to Dühring also:

Herr Dühring dare not designate thought as being human, and so he has to sever it from the only real foundation on which we find it, namely, man and nature; and with that he tumbles hopelessly into an ideology which reveals him as the epigone of the ‘epigone’ Hegel.[25]

Whatever the explanation, it seems clear that this ideology continued to function in a more central role for Engels than for Marx. But the difference is one that affects primarily the choice of subjects for analysis, and there would seem to be no good grounds for allotting it any larger theoretical significance. Even if this were accepted, however, and the programme of piecemeal scrutiny of everything Engels wrote for publication were successfully carried out, it must be admitted that our problem would not then disappear. For the discussion so far has failed to touch the core of it. This is best captured in a formula that is perhaps the most familiar expression of the epistemological thesis; ideology is or involves, it is said, a ‘false consciousness’. Such a view is attributed over and over again by commentators to Engels, and to Marx also, often without any attempt to supply argument or evidence.[26] The slogan may therefore serve to crystallize the residual difficulties that the thesis presents, and these can only be disposed of if it is tackled directly.

The crucial point to note is the slightness of its textual base. The phrase ‘false consciousness’ does not occur in Marx, and the only significant support for its use in the slogan consists in some comments made in a letter, written ten years after his death, from Engels to Franz Mehring:

Ideology is a process accomplished by the so-called thinker consciously, it is true, but with a false consciousness. The real motive forces impelling him remain unknown to him; otherwise it simply would not be an ideological process. Hence he imagines false or seeming motive forces.[27]

It is hard to see how this can be taken at anything like face value. Ideology for Marx, and for Engels elsewhere, is an objective social phenomenon grounded in and guaranteed by the existence of classes. Its secret is not to be found in the blindness of individuals to the ‘motive forces’ of their thinking. Where such a suggestion naturally leads is towards the elaboration of theories of ideology along psychoanalytical or existentialist lines. Within the classical Marxist framework ideology cannot be identified with any kind of self-deception, rationalization or bad faith, and is not to be removed by therapy directed at such conditions. It might be tempting to try to stay within that framework by, as it were, de-psychologizing what Engels says while preserving something of the original idea. It then becomes a conception not of ignorance of ‘motive forces’ but of failure to grasp the theoretical presuppositions of one’s thinking. The suggestion made by Althusser that ideology is marked by unconsciousness of its problematic may perhaps be viewed as a development along those lines, and no doubt it owes something to the influence of the Mehring letter.[28] It is, however, as we have seen, open to serious objection; in particular of failing to accommodate the practico-social aspect of ideology. It is not pursued with any enthusiasm by Althusser himself, and generally the line of thought involved has found little favour among commentators inside or outside Marxism. Far more common has been the tendency simply to ignore the specific suggestion of lack of insight into the basis of thought. The phrase ‘false consciousness’ has instead been lifted completely out of its original context and used as a general synonym for error or deception. It has thus passed into intellectual currency without any regard for the particular shade of meaning that Engels wished to attach to it. Such a development cannot, of course, claim even so much of the authority of his name as would otherwise attach to the contents of the Mehring letter. That is to say, it has no roots at all in the writings of the founders of Marxism. If this generalized notion of ‘false consciousness’ is combined with the wish to accommodate the social dimension of ideology, one may be led still further from any position held by Engels. The combination has all too often come about within the ambit of the kind of empiricism discussed in the previous chapter. Hence, it finds expression in the form of writing certain requirements about the social distribution of the defective forms of consciousness into the concept of ideology. By this route one arrives at the kind of definition conventionally associated with Marx and Marxism in textbooks and works of reference: ‘a false consciousness of social and economic realities, a collective illusion shared by the members of a given social class and in history distinctively associated with that class’.[29] The whole thrust of our argument has been to show that this account is fundamentally mistaken. There is a sad irony in the fact that it should be necessary to link the reputation and influence of Engels, however indirectly and adventitiously, with such a travesty. To do them justice it may be best to focus on the significance of his career as a whole, and treat the remarks on ‘false consciousness’ as an aberration, an instance of that curious uncertainty of touch he could sometimes display, even on matters supposedly central to doctrines held jointly with Marx. It is all the more easy to take such a view if one bears in mind the distinction he himself drew between the standards appropriate to published work and to private correspondence. Some six months after the Mehring letter he was to advise another correspondent: ‘Please do not weigh each word in the above too scrupulously, but keep the general connection in mind; I regret that I have not the time to word what I am writing to you exactly as I should be obliged to do for publication ...’.[30] This suggests very well the kind of perspective in which that letter should be viewed. In doing so, it helps to bring out how slight was the impulse originally given to the hare of ‘false consciousness’ which has been running so vigorously ever since. It must also reinforce the determination not to allow a large part of the significance of a person’s life and work to be destroyed by a phrase.

When the fog of the epistemological doctrine has lifted, a number of issues can be seen to fall into their proper place. Prominent among them is that of ‘the end of ideology’. The discussion has already noted Althusser’s rejection of the ‘utopian idea’ of a world from which ideology has disappeared and his denial that historical materialism can conceive of even a communist society in those terms.[31] It should now be clear in what way this view is mistaken. For not merely is historical materialism able to conceive of such a situation, but its feasibility is an integral part of the doctrine of the founders. The real world of ideology is class society and class conflict, and it disappears from the historical stage with the close of the epoch which is characterized by those conditions. But since it is not to be identified with any particular level of cognitive achievement, this disappearance has in itself no epistemological significance. The image of the end of ideology is that of the situation in which the primary social conflict has been resolved and in which, as a result, the intellectual medium of its existence has lost its function. This is not an extra, utopian element tacked onto the idea of the communist society: it is part of the specification of that society. A Marxist may entertain a rational hope that the end of ideology will be accompanied by the dissemination of higher forms of consciousness than obtain in class society. The historical preconditions of the two are, after all, to a large extent identical. Thus, for instance, a rich source of pollution is removed with the loss of the ability of the old ruling class to hire its prizefighters. The hope may be reinforced by drawing on other resources in Marx’s thought, on such themes as the end of alienation and of the fetishism of commodities, the conquest of the realm of freedom or the reversal of the previous order of consciousness and social existence. What Marx and Engels dismiss as ‘utopian’ are attempts to work out the implications of these themes for the future society in any detail. Their own suggestions as to the nature of the consciousness that will characterize it are of the vaguest and most tentative kind. Nothing in what they say, however, gives any grounds for supposing that in it individuals will enjoy a complete transparency of their relationships, or that their lives will be wholly free of the effects of ignorance, irrationality or narrowness of sympathies. There is no reason to doubt that they will go on being deceivers and self-deceivers, victims of anxiety, guilt, despair and the other dark forces that constitute the interest of ‘the human condition’ for some observers. All one can say is that whatever forms of illusion flourish in the communist society they will not be ideological; that is, they will not serve the needs of structural contradictions in the social formation. To say this is to point to one of the preconditions of a truly human society, one that does not, by its nature, systematically obstruct the attempts of the mass of its members to cope with the burdens of being human. It is not a vision of ‘men like gods’ from whom these burdens have been lifted. It may be that Althusser’s stance derives from a commendable anxiety to protect Marxism from the suspicion of falling into a shallow rationalism on this issue. But if so it shows the error of his controlling assumptions. When the epistemological connection is given up, it becomes clear that ‘the end of ideology’ involves no such risk.

There is an aspect of those assumptions that should be particularly noted here. One reason for Althusser’s insistence that human beings must live in ideology is that for him the only conceivable alternative is that they should live in science. Hence, a significant feature of his stance is the way it illustrates the pernicious consequences of the ideology-science dichotomy. This too may now be laid finally to rest.

The recognition that ideology is not, while science inescapably is, a category of epistemological import is the first step to understanding here. It enables one to see why the question, ‘what is the nature of the distinction between science and ideology?’ generates no fruitful lines of inquiry in Marxist theory. The reason is that the concepts involved are of different logical types and the attempt to treat them as though they might form the basis of a taxonomy is a symptom of confusion. It may be helpful at this point to focus on a concrete case. On Marx’s view of the matter, one seems obliged to recognize that Ricardo’s work somehow partakes of the status both of ideology and of science. Yet it should not be assumed on that account that together they must constitute a grid to be laid down on it, so that the one could be seen to begin where the other leaves off. This would be to misconceive the way the categories have application. Its ideological character belongs to the system as a whole, pervading its entire structure. This is so in virtue of the fact that, as Marx never tires of remarking, it is wholly conceived from the vantage point of capitalist production, which is assumed to be the natural, eternally valid, human mode. It could only vulgarize his notion of ideology to attempt to operate with it inside the system, as a way of identifying the less reputable elements. For that, one simply needs a conception of degrees of scientific merit and, perhaps, a distinction between science and non-science or pseudoscience. An attempt to impose a science-ideology dichotomy here would suggest a failure to make adequate discriminations among the forms of social consciousness as he depicts them.

It was earlier suggested that the theme of ideology should be separated from that of class consciousness. Both have now to be distinguished from the question of what is involved in understanding society, from the idea of a social science. Marx offers no ready-made, theoretically adequate account of this theme either. From the scattered references to it, one may assume that such a science must have a dialectical character, and would generally involve the penetration of appearances to the reality beneath. The results of such a process of dialectical penetration will, no doubt, be of ideological significance in class society and questions of great interest arise in that connection. They cannot begin to be answered, however, without a sense of the basic conceptual configurations. The minimum requirement is to recognise the radical heterogeneity of the concepts of ideology, class consciousness and social science, and to give up hope of mapping their interrelations neatly on a single plane. But this, of course, is not the end of the matter. Having insisted on the need to make distinctions, we shall at a later stage have to face the task of reconstituting the unity of Marx’s thought by showing something of the complex pattern in which it holds their elements together.

For the present we may continue to reap the more immediate benefits of giving up the polar opposition of science and ideology. Most obviously perhaps, it puts us in a position to return and deal with the question of the ideological significance of the natural sciences. The assumption that in the very act of posing it one must be raising doubts about cognitive status is a serious hindrance to inquiry. Yet the issues involved here are of great importance, and were seen as such by the founders of the classical Marxist tradition of ideology. Thus, a persistent concern in History and Class Consciousness is the complicated symbiosis in bourgeois thought between conceptions of nature and of society, Lukács sees that ‘there is something highly problematic in the fact that capitalist society is predisposed to harmonize with scientific method’.[32] The first step in solving the problem is to grasp that ‘nature is a societal category’.[33] Hence it is that under capitalism the ‘natural laws’ of society ‘have the task of subordinating the categories of nature to the process of socialisation’.[34] Tönnies is quoted to illustrate one aspect of the situation that results:

... scientific concepts ... behave within science like commodities in society. They gather together within the system like commodities on the market."[35]

The other aspect of this relationship appears when one considers how the theoretical understanding of society is, in its turn, pervaded by the modes of thought of natural science. Lukács insists that ‘Every such “atomic” theory of society only represents the ideological reflection of the purely bourgeois point of view’.[36] Thus, bourgeois thought is characterized by the belief that the real motor forces of history ‘belong, as it were, to nature and that in them and in their causal interactions it is possible to discern the “eternal” laws of nature’.[37] The implications for ideological analysis are spelled out in the discussion of Engels’s proof that force (law and the state) ‘was originally grounded in an economic social function’. This, Lukács comments:

... must be interpreted to mean – in strict accordance with the theories of Marx and Engels – that in consequence of this connection a corresponding ideological picture is found projected into the thoughts and feelings of men who are drawn into the ambit of authority. That is to say, the organs of authority harmonize to such an extent with the (economic) laws governing men’s lives, or seem so overwhelmingly superior that men experience them as natural forces, as the necessary environment for their existence. As a result they submit to them freely. (Which is not to say that they approve of them.)[38]

The general conclusion to be drawn here is that, on Lukács’s view, the main axis of bourgeois thought is the conception of a unified science of nature and society. The ideological function of this conception is to confirm the tendency to experience the institutions of bourgeois society as forces of nature, to confer on them the ontological solidity of the forms of the physical universe itself. The process at work is essentially the same as that encountered in the discussion of the Australian aborigines, the conceptual underpinning of social arrangements through the projection of their image onto the universe at large. Hence, it is the second, ‘syntactic’ model of ideology that is the appropriate instrument for explicating it. The search for ideologically significant evaluations among the propositions and theories of natural science is, in any case, likely to be of marginal interest, and runs the risk of trivializing the issues at stake. It is hardly surprising that of the major figures of classical Marxism it should be Lukács who provides the most direct help in doing them justice. On his own account, he had originally been drawn to Marx ‘the sociologist’ under the influence of Weber,[39] and clearly the methodological lesson of The Protestant Ethic has been thoroughly assimilated by him:

... it is no accident that it was the revolutionary religiosity of the sects that supplied the ideology for capitalism in its purest forms (in England and America). For the union of an inwardness, purified to the point of total abstraction and stripped of all traces of flesh and blood, with a transcendental philosophy of history does indeed correspond to the basic ideological structure of capitalism.[40]

It is precisely our contention that where the ideological significance of natural science is concerned it is primarily with correspondences between structures that one has to deal. The language used by Lukács of ‘harmonizing’, ‘reflecting’ and ‘projecting corresponding ideological pictures’ is perfectly adapted to exploring such a theme. His own exploration displays a sharp awareness that among the pictures which bourgeois society projects into the thoughts and feelings of men, its picture of the natural world has a distinctive place. For it is uniquely suited to holding them captive through the effect of inexorable repetition. Its scope and authority ensure for it a special role in reassuring the bourgeois that the world is his world and in encouraging others to feel at home in it too, or at least to experience their alienation as a kind of deviance.

It was suggested earlier that the ideological relevance of natural science was not lost on the founders of the Marxist tradition. This is perhaps best evidenced by the way in which the need to come to terms with it supplies so much of the pressure behind the debate over the dialectics of nature. In History and Class Consciousness the dialectical categories are interpreted in a way that makes it impossible to see how they could apply outside human society. This consequence is frankly acknowledged by Lukács[41] and, indeed, he gives the impression of wholly conceding the validity of the non-dialectical mode of inquiry in its own sphere:

When the ideal of scientific knowledge is applied to nature it simply furthers the progress of science. But when it is applied to society it turns out to be an ideological weapon of the bourgeoisie.[42]

His response to the situation is to give up the idea of a unified science. This is, in effect, to admit the affinity between natural science and bourgeois society, and then concentrate on drawing its ideological sting. By marking society sharply off from nature he seeks, as it were, to put the world-view of natural science in quarantine. This approach is consciously opposed to that adopted in Engels’s treatment of the subject. There the strategy is rather to restore the idea of a unified science from a different viewpoint, to obliterate the connection between natural science and capitalism by reclaiming the study of nature for the materialist dialectic. The two positions are the main poles of reference in a debate that has continued ever since within Marxism. To understand it, one has to see that the issues at stake are not just of theoretical interest, but have, and were experienced by the participants as having, the largest ideological significance. Viewed in that perspective, the driving force of the debate is the wish to deprive bourgeois society of the intellectual authority of science. The need arises from the fact that capitalism and modern science have grown up together in the same environment and share its structural imprint. It is all the more pressing in that in this environment the systematic study of nature had come to be thought of as supplying the paradigms of human knowledge and rationality in general. But of course, as the Australian case reminds one, images of the non-human world are likely to have a fundamental significance for the process of legitimation in any society.

It is through the ‘syntactic’ model that their significance has to be made manifest. The value of the model is, however, by no means confined to this range of cases. There is not space here to develop the possibilities in detail, but something may be said to illustrate them. It will be convenient to stay with the intellectual projections of bourgeois society, where Lukács may once again serve as a guide. The ‘atomisation of society’, he remarks, must ‘have a profound influence on the thought, the science and the philosophy of capitalism’.[43] In History and Class Consciousness this influence is most fully explored in connection with the tradition of classical German philosophy. The treatment of it as the ‘complete intellectual copy’ of bourgeois society demonstrates very well the possibilities we have in mind.[44] The theme may be expanded a little by considering a philosopher whose career offers a remarkable postscript to Lukács’s account. Wittgenstein is conventionally enough regarded as the heir of Kant and Schopenhauer who takes the natural logic of their position to its furthest limit. In this achievement, one may say, lies the source of his exemplary significance for the ideological analysis of bourgeois society. His work deserves, of course, to be viewed as more than just a case study in such an analysis. As one might expect of a thinker obsessed throughout his life with the ‘pictoriality of thought’,[45] it is also a rich source of methodological insight so far as the second model of ideology is concerned. Some echoes from it have, almost inevitably, already crept into the discussion here. In the Tractatus the treatment of the central issue of the relationship between language and the world rests on the most uncompromising assertion of structural identity that could be imagined. It is tempting to propose a measure of analogy between the operation of the elementary propositions as pictures which share the logical form of their subjects and that of the ideological complexes with their homology of structures. To do so should enable one to benefit from Wittgenstein’s treatment of the pictorial relationship, at least as a classic statement of one way of conceiving it. In the present discussion, however, we must be content with applying what methodological insights we have to the substantive thesis of the work. Its ontology, the view of the world as the totality of atomic facts which are themselves configurations of simple objects, is surely to be seen as the most refined theoretical expression of the atomizing tendencies of bourgeois society, its complete intellectual copy in the realm of metaphysics. The interest of the theory for ideological inquiry is not in any way diminished by the innocence of its author’s intentions, nor by the level of abstraction which rules out any suggestion of a practico-social role. It is these very features which constitute it as so pure an illustration of the basic ideological process of the reproduction of the structures of a society in thought. Such a case brings home all the more vividly the fact that the patterns in terms of which the society is conceived will be found congenial and authoritative over a wide field of intellectual life. Thus, it helps one to see how the ideology that is the medium for the images of bourgeois society may come to permeate the consciousness of an epoch.

So far the discussion has dealt in connections which, though important, are fairly bald and schematic. More satisfying are the possibilities of linking Wittgenstein to the ideological analysis of classical bourgeois philosophy at lower levels of detail. They arise, for instance, in regard to that question of ‘the irrational’, which is, for Lukács, the crux and solvent of the whole tradition.[46] The Tractatus exemplifies very clearly one kind of response to it with which he has made us familiar, the combination of the most complete refinement of rational technique in matters of detail with a blank irrationality as regards the whole.[47] This is, on Lukács’s account, an inescapable feature of bourgeois thought, imposed by the objective limits and internal contradictions of bourgeois society. What is remarkable in Wittgenstein is the frankness with which a virtue is made of necessity. The acceptance of the unintelligibility of the whole, the loss of intellectual control at this point, is celebrated as the most profound wisdom. The feeling for the world as a whole is explicitly identified with ‘the mystical’, and the sense of this world is located outside it in the region which one cannot speak of but must consign to silence.[48] The stoically tragic attitude in the face of the unknowable that Lukács admired in Kant has now degenerated into an enervate mysticism. To say this is not to compare the merits of individual thinkers as such, but rather to register the decline of a tradition of thought and, behind that, the changing fortunes of a class and of the society it dominated.

The working out of the process may be pursued in the later Wittgenstein. At one point, in discussing the treatment by some bourgeois thinkers of ‘the unsolved problem of the irrational’ and the way it ‘reappears in the problem of totality’, Lukács comments:

The horizon that delimits the totality that has been and can be created here is, at best, culture (i.e. the culture of bourgeois society). This culture cannot be derived from anything else and has simply to be accepted on its own terms as ‘facticity’ in the sense given to it by the classical philosophers.[49]

It is surely difficult, coming on this in the present context, not to hear some further echoes: ‘What has to be accepted, the given, is – so one could say – forms of life.[50] The value of Lukács’s comment is that it enforces a recognition of some simple truths. The forms that have to be accepted must, in practice, turn out to be the forms of bourgeois society. Hence, by investing them with authority Wittgenstein’s dictum involves a politically significant kind of conservatism. The history of the reception of the later work, in particular the use made of it in social theory by the ‘Wittgensteinians’, fits well with this conclusion. The main point to note, however, is that the movement traced here between the sense of cosmic ineffability and the determination to cling to the immediacy of the socially given is characteristic of a tendency which goes deep in bourgeois thought and has considerable ideological significance. To note it is to be reminded both of the exemplary value of Wittgenstein’s career and of the acuteness of Lukács’s perception of the intellectual needs and resources of bourgeois society.[51]

It is not possible in this essay to deal with all the varieties of confusion that flow from the epistemological doctrine. There is, however, one other line of development which deserves attention in order to clarify some aspects of our own position. It may be introduced by referring again to the misreading of The German Ideology which sees the links between ideology and cognitive defect as peculiarly tight there, and claims a contrast in this respect with the later work. Althusser again provides a convenient illustration. In The German Ideology, he remarks, ‘Ideology is conceived as a pure illusion, a pure dream, i.e. as nothingness’,[52] Such a conception is, of course, impossible to reconcile with his sense of its massive and inescapable presence in social formations. Indeed, it is hard to see how it could permit any serious attempt to do justice to the practico-social dimension. On the other hand, there are, as we have seen, no good grounds for attributing it to Marx at any stage of his career. If, however, The German Ideology is read and rejected in this way, one may easily be led, under the auspices of the epistemological doctrine, to try to define a more satisfactory cognitive status for ideology. This may be seen as an attempt to uncover the mature view of Marx. It will have to operate with a rather more complicated scheme than that represented by the ideology-science dichotomy. Its poles of reference will be constituted by science at one extreme and ‘pure illusion’ at the other, and the object will be to mark out a location for ideology somewhere in between. A good deal of recent discussion under Althusserian influence has been based on this problematic.[53] It is difficult, however, to see how anything worthwhile can come of it. The programme is vitiated by its combination of the epistemological thesis with essentialist assumptions about meaning. Ideology, it is supposed, must be assigned as a unified whole to a particular place in the epistemological spectrum. Its essence lies in the occupation of that place, in that specific kind of cognitive relation to reality that is the ideological relation. But even if the technical difficulties involved in staking out a plausible intermediate site were overcome, the identification of it with ideology would be merely gratuitous. At least it derives no warrant from the classical Marxist tradition, and could only be a source of tension in the work of anyone who wished to retain some organic link with it. In that tradition ideology figures as the intellectual powerhouse of the class struggle. To carry out this function it must involve or make possible for subscribers some more or less reliable orientation towards reality. Its success in its social role is indeed inexplicable if it is thought of as pure illusion. But recognition of this can be accommodated without introducing any new varieties into the overgrown garden of epistemology. It is not necessary that ideology as such should represent a distinctive cognitive achievement falling somewhere between knowledge in the full sense and mere fantasy, that there should be a particular kind of cognitive relation to the world that is the ideological relation. What is needed, one might say, is to take one’s terms distributively and not collectively in this case. It is necessary that some proportion, and how high cannot be specified in advance, of ideological forms should be veridical in their particular social context. Powerful and long-established ideologies, such as that of the bourgeoisie in contemporary capitalism, are bound to have substantial cognitive merits. These are facts which the classical Marxist conception of ideology as thought which serves class interests is well able to accommodate. It supplies the principle of unity which binds together the immensely varied forms of bourgeois ideology in their extraordinary mixture of truth and error, transparency and opacity, insight and illusion. The assumption that ideology must itself be seen as a distinctive epistemological category is a strategic obstacle to understanding here.

A number of threads have now to be pulled together in the discussion. The task is most easily approached through a question that may be a source of residual unease about the argument of this chapter. It is the question of Marx’s apparent reluctance to speak of ideology in connection with the proletariat and, in consequence, of the ideological significance of his own work. It can scarcely be doubted that this has been of considerable historical importance in preparing the ground for the propagation of the cognitive-defect theory, and it remains an obstacle to a clear view of the issues. If the case argued for here has acquired any solidity, the problem is one of rescuing some recalcitrant appearances. It should be noted that these are not nearly so one-sided as is often assumed. In the 1859 ‘Preface’ ideology appears as the medium in which all sides fight out the social conflict, and the idea of ‘proletarian ideology’, if not the phrase itself, is manifestly present there. Moreover, the discussion in The German Ideology of the way large-scale industry destroyed for the proletarians ‘their entire ideological superstructure’ suffices to show that Marx did not suffer from any linguistic taboos in this area. But even when the significance of such references has been recognized, it remains the case that there is something to be saved. For they may well be felt to be unrepresentative of the main tendency of his usage. The need may be thought to emerge the more clearly if one compares the practice of Lenin and Lukács. Both are prepared to speak in the most frank and natural way of ideology in connection with the struggle of the proletariat, and indeed of Marxism itself as an ideology.[54] The explicitness of such references has generally been accepted as ruling out the possibility of any extension of the cognitive-defect thesis to either of them. Instead, it has been used to try to drive a wedge between their position and that of Marx, and so dismember the classical Marxist tradition.[55] This is an important misconception and needs to be dealt with by going to its source.

The comparison with Lenin and Lukács is a help in trying to focus on the specificity of Marx’s situation. It serves to remind one of an aspect of it which has already been noted but whose importance is easily underplayed; the peculiarly combative and, one might say, negative character of his interest in the ideological. From this standpoint the failure to say much about the ideology of the proletariat presents no greater mystery than the failure to say much about ideology in general, and is due to the same cause. It is because he says so little about anything apart from the defects of particular forms of bourgeois ideology. The obsessional concern with unmasking the ruling ideas tends to appropriate the entire field of discourse. The few occasions on which his sights are set a little higher, as in the examples just given, bear out the assumption that there would be no theoretical difficulty in accommodating the phenomenon of proletarian ideology were the need to do so experienced in some more pressing way. In all this one has to allow something to the influence of individual preoccupations and intellectual styles. But there are other factors involved. The raising of sights was something to which Lenin and Lukács were impelled by virtue of their historical situation. Their task was not that of articulating a new world-view in opposition to existing tendencies, nor of establishing its credentials as against the products of bourgeois culture. Marx’s achievement in these respects did not need to be repeated. It could largely be taken as given, and used as a basis for the continuing development that was necessary. In particular, there was the problem of how to equip the proletarian movement for the ideological struggle with the intellectual weapons he had created. This was the task to which they, in different ways, addressed themselves. In doing so, of course, the question of the positive character of proletarian ideology has to be moved right to the centre of the stage. Such a move is in no way contrary to the logic of the original position, but represents rather its natural development in different conditions and under the pressure of different concerns. Against this background the absence in Marx of a developed, self-conscious interest in the nature of proletarian ideology appears as an aspect of his general unconcern with the details of a theory of revolution. In consequence, his apprehension of the process through which class society is overthrown suffers from a lack of concreteness which had to be remedied by his successors. The verbal contrasts that reflect this development should not be allowed to obscure the basic continuities at work.

This is perhaps all that needs to be said to save the appearances. But much of the true significance of the problem would be missed if one were to be content with such a resolution of it. Marx’s reluctance to deal explicitly with the concrete nature of proletarian ideology is not to be wholly ascribed to more or less contingent features of his position. Its sources go deeper and connect with issues of great importance for our argument. What still remain to be assimilated are the full implications of his conception of the proletariat and its role in history. That conception needs, in its turn, to be set against the larger theoretical background of the development of the class struggle as a whole and of its ideological forms. An important element in the background is the idea that, quite generally, rising classes put themselves forward as the representatives of society as a whole: ‘... each new class which puts itself in the place of one ruling before it, is compelled, merely in order to carry through its aim, to present its interest as the common interest of all the members of society, that is, expressed in ideal form: it has to give its ideas the form of universality, and represent them as the only rational, universally valid ones’.[56] In the past, whenever the new class has achieved power these claims to universality have turned out to be a sham. It has proceeded to impose its rule on society while the conflict between classes goes on. The advent of the proletariat brings a new element to the situation. As The Communist Manifesto puts it:

All previous historical movements were movements of minorities, or in the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self-conscious independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority. The proletariat, the lowest stratum of our present society, cannot stir, cannot raise itself up, without the whole superincumbent strata of official society being sprung into the air.[57]

Thus, the proletariat alone is fitted to be the genuine ‘universal representative’, the sole instrument by which the class basis of society and with it the pre-history of mankind are abolished. Inherent in this situation is a strong element of dialectical tension. The proletariat has to be perceived both as a class and as the negation of class society. Marx’s language reflects the strain of rendering such a perception accurately. It shows itself characteristically in the resort to paradox: the proletariat is ‘a class of civil society which is not a class of civil society, a class which is the dissolution of all classes’,[58] ‘the class which no longer counts as a class in society, is not recognized as a class, and is in itself the expression of the dissolution of all classes, nationalities, etc., within present society’.[59] It is clear that there must be some difficulty about attributing class interests in the ordinary way to such an entity. Its interests are not to be seen as partial and specific to itself, but are rather to be identified with those of humanity in general. It is a sphere of society which ‘can ... redeem itself only through the total redemption of humanity’,[60] and ‘the emancipation of the workers contains universal human emancipation’.[61] The difficulty about the attribution of interests is explicitly recognized by Marx as an expression of the conditions that must be fulfilled if the proletariat is to carry out its historical task:

This subsuming of individuals under definite classes cannot be abolished until a class has taken shape, which has no longer any particular class interest to assert against the ruling class.[62]

In the light of the conceptual nexus which has been the main concern of this essay, it is not surprising that the difficulty of attribution should have repercussions for ideology also. The ideology of a class is the set of representations that serve its particular interests. No problems arise in speaking of the ideology of previous ruling classes since their claims to represent anything other than such interests are spurious. But the interests of the proletariat are genuinely universal, and their complete realization implies the end of all ideology. Marx’s response to this situation is perhaps most adequately rendered by noting the dual perspective it enjoins on him. For many purposes he is content to treat the proletariat as one class among others, subject to the ordinary dynamics of the class struggle and amenable to the general mode of analysis appropriate to that struggle. Alongside this must be placed his awareness of all that sets it apart, its status as the expression of the dissolution of classes, and the temptation that results to regard it as already virtually identical with the human community of the post-revolutionary world. Thus, there are occasions when he sees it in ways appropriate to its role as the beneficiary of a particular ideology. This is the element in his position that was to be so strikingly developed by Lenin and Lukács. But there is also the tendency to view it as the enemy and destroyer of ideology in general. That tendency corresponds to the deepest level of his thinking: the sense of the uniqueness of its destiny is close to the heart of the system as a whole. In his practice of ideological analysis it is allowed to operate with particular freedom and purity. What is reflected there is scarcely at all the proletariat as a class struggling with other classes in and through ideology, but instead the proletariat as the harbinger and begetter of new, non-ideological forms of consciousness. Thus there is, one might say, a deep-seated antipathy between the context in which it is natural to speak of ideology and the context in which Marx’s hopes for the proletariat find fullest expression. In the complex tensions generated by this antipathy lies the secret of the linguistic pattern we have been seeking to explain.

The special character of proletarian consciousness holds the key to yet greater mysteries. Attention has already been drawn to the significance in Marx, Lenin and Lukács of the image of a unified structure of consciousness centred on the proletariat and incorporating the true and the spontaneous together with ideology. It was noted that our presentation was as yet incomplete. In particular, it omitted the part played by the scientific understanding of society. It is time to repair this, and to redeem the undertaking to draw together the themes of ideology, class consciousness and social science so as to reveal the unity of Marx’s thought. Such a redemption can be achieved here only in a programmatic sort of way. The connections involved need to be worked out at a variety of levels and in a mass of concrete detail to do justice to the richness of the subject. Ideology is the only element which has been treated in this essay on anything like the scale required for such a task. Nevertheless, it should be possible to take advantage of its strategic significance, its ramified links with the other factors, sufficiently to exhibit at least the skeleton of the structure as a whole. As one might expect, Marx’s failure to provide much direct help in giving an account of the individual parts is repeated with emphasis when it comes to the question of their systematic interconnection. Again one has to rely on the unity of vision that is immanent in the particulars and will reveal itself if they are approached in the right way. There is an additional source of guidance which it should now be possible to exploit. It consists of the contributions of those who have had the deepest grasp of the distinctive coherence of his thought and have done most to give it expression. Here again we shall find the work of Lenin and Lukács making a special claim on our attention. At this level also, where the issue concerns the structure of the forms of social consciousness in general, one has to recognize their organic and rigorous development of the original impulse, and once more we find ourselves in contact with a unified tradition of thought.

It may be well to acknowledge at once that when the factor of scientific understanding is introduced into the picture, epistemological questions can scarcely be avoided. For, of course, questions of this kind do arise in connection with Marx’s work, and they are not conjured out of existence just by coming to realize that in it ideology is not an epistemological category. That insight is rather a necessary preliminary for tackling them in a fruitful way. It disposes of the temptation to try to discuss them in a systematically-misleading idiom, and this is itself a significant part of the benefits of getting clear about ideology. An obvious point at which such questions arise is in connection with the status of the spontaneous consciousness of the proletariat. Marx is quite certainly committed to claiming some measure of cognitive superiority for it, over that of other classes. The tendency, as Lukács points out, is to be found as early in his career as the remarks on the Weavers’ Uprising in Silesia, and it remains a characteristic element thereafter.[63] Towards the end of his life it finds another kind of expression in the preface to the Enquête Ouvrière where the workers are exhorted to reply to the questionnaire, since only they can describe ‘with full knowledge the evils which they endure’.[64] Variations on the theme occur with great frequency in the intervening years in such passages as the following:

For the proletarians ... the conditions of their existence, labour, and with it all the conditions of existence governing modern society, have become something accidental, something over which they, as separate individuals, have no control, and over which no social organisation can give them control. The contradiction between the individuality of each separate proletarian and labour, the condition of life forced upon him, becomes evident to him himself, for he is sacrificed from youth upwards and, within his own class, has no chance of arriving at the conditions which would place him in the other class.[65]

As these examples suggest, the basic idea behind the optimism is straightforward enough. There are some things which only the workers can know and which ‘become evident’ to them on the basis of their life experience: they have, in the hackneyed expression, the truth of these matters in their bones. The proletariat is, by virtue of its location in the mode of production, in a privileged position in certain respects. From that location unfolds a perspective which enforces an awareness of some basic social realities, and this awareness is of great epistemological significance. The process by which the proletariat is impelled beyond the phenomenal forms of bourgeois society has an analogue in the scientific enterprise itself, in so far as that too involves the penetration of appearances to the reality behind. This is not to be taken merely as a suggestive metaphor. The point is rather that the sense of its situation naturally available to the proletariat contains in embryo the possibility of a scientific account of society. The central scientific concepts may be seen as refinements of insights characteristic, in the first place, of spontaneous proletarian consciousness. It is necessary to be specific here. What the proletariat is made aware of by virtue of its life experience are such realities as the existence of social classes, of conflicting class interests, of exploitation and of its own status as a commodity. The concept of class struggle is perhaps the most obvious scientific precipitate of these insights. But the same relationship holds between the workers’ awareness of exploitation and the concept of surplus value, and between their awareness of their role in the market and the concept of labour power. With these concepts is unlocked the entire scheme of the Marxist analysis of capitalist society. Thus, it may now be said that spontaneous proletarian consciousness provides the basis for science just in the sense that a rational reconstruction of a scientific account of society could be given which would exhibit its insights as the starting point. It is in this way that one should understand the familiar claim that the science of society is based upon or presupposes the class standpoint of the proletariat.

It is once again important here to bear in mind the theoretical background of Marx’s conception. The claims made for the proletariat are not the expression of an irrational fixation, but the culmination of a line of reasoning which has a general relevance. He is well aware that the bourgeoisie too, in its heroic period, had special access to truths about the society it was seeking to dominate. A recognition of the positive achievements of bourgeois thought and, hence, an opposition to apocalyptic views of those of the proletariat, are a marked feature of the tradition we are considering. Lenin justifies his position on the issue by pointing out that ‘Marx based his work on the firm foundation of the human knowledge acquired under capitalism’, and that he achieved his results by ‘fully assimilating all that earlier science had produced’.[66] Lukács insists that ‘proletarian thought does not require a tabula rasa, a new start to the task of comprehending reality and one without any preconceptions’, but rather ‘conceives of bourgeois society together with its intellectual and artistic productions as the point of departure for its own method’.[67] It is common ground to these thinkers that the class position of the rising bourgeoisie permitted it insights which formed the basis for valuable theoretical work. As one might expect of a class struggling to assert itself, they included a grasp of the reality of class conflict. Marx declares flatly that he deserves no credit ‘for discovering the existence of classes in modern society or the struggle between them’. ‘Long before me’, he explains, ‘bourgeois historians had described the historical development of this class struggle and bourgeois economists the economic anatomy of the classes.’[68] It is also clear that the resources of bourgeois thought extend to at least a partial grasp of the notion of surplus value. Marx draws attention on many occasions to its active presence in the writings of Smith and Ricardo, though acknowledging that it is never raised there to the level of an adequate theoretical formulation. These writers are unable to escape from the form it takes in capitalist society so as to investigate the general category: ‘All economists share the error of examining surplus-value not as such, in its pure form, but in the particular forms of profit and rent.’[69] Moreover, their perspective is permanently confined within the controlling ideological assumption:

Ricardo never concerns himself about the origin of surplus-value. He treats it as a thing inherent in the capitalist mode of production, which mode, in his eyes, is the natural form of social production.[70]

A grasp of the true nature of labour as a commodity is still further removed from the bourgeois purview. The difficulties into which the classical theory of value had fallen had to await a clear statement of the distinction between labour and labour power. In this area at least, Marx is inclined to make claims for his own originality. In connection with the dual character of labour as a creator of use-values and as itself the possessor of exchange-value, he remarks: ‘I was the first to point out and to examine critically this two-fold nature of the labour contained in commodities’, and adds that ‘this point is the pivot on which a clear comprehension of Political Economy turns’.[71] It is so, in so far as it constitutes the vital clue to the nature of the commodity structure as a whole. The complete theoretical comprehension of that structure falls outside the scope of classical political economy, and here one is again brought up against the objective limits of bourgeois thought. What needs to be emphasized for present purposes, however, is that these limits leave room for substantial achievements which are internally related to insights available in the spontaneous consciousness of the bourgeoisie while it was still a progressive force in history. They are, of course, insights available also to the proletariat: in so far as the standpoints of the two classes constitute a basis for science they may be regarded as having, as it were, the same co-ordinates. The intellectual achievements of the classical political economists are explicable as a theoretical articulation of this common starting point. It is important to bear this in mind in considering the notion of ‘proletarian science’. The proletariat is not the ultimate repository of science through some magical intervention in history, but through the secular process of its unfolding. It is in the logic of that process that one must ground the claim that it alone can achieve a comprehensive view of social reality, free of the contradictions that beset other classes. It is also in terms of that logic that the precarious nature of the bourgeois achievement should be understood. Marx, as has already been noted, displays an acute sense of the chronology involved.[72] When the bourgeoisie has established its dominance and, more especially, when it begins to experience significant pressure from below, a gradual transformation affects all aspects of its thought. The spontaneous drift of its consciousness becomes set towards the mystification of social arrangements, even towards the elimination of its own previous insights through the development of notions of a just wage, of a natural harmony of interests in society and so on. The refinement of such notions at the level of social theory can produce only a systematizing of myth. Thus sets in that general intellectual decline diagnosed by Marx through such representative figures as the utilitarian philosophers and the vulgar economists. What it signifies is that the bourgeois standpoint is no longer available as a basis for science, and that the responsibility for further progress has passed entirely to the proletariat.

The discussion here has been concerned with discovering in what sense one may speak of the integration of scientific work with the empirical consciousness of the proletariat. The actual achievement of this result is, it must be remembered, itself an historical event which occurs as part of a fundamental process of change leading to the creation of a new kind of society. This historical process is the indispensable background against which a demonstration of the unity of Marx’s thought has to be situated. In terms of it the remaining elements of the picture may now be sketched in rapidly. A central feature of the process is the development of the empirically-given consciousness of the proletariat into true class consciousness. This is ‘the sense, become conscious, of the historical role of the class’,[73] involving an awareness on the part of the workers of ‘the irreconcilable antagonism of their interests to the whole of the modern political and social system’.[74] Such awareness clearly rests upon a substantial cognitive achievement, a developed understanding of the nature of the modern system and of the place of the class within it. That is, it presupposes the diffusion within the proletariat of a considerable measure of scientific insight.

It now begins to be clear how ideology fits into the picture. The ideology of the proletariat, as has been seen, only comes into existence as an expression of authentic class consciousness: whatever falls short of that must be accounted among the resources of the ruling class.[75] Hence it follows that it has to arise on the basis of scientific achievement. To note this dependence is to be made aware of another aspect of the relationship between science and the standpoint of the proletariat, and specifically the standpoint of its class interests. All class ideologies are, of necessity, involved in claims to knowledge about society. What distinguishes the ideology of the proletariat is that in its case the cognitive content is supplied by science: ‘it is this that gives the class struggle of the proletariat its special place among other class struggles, namely that it obtains its sharpest weapons from the hand of true science, from its clear insight into reality’.[76] This idea that science and ideology come together in the historical reality of the proletariat is a central theme of the tradition we are dealing with, and is what ultimately sustains the spirit of rational optimism that is so pervasive a feature of it. In the case of the proletariat alone the pursuit of truth and the demands of historical existence are found in a state not simply of compatibility but of reciprocal dependence. This relationship is significant in a number of important. ways. It is in virtue of it that the proletariat can intelligibly be regarded both as a class and as the representative of humanity. Moreover, it creates the possibility for it to rehearse in its own existence the conditions of the post-revolutionary society, and so establish a concrete basis for a rational belief in their viability. For present purposes what has to be particularly noted is that the coming together of ideology and science enables one to add the final element to the skeleton contracted for earlier. There has now emerged a picture of the empirical and the true consciousness of the proletariat grown together on the basis of scientific work and issuing in the ideological weapons with which the historical struggle is conducted. At this point the vision of a unified structure centred on the proletariat is in all essentials complete.

The unity involved here is the unity of a structure of consciousness. Yet it is not to be realised through reflection alone, nor through any set of operations confined to the realm of thought. It comes into existence as an historical reality through a many-sided process of struggle. This is the direction in which Marxist philosophy always bids us look: ‘All mysteries which lead theory to mysticism find their rational solution in human praxis and in the comprehension of this praxis’.[77] The idea that the solution of theoretical problems might have to be found in and through praxis was not plucked by Marx from the air. Here, as elsewhere, he was building on the firm foundation of existing human knowledge, and specifically on the achievements of classical German philosophy. The definitive account from within Marxism of the relationships involved has been given by Lukács. In the course of it, he points out that Kant had attempted in the Critique of Practical Reason ‘to show that the barriers that could not be overcome by theory (contemplation) were amenable to practical solutions’, and that Fichte had gone beyond this and ‘put the practical, action and activity in the centre of his unifying philosophical system’.[78] The vital turn towards history, as the arena in which the practical assumes its true significance for thought was also taken in classical philosophy. But with this move, as Lukács shows, it reached the limits of its success. It was unable to apprehend the concrete character of that specific form of historical praxis that alone is decisive for the solution of its problems. For the subject and agent of this praxis is the proletariat, and an adequate depiction of its role is impossible from the purely bourgeois point of view. At this point,. ‘classical philosophy turned back and lost itself in the endless labyrinth of conceptual mythology’.[79] It was Hegel, ‘in every respect the pinnacle of this development’, who also ‘made the most strenuous search for this subject’.[80] The device of the World Spirit only succeeds, however, in giving the problems a transcendental gloss, taking them out of the realm of human history in which alone their solution is to be found. Thus, classical philosophy reaches the point at which the path ahead is clearly visible but is itself unable to make any progress along it. Now, however, another aspect of its achievement becomes crucial. This is its success in fashioning the indispensable instrument of such further progress, the dialectical method. It is not an accident that the tradition of thought which grasped the theoretical significance of praxis should also have laid the foundations of the dialectic. This significance is, as the history of positivism and empiricism shows, invisible to non-dialectical thought. On the other hand, an understanding of the conditions for the successful application of the method leads one naturally to the sphere of human action. For this constitutes the basic paradigm of the medium that is required. As a form of mediation between ideas and the world it gives substance to the possibility that attributes of each may come together in a concrete fashion. Above all, its dual aspect serves to suggest how the fundamental requirement might be met, that the dialectical categories should retain their logical character while yet applying to reality. It remains to find the subject in whose mode of operation this possibility is fully realized. The tragic quality of the classical German tradition derives from the fact that the class which is the discoverer of the method is unable to constitute itself as such a subject. The bourgeoisie is precluded from this by the limitations and contradictions of its consciousness which in turn reflect the nature of its objective situation. Instead the achievement is reserved for the class which was able to find ‘within itself on the basis of its life-experience’ the subject of action, namely the proletariat.[81]

It is along such lines as these that one must explicate the thesis that the historical role of the proletariat is of decisive significance for philosophy. That thesis has a central place in the thought of the major figures we have been discussing. The claim by Engels that the German working-class movement is the heir of German classical philosophy may stand for a commitment shared by all of them. None held it with a more spectacular emphasis than did Lukács. History and Class Consciousness may be seen, in large part, as an attempt to fill out the significance of Engels’s remark and demonstrate its correctness. Reference was made in the previous chapter to the scale of the metaphysical ambitions for the proletariat that the attempt involved.[82] It may be worthwhile to look at this issue again in the light of the intervening discussion, and particularly at the suggestion that the theme mythologized in the work is, in itself, an essential ingredient in Marxist thought. The discussion may have served to increase one’s sympathy with Lukács’s ambitions by showing the extent to which they can claim a legitimate basis. They embody hopes that are inextricably bound up with the programme of Marxist philosophy, and, in particular, with the conception of its dialectic. When seen against this background, the unity of theory and practice in the proletariat must indeed be recognized as having implications for traditional problems of philosophy. Thus, to stay within the terms of his discussion, it has such implications for what he takes to be the vital question of ‘the irrational’, the senseless substratum that lies outside the reach of reason, the amorphous content that resists all imposition of form, the being that is the ineluctable ‘other’ of consciousness. Proletarian praxis, by managing, as it were, to suffuse a particular segment of reality with thought, places the general problem of redeeming this inert material in a new light. In doing so it enables one to see how the antinomies discussed by Lukács, of form and content and of being and consciousness, might become amenable to treatment. Thus, a successful account of the Marxist dialectic might be expected to show how, in the context of human history, some familiar ontological and epistemological issues can assume more tractable forms. This is, however, not achieved in History and Class Consciousness. The explanation of the failure takes one back to the weakness, as later diagnosed by Lukács himself, in the ‘central concept’ of praxis; the ‘abstract and idealistic’ character it assumes by being interpreted solely in terms of a struggle for consciousness. Hence it is that the identical subject-object of history turns out to be ‘a purely metaphysical construct’. The question of whether ‘a genuinely identical subject-object’ can ‘be created by self-knowledge, however adequate, and however truly based on an adequate knowledge of society’ has, he suggests, only to be formulated precisely ‘to see that it must be answered in the negative’.[83] But if the identical subject-object has not been found, the rest of the structure collapses and he has failed to establish his interpretation of Engels’s dictum. The antinomy of subject and object is basic in the scheme,[84] and unless it is resolved there is, as it were, no substance in which the elements of the others can cohere. This failure lends additional point to the familiar charge of idealism. It stems, one might now say, from a systematic inability to do justice to one side of the dialectical story; the side of being, content, the object. The dialectic of consciousness is not rich enough to accommodate the specificity of these factors: for its purposes they have to be either ignored or completely assimilated into the subjective. Such a dialectic may succeed in moving with unparalleled ease and precision in its own sphere. But the atmosphere in which it thrives is too thin to support the actual density and refractoriness of the objective processes of history. Hence, the idealist drive towards the breaking down of all differentiation, towards the ultimate simplicity of the object of thought, must prove too strong for Lukács’s chances of carrying out the Marxist programme.

The drive shows itself in a great variety of ways in History and Class Consciousness. It does so in the series of reductions and identities that characterizes the main intellectual structure of the work. The idea that the ‘reform of consciousness’ simply is ‘the revolutionary process itself[85] is the central case. But the tendency is also present in the general treatment of the relations between the categories of science, ideology and class consciousness. The way in which ideological maturity is spoken of as though it were actually identical with class consciousness has already been noted.[86] Elsewhere there are formulations that suggest that scientific understanding might be introduced as a third element in the equation, as when we are reminded of the importance of the question of how much the proletariat has to suffer ‘before it achieves ideological maturity, before it acquires a true understanding of its class situation and a true class consciousness’.[87] In all this, the intensity of Lukács’s feeling for the unity of Marx’s vision is strikingly evident. But his unresolved Hegelianism makes it impossible to render it adequately: it emerges as mere conflation, a fake simplicity from which all shades of discrimination have been eliminated. To do justice to Marx’s perception one has to retain a more active sense of complexity, a sense that the categories serve at least to theorize different aspects of the unity of proletarian consciousness. For this one needs a language that allows the recognition of types of logical affinity other than sheer identity, of more complex relationships of implication and presupposition.

To see these requirements satisfied, one may turn to the precise and concrete analyses of Lenin, a thinker who has an equally vivid conviction of unity but is free from the idealist strain in the rendering of it. They are fully embodied in, for instance, the awareness of the intricate pattern of relationships between the levels of social consciousness that pervades the argument of What is to be Done? Elsewhere this awareness is still more explicitly spelt out:

... socialism, as the ideology of the class struggle of the proletariat, is subject to the general conditions governing the inception, development and consolidation of an ideology; in other words, it is founded on the sum-total of human knowledge, presupposes a high level of scientific development, demands scientific work, etc. etc. Socialism is introduced by the ideologists into the proletarian class struggle which develops spontaneously on the basis of capitalist relationships.[88]

In this passage all our major themes are restated and brought together; the foundation of socialist ideology on the sum-total of human knowledge, the presupposition by it of a high level of scientific development, and the need to weld it consciously together with the spontaneously given. It captures the true character of the relationships between the levels of spontaneity, ideology and science, and, above all, reminds us of the class struggle as the medium in which praxis achieves that articulation of all three that is the central propelling image of Marxist thought.


1. Ch. 1 above, n.5.

2. K. Marx and F. Engels, The Communist Manifesto, London, 1967, (hereafter referred to as CM), p. 91.

3. SPN, p. 162n.

4. This has been noticed by W. L. McBride: ‘it is surprisingly difficult to extract from any section of it a straightforward exposition of its supposedly central term, “ideology,” that is at all adequate in length or detail’. ‘Nevertheless’, he goes on, ‘the authors’ basic insight is comparatively easy to reconstruct.’ He confidently proceeds to reconstruct it in terms of a familiar combination of pejorative connotation and social determinism. (The Philosophy of Marx, London, 1977, pp. 71-75). This example is interesting in showing the grip of the conventional wisdom on a writer who has an inkling of the uncertainty of its foundations.

5. GI, p. 61.

6. GI, p. 77.

7. GI, p. 417.

8. See, e.g., in sequence, pp. 194, 474, 473.

9. See, e.g., in sequence, pp. 580, 517, 514, 186.

10. GI, p. 37.

11. GI, p. 29.

12. Die Deutsche Ideologie, Berlin, 1960, (hereafter referred to as DI), p. 22. I am indebted to Herbert Scheidt, to Juliane Signist and to colleagues at the Polytechnic of the South Bank for help with the translation of this sentence.

13. The same rendering is given in Vol. 5 of Marx-Engels, Collected Works, London, 1967, p. 36, and in Writings of the Young Marx on Philosophy and Society, edited and translated by L. D. Easton and K. H. Guddar, New York, 1967, p. 414.

14. HF, p. 226. Cap (1), p. 29. GI, p. 145.

15. See Hegel Texts and Commentary, translated and edited by W. Kaufmann, New York, 1966, pp. 40-42 and n. 9, p. 43.

16. For the use of the clause as an unconditional assertion see, e.g., M. Evans, Karl Marx, London, 1975, p. 82.

17. See above, pp. 15-16.

18. This essay has hitherto spoken of Marx alone in connection with these works. If this practice is found seriously objectionable, it can be given up without affecting the main point. That concerns the need to distinguish between an opinion advanced by Engels in old age and all the other expressions of his position and that of Marx. See the discussion following.

19. EB, p. 9.

20. K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Works, Vol(ii), Moscow, 1958, (hereafter referred to as MESW), pp. 398-99.

21. MESW, p. 399.

22. MESW, p. 400.

23. AD, p. 116.

24. A division apparently resented in this instance by Engels. See his letter to Marx of May 28, 1876: ‘It’s all very well for you to talk. You can lie warm in bed and study ground rent in general and Russian agrarian conditions in particular with nothing to disturb you – but I am to sit on the hard bench, swill cold wine, suddenly interrupt everything again and get after the scalp of the boring Dühring.’ MESC, p. 371.

25. AD, p. 49.

26. Perhaps the nadir of scholarship in this field is reached in John Plamenatz’s assertion that ‘Marx often called ideology “false consciousness.”’ Ideology, London, 1971, p. 23. Naturally no sources are cited in support, This assertion has also been noted in M. Seliger, The Marxist Conception of Ideology, Cambridge, 1977, (hereafter referred to as MCI), p. 31.

27. MESC, p. 541.

28. See Ch. 2, n.74.

29. This formulation is chosen simply because it is representative and succinct. It is said to be what ‘ideology’ signifies ‘in the use that Karl Marx gave it’ in the entry on ‘Ideology’ by David Braybrooke, in The Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, Paul Edwards, editor in chief, New York and London, 1967, Vol 4, pp. 124-25.

30. MESC, p. 551.

31. See Ch. 2, n.82.

32. H CC, p. 7.

33. HCC, p. 130.

34. HCC, p. 233.

35. HCC, p. 131.

36. HCC, p. 213, n.32.

37. HCC, p. 47.

38. HCC, p. 257.

39. HCC, p. IX.

40. HCC, p. 192.

41. HCC, p. 24, n.6; HCC, p. 207. For Lukács’s change of mind on this see HCC, p. XVI.

42. HCC, p. 10.

43. HCC, p. 27.

44. HCC, p. 148.

45.Bildhaftigkeitder Gedanken’, Philosophische Grammatik, Oxford, 1969, p. 163. The phrase is translated as in the text in A. Kenny, Wittgenstein, London, 1973, p. 224.

46. HCC, p, 114.

47. See, e.g., HCC, pp. 102-03.

48. TLP, 6.45. 6,41. 7.

49. HCC, p. 120.

50. L. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, Oxford, 1963, p. 226.

51. Some remarks made by Lukács many years later demonstrate both his interest in the particular topic of this discussion and his respect for Wittgenstein. ‘Take on the other hand a system of ideas such as neo-positivism which restricts the whole world to a manipulated rationality and rejects everything that would transgress this limit. Now originally neo-positivism had a real thinker as one of its founders, namely Wittgenstein who founded the neo-positivist positions really philosophically, saw quite clearly that on the margin of their positions, if I might put it this way, there lay a desert of irrationalism about which nothing rational could be said from the neo-positivist standpoint. Wittgenstein, however, was much too intelligent to believe that the world beyond the statements of positivism did not exist, and on the margin of Wittgenstein’s philosophy there is, I believe, a terrain of irrationality – this is not simply my own observation but one that many others have made.’ Conversations with Lukács, edited by T. Pinkus, Cambridge, Mass., 1975, p. 48.

52. LP, p. 150.

53. See, e.g., J. Mepham, ‘The Theory of Ideology in Capital’, Radical Philosophy, no. 2, Summer, 1972.

54.Marxism has won its historic significance as the ideology of the revolutionary proletariat because ...’. V. I. Lenin, Selected Works, Moscow, 1968, (hereafter referred to as LSW) p. 616. For Lukács, see Ch. 2 above, n. 33.

55. Thus, for instance, in agreeing with E. H. Carr’s judgment that ‘in Marx “ideology” is a negative term’, whereas in Lenin, ‘"ideology” becomes neutral or positive’, Martin Seliger comments: ‘It is not surprising that Lenin offered no explanation for his drastic change of the use of the term, since he did not, to my knowledge. confess to this change in the first place. (And the same seems to apply to Lukács.)’ MCI, p. 83. This difficulty dissolves once it is realized that no change occurred which Lenin or Lukács needed to confess.

56. GI, p. 62.

57. CM, p. 92.

58. ‘A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. Introduction’, Early Writings, London, 1975, (hereafter referred to as MEW) p. 256.

59. GI, p. 87.

60. MEW, p. 256.

61. K. Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, Moscow, 1974, p. 73.

62. GI, p. 94.

63. HCC, p. 174. For the original remarks see MEW, p. 415.

64. Quoted in Karl Marx, Selected Writings in Sociology and Social Philosophy, edited by T. B. Bottomore and M. Rubel, London, 1963, p. 210.

65. GI, p. 96.

66. LSW, p. 604.

67. HCC, p. 163.

68. MESC, p. 86.

69. K. Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Part 1, London, 1969, p. 40.

70. Cap(i), p. 483.

71. Cap(i), p. 49.

72. See Ch. 1, n. 18.

73. H CC, p. 73.

74. Ch. 2, n. 17.

75. See Ch. 2. n.18, n. 19, n.22, n.23 and the discussion corresponding.

76. HCC, p. 224.

77. K. Marx, ‘Theses on Feuerbach’, See GI, pp. 661, 667 and DI, p. 585.

78. HCC, p. 123.

79. HCC, p. 145.

80. HCC, p. 146.

81. HCC, p. 8 1. A postscript to the discussion is once again provided by Wittgenstein: ‘The sickness of a time is cured by an alteration in the mode of life of human beings, and it was possible for the sickness of philosophical problems to get cured only through a changed mode of thought and of life, not through a medicine invented by an individual.’ Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics, Oxford, 1967, p. 57e.

82. See Ch. 2. n.67, and the discussion corresponding.

83. HCC, p. XXIII.

84. Thus, for instance, the duality of thought and being is said to be ‘only a special case’ of it. HCC, p. 123.

85. Ch. 2, n.66.

86. Ch. 2, n.69.

87. HCC, p. 76.

88. V. I. Lenin, ‘A Letter to the Northern League’, Collected Works, London, Vol 6, p. 163.