The Politics of Truth

The Politics of Truth : From Marx to Foucault

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This book is about the dramatic eclipse of one of Marxism's major theoretical and political weapons - the theory of ideology. The fortunes of this concept, recently subjected to a barrage of criticism but particularly from post-structuralists, are seen as symptomatic of the difficulties now besetting the Marxist tradition. Michele Barrett shows, first, that Marx's own writing on ideology offers an array of possible approaches rather than a "theory". The tradition of "classical Marxism" was divided on many significant issues, but consolidated around the notion that ideology is mystification that serves class interests. Central to this was the belief that ideology was economically determined along "base and superstructure" lines, and that it was essentially a product of class interest. The central section of the book examines the point of maximum strain in the Marxist model, as criticism of economic reductionism and class essentialism began to bite. The key figures here are Gramsci and Althusser.
Barrett then considers the work of Foucault, seen as the most relevant of the post-structuralists in that his work encompasses an explicit critique of the concept of ideology as well as an elaborated alternative in terms of the relations between knowledge, discourse, truth and power. "The Politics of Truth" concludes that the concept of ideology should only be retained if it can be used to describe mechanisms of mystification that are not tied to any interest or agent. The significance of this rupture with Marxism is expanded, in a proposal for a positive understanding of "relativism" in social analysis, with a view to moving beyond Marxism's ethnocentrism and gender blindness. The book ends by considering the claim that psychoanalysis can provide the theory of subjectivity lacking in Marxism.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 220 pages
  • 152 x 229mm
  • Polity Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • index
  • 0745605028
  • 9780745605029

Table of contents

Part 1 Classical Marxism and theories of ideology: Marx - inheriting contradictions; ideology - critique or description?; problems of science and determinism. Part 2 Collapse of the Marxist model: ideology, politics, hegemony - from Gramsci to Laclau and Mouffe; subjectivity, humanism, psychoanalysis - beyond Althusser's Lacan. Part 3 The politics of truth: history, discourse, "truth" and power - Foucault's critique of ideology; conclusion - post-Marxism and the concept of ideology.
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18 ratings
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