Sunday, July 28, 2013

Ideology Pt. IV

"[W]here is the place of ideological illusion, in the 'knowing' or in the 'doing' in the reality itself? At first sight, the answer seems obvious: ideological illusion lies in the 'knowing'. It is a matter of a discordance between what people are effectively doing and what they think they are doing - ideology consists in the very fact that the people 'do not know what they are really doing', that they have a false representation of the social reality to which they belong (the distortion produced, of course, by the same reality). Let us take again the classic Marxian example of so-called commodity fetishism: money is in reality just an embodiment, a condensation, a materialization of a network of social relations - the fact that it functions as a universal equivalent of all commodities is conditioned by its position in the texture of social relations. But to the individuals themselves, this function of money - to be the embodiment of wealth - appears as an immediate, natural property of a thing called 'money', as if money is already in itself, in its immediate material reality, the embodiment of wealth. Here, we have touched upon the classic Marxist motive of 'reification': behind the things, the relation between things, we must detect the social relations, the relations between human subjects.

"But such a reading of the Marxian formula leaves out an illusion, an error, a distortion which is already at work in the social reality itself, at the level of what the individuals are doing, and not only what they think or know they are doing. When individuals use money, they know very well that there is nothing magical about it - that money, in its materiality, is simply an expression of social relations. The everyday spontaneous ideology reduced money to a simple sign giving the individual possessing it a right to a certain part of the social product. So, on an everyday level, the individuals know very well that there are relations between people behind the relations between things. The problem is that in their social activity itself, in what they are doing, they are acting as if money, in its material reality, is the immediate embodiment of wealth as such. They are fetishists in practice, not in theory. What they 'do not know', what they misrecognize, is the fact that in their social reality itself, in their social activity - in the act of commodity exchange - they are guided by the fetishistic illusion." - Slavoj Žižek, The Sublime Object of Ideology

No comments:

Post a Comment