Chapter 9 "Ideology Materialized"
Self-consciousness exists in itself and
for itself, in that, and by the fact that it exists for another self-consciousness;
that is to say, it is only by being acknowledged or "recognized."
Hegel, The Phenomenology of Mind
Ideology is the basis of the thought of a
class society in the conflict-laden course of history. Ideological facts
were never a simple chimaera, but rather a deformed consciousness of realities,
and in this form they have been real factors which set in motion real deforming
acts; all the more so when the materialization, in the form of spectacle,
of the ideology brought about by the concrete success of autonomized economic
production in practice confounds social reality with an ideology which
has tailored all reality in terms of its model.
When ideology, the abstract will and the illusion
of the universal, is legitimized by the universal abstraction and the effective
dictatorship of illusion in modern society, it is no longer a voluntaristic
struggle of the partial, but its victory. At this point, ideological pretention
acquires a sort of flat positivistic exactitude: it is no longer a historical
choice but a fact. In this type of assertion, the particular names
of ideologies have disappeared. Even the role of specifically ideological
labor in the service of the system comes to be considered as nothing more
than the recognition of an "epistemological base" that pretends to be beyond
all ideological phenomena. Materialized ideology itself has no name, just
as it has no expressible historical program. This is another way of saying
that the history of ideologies is over.
Ideology, whose whole internal logic led to "total
ideology" in Mannheim's sense the despotism of the fragment which imposes
itself as pseudo-knowledge of a frozen totality, the totalitarian
vision--is now completed in the immobilized spectacle of non-history.
Its completion is also its disintegration throughout society. With the
practical disintegration of this society, ideology--the final
unreason that blocks access to historical life--must disappear.
The spectacle is ideology par excellence, because
it exposes and manifests in its fullness the essence of all ideological
systems: the impoverishment, servitude and negation of real life. The spectacle
is materially "the expression of the separation and estrangement between
man and man." Through the "new
power of fraud," concentrated at
the base of the spectacle in this production, "the new domain of alien
beings to whom man is subservient... grows coextensively with the mass
of objects." It is the highest stage of an expansion which has turned need
against life. "The need for money is thus the real need produced by political
economy, and the only need it produces" (Economic and Philosophical
Manuscripts). The spectacle extends to all social life the principle
which Hegel (in the Realphilosophie of Jena) conceives as the principle
of money: it is "the life of what is dead, moving within itself."
In opposition to the project summarized in the Theses
on Feuerbach (the realization of philosophy in praxis which supersedes
the opposition between idealism and materialism), the spectacle simultaneously
preserves, and imposes within the pseudo-concrete of its universe, the
ideological characteristics of materialism and idealism. The contemplative
side of the old materialism which conceives the world as representation
and not as activity--and which ultimately idealizes matter--is fulfilled
in the spectacle, where concrete things are automatically the masters of
social life. Reciprocally, the dreamed activity of idealism is equally
fulfilled in the spectacle, through the technical mediation of signs and
signals-which ultimately materialize an abstract ideal.
The parallel between ideology and schizophrenia,
established by Gabel (La Fausse Conscience) must be placed in this
economic process of materialization of ideology. Society has become what
ideology already was. The removal of praxis and the anti-dialectical false
consciousness which accompanies it are imposed during every hour of daily
life subjected to the spectacle; this must be understood as a systematic
organization of the "failure of the faculty of encounter" and as its replacement
by a hallucinatory social fact: the false consciousness of encounter,
the "illusion of encounter." In a society where no one can any longer be
recognized by others, every individual becomes unable to recognize
his own reality. Ideology is at home; separation has built its world.
"In clinical charts of schizophrenia," says Gabel,
"the decay of the dialectic of totality (with dissociation as its extreme
form) and the decay of the dialectic of becoming (with catatonia as its
extreme form) seem solidly united." The spectator's consciousness, imprisoned
in a flattened universe, bound by the screen of the spectacle behind which
his life has been deported, knows only the fictional speakers who
unilaterally surround him with their commodities and the politics of their
commodities. The spectacle, in its entirety, is his "mirror image." Here
the stage is set with the false exit of generalized autism.
The spectacle obliterates the boundaries between
self and world by crushing the self besieged by the presence-absence of
the world and it obliterates the boundaries between true and false by driving
all lived truth below the real presence of fraud ensured by the
organization of appearance. One who passively accepts his alien daily fate
is thus pushed toward a madness that reacts in an illusory way to this
fate by resorting to magical techniques. The acceptance and consumption
of commodities are at the heart of this pseudo-response to a communication
without response. The need to imitate which is felt by the consumer is
precisely the infantile need conditioned by all the aspects of his fundamental
dispossession. In the terms applied by Gabel to a completely different
pathological level, "the abnormal need for representation here compensates
for a tortuous feeling of being on the margin of existence."
If the logic of false consciousness cannot know itself
truly, the search for critical truth about the spectacle must simultaneously
be a true critique. It must struggle in practice among the irreconcilable
enemies of the spectacle and admit that it is absent where they are absent.
The abstract desire for immediate effectiveness accepts the laws of the
ruling thought, the exclusive point of view of the present, when
it throws itself into reformist compromises or trashy pseudo-revolutionary
common actions. Thus madness reappears in the very posture which pretends
to fight it. Conversely, the critique which goes beyond the spectacle must
know how to wait.
Emancipation from the material bases of inverted
truth this is what the self-emancipation of our epoch consists of. This
"historical mission of installing truth in the world" cannot be accomplished
either by the isolated individual, or by the atomized crowd subjected to
manipulation, but now as ever by the class which is able to effect the
dissolution of all classes by bringing all power into the dealienating
form of realized democracy, the Council, in which practical theory controls
itself and sees its own action. This is possible only where individuals
are "directly linked to universal history"; only where dialogue arms itself
to make its own conditions victorious.