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By | March 2002
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How convincing was the Marxist critique of the capitalist state? This next unit of theory is entitled "Ideology and Discourse." The theorists we're examining--Althusser, Bakhtin, and Foucault--are discussing how ideology works, and how ideologies construct subjects. All of these theorists are coming from a Marxist perspective, using ideas and terms developed in Marxist theory, though only Althusser actually claims to be a Marxist. So to start off, I want to talk a bit about some basic ideas of Marxist theory. Marxism is a set of theories, or a system of thought and analysis, developed by Karl Marx in the nineteenth century in response to the Western industrial revolution and the rise of industrial capitalism as the predominant economic mode. Like feminist theory, Marxist theory is directed at social change; Marxists want to analyze social relations in order to change them, in order to alter what they see are the gross injustices and inequalities created by capitalist economic relations. My capsule summary of the main ideas of Marxism, however, will focus on the theoretical aspects more than on how that theory has been and is applicable to projects for social change. As a theory, Marxism is pretty complicated. You can think of Marxism as being three types of theory in one: philosophy, history, and economics. First, Marxism is a philosophical movement; Marx's ideas about human nature, and about how we know and function in the world come from traditions articulated by Hegel, Feuerbach, Kant, and other German philosophers. All of these guys, including Marx, are interested in the relation between materialist and idealist philosophy. As a philosopher, Marx helps create and define a branch of philosophy called DIALECTICAL MATERIALISM. Materialism in general is the branch of Western philosophy from which science (Aristotelian or Newtonian) comes. Materialist philosophy is based on empiricism, on the direct observation of measurable or...

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