Sunday, January 25, 2009

David's Questions

1.) On p. 9 in Durham and Kellner, Marx and Engels write that "in an age…where royal power, aristocracy and bourgeoisie are contending for domination…the doctrine of separation of powers proves to be the dominant idea and is expressed as an 'eternal law'". This idea seems a pretty important lynchpin in the notion of hegemony. But isn't it true that in the broader arc of history, we've seen an erosion of 'eternal law' (right up to the very notion of eternal law, per se?) That is, if hegemonic ideology were so pernicious, why has it been losing the war to pluralism and pluralistic thought as a positive cultural value?

2.) In the introduction, p. xxxi, Durham and Kellner quote Larry Gross: "(r)epresentation in the mediated "Reality" of our mass culture is in itself Power." First, is it possible to think critically about media without ultimately asking questions about 'power versus powerlessness'? Second, is this true, and if so, why is power the dominant value? (And why does Gross capitalize the word 'Power'?)

3.) On p. 16, Gramsci writes about "…the material organization aimed at maintaining, defending, and developing the theoretical or ideological 'front'", i.e., the publishing houses, newspapers, and periodicals. This sounds like a cartel of ideology—one which, if it were to be formed as a 'front' (not merely an unhappy accident), would certainly be apparent to those structuring it. Is that true, based on what we know about how media operates in the real world? Another way to think about this: how is this ideological front formed and maintained? Is its existence apparent to those 'pulling the strings'?

4.) Throughout the excerpt in Durham and Kellner pp. 79-88, Althusser refers to " the (repressive) State apparatus", though he has already specifically stated that what he has in mind is the Marxist 'State apparatus' which ultimately "functions in violence" through some form of repression. Why, then, does he continue to parenthesize "repressive"? What's his point?

5.) Conceptually it is easy to comprehend a distinction between the ideological State apparatus and the "(repressive)" State apparatus (Althusser, p. 79, 1st graf.), but as a practical matter doesn't State power belong to those holding 'the power to repress' (that is, the ability to incarcerate, silence or otherwise eliminate its opponents)? In other words, isn't the ideological apparatus a lubricant more than an essential component of power?

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