Discerning the Subject by Paul Smith

By Paul Smith

Booklet by means of Smith, Paul

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73). Or in other words, ideology represents real relations in a veiled form, under seal. Rather than as a transparent copy obeying the laws of perspective, ideology functions as a simulacrum: it disguises, travesties and blurs real rela tions. Marx opposes to it the values of clarity, light, transparency, truth and rationality. (Kofman, 1973, p. 28) IDEOLOGY 13 There is, obviously, a certain consistency between this view of ideology and the view that Marx offered in earlier texts. The metaphor which describes ideol ogy is always a visual one.

This is a typical movement in Marx’s thinking where what he calls “a social hieroglyphic” is derived from what “appears to be an objective characteristic]” in social life (p. 74). ” In other words, Marx does two things. First he valorizes the real—the empiri cally verifiable—conditions of existence, a description of which is fundamental to his analyses of capitalism. This real is the lived real and it includes “real men,” really existing subject/individuals. This is the real which is used conceptually to IDEOLOGY 11 turn the Hegelian idealist dialectic on its head; it thus has claim as a cornerstone in Marxist method.

The first chapter of Capital deals with the commodity insofar as it “appears, at first sight, a very trivial thing, and easily understood. Its analysis shows that it is, in reality, a very queer thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theo logical niceties” (1967a, p. 71). Already the language of appearance and reality, truth and falsity is emerging here, and it reaches its culmination in Marx’s description o f the chiasmatic and distorted structure obtaining between producers and commodites: 12 IDEOLOGY A commodity therefore is a mysterious thing, simply because in it the social character of men’s labour appears to them as an objective charac ter stamped upon the product of that labour; because the relation of the producers to the sum total of their own labour is presented to them as a social relation, existing not between themselves, but between the products of their labour, (p.

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