Thursday, September 25, 2008

Good Timing (Sort Of): Marxist Reading on Current Events

Yesterday presidential candidate John McCain decided to pull his campaign and request a postponement of the first presidential debate this Friday in order to return to Washington and aid Congress in developing a different plan than Bush's bailout plan. Whether this is a sincere attempt at unifying leadership or a move to gain favor in the polls- I will not discuss. I will however present it forward as an excellent way to look at how a dominant group has, not only, ideological control but through that ideological control affects concrete factors of everyday life (i.e. in one way or another shift the economic workings of the United States and further the lower and middle classes will be shaken, rattled, and rolled). How is this a manifestation of ideology? There is Dr. Craig's example of the impression we receive from the media about stock market's gains and loses. "This will be covered in the media as a universal and unqualified positive sign for all, even though it means that more people are working longer and harder for less pay, not only in absolute terms, but especially in relative terms" (Dr. Craig's post on Marxist criticism and ideology). Currently, President George Bush is using this kind of ideology of universality by suggesting the bailout plan and also playing on a familiar ideology of choice. American culture thrives on giving people 'individuality' and 'freedom' because it then allows for a dominant ideology to expand (as Dr. Craig suggested-"one function of ruling class ideology is to assure the complacency of the working classes, in order to also assure the power and dominance of the ruling class"). Let me note- Swing Vote is not how our electoral system works. By suggesting that the market needs the support of the American people - more concretely their tax money- for the betterment of the United States economy there is a sense of 'duty' being imposed. (Now, supposing that no executives get the 'golden parachute' on their way and the bailout plan is approved- who is to say it will all work? That is really another discussion).

Now, the interesting point to note is the media's 'reactionary' messages. All of a sudden there is a major influx of ads (from,, etc.) which promote and somehow suggest that each citizen has the control to make the ultimate difference in our countries dependence on oil, in the effects of global warming, and even in our economic recession (yes its true- recession). The most interesting part about these ads (and how it relates to marxist critical reading) is the final words in the ads. Many end with something along the lines of: "We're not asking, we're demanding' or 'this message is approved by the American people.' The way they play with language suggest that we- the masses- have control. This is clearly not true in the purest sense but it is a way to keep the masses happy. Just as allowing a Che Guevara shirt be worn to give people the impression they are making a rebellious statement when in reality its rather meaningless now; and certainly if Che saw someone with that shirt on odds are he would be absolutely disgusted and infuriated. Keeping the masses happy with this superficial transference of power and 'our approval' of a message makes it easy for the ideology that our 'democratic' rights work in conjunction with the functioning of the republic to be ingrained.

Further- I would like to point out the role of citizens consciously and unconsciously accepting their subjugation. Those who unconsciously accept their subjugation are people who consume all media formats and somehow messages subjectively and in some forms accept them to be absolute. Those who consciously accept their subjugation are the disappointed idealists (G. Carlin) of the world; the cynics who see all of these manifestations of ideology as exactly that by placing an objectivity towards the base and superstructure and their 'real' role in them, but only in thought and not in action. You tell me which kind of subject I am.


Note: entitled "Good Timing..." because it is a very poignant time to be able to apply Marxist critical theory but obviously there is not much 'good' at this time, economically speaking.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

इफ यू दोन'टी बेलिएवे इन थे इम्पोर्तांस ऑफ़ कांटेक्स्ट, यू प्रोबब्ल्य शौल्दं'टी रीड थिस पोस्ट...

Yet again, I missed the bus with this blog business. I apologize for my, now, late entry.

The most obvious (and because of that most conflicting) contradiction between a liberal humanist perspective and a Marxist perspective would be tenet number two (Barry 17). The liberal humanist would pick up any piece of literature and isolate it from any sort of social, political, or historical context. This autonomy is laughable from the point of view of a Marxist critic. And quite frankly, I'm laughing too. Sincerely, there is a certain discredit to an author's work if there is no consideration of the context of that individual, whether it be personal or social. How is it even done? How could someone take Night by Elie Wiesel out of context? Maybe, I just don't get the no-contest-there-is-no-context all that much

In Marxist criticism a piece of literature is wholly shaped by the socio-political context in which it was written; more importantly relating to any character is dependent on knowing and understanding the social class, economic standing, and historical events of the time (time of the character as well as the author). If we paid no attention to context in literary analysis then everyone would believe that Swift was a baby-eater. I know, some people did believe that, but I've often laughed about this notion. Aside from the understanding of a character, Leninist Marxism suggests that literature should be directly driven by social issues and political agenda whereas liberal humanism would deem these factors irrelevant.

Another point of contention between the two theories lies in the purpose of literature as an expose of human nature. Riotous laughter from the Marxist critic ensues. Liberal humanism suggests that we read to learn (since it also suggests that human nature is a constant, I suppose its more of a review) the different facets of human nature. On the other hand, ideas and beliefs- the superstructure- are not universal. The intangible and immaterial are, in fact, a sham to some extent because they are created by the economic structure of a time. What is valued materially dictates what is valued immaterially. How can a constant exist if it is continually molded by social and political shifts in history?

As much as I may laugh at the notion of the constancy and universality of human nature as well as the complete disbelief in the role of cultural and social context, there is something to be said for the way readers of any time can find a way to relate to characters who existed in a incredibly different time and place...but I suppose that comes from recognizing the importance of the social and historical context. My apologies to the liberal humanist readers for being a bit rude; I guess I've just got a little Marxist in me.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What is this thing?

Oddly enough, though in time and space I am a child of technology, this system blows my mind. I am not saavy with the World Wide Web, yet I am extremely impressed by its capabilities (the few that I know of). I will wish myself the very best of luck.

Let me introduce myself: I am a student at Emmanuel College so close to graduating I can taste it and its sweeter than any confectionary concoction I ate in Argentina. Argentinians have an obsession with dulce de leche; I know this because I spent my last semester studying abroad in Buenos Aires and traveled to Mendoza, Bariloche in Northern Patagonia, Uruguay and Chile. This was the time I solidified my desire to be an international journalist...some day. I would love to tell funny anectdotes of that time, my time at Emmanuel, or even from my childhood but I have a hard time believing it would do any good. I will tell you this: I am an avid reader and writer; I am a traveler of nations as well as ideas; I have an afro, which does not define me but says some things about me I suppose. Other than that you'll have to stay tuned.

As far as the elements of literary theory: I couldn't name them if I tried which is why I am so excited to continue in this course. One thing I do enjoy is riping literature apart, in a good way. Since I was a kid, my older sister told me I was always "over analyzing everything" and I carry that with me with every book I read and author I encounter. There are so many ways to understand one word or phrase. Can you find any of it in my writing? No? You're not looking hard enough. That's what I aim to do- I am to look harder, read between those lines, and, hopefully along the way, I'll understand what different theories exist and really, what it all means.


Note: "I am so proud of you, you've entered the blog world." - A good friend while I use her internet access and laptop to create this blog.