One of the most vilified and misunderstood political philosophers of all times.
History with a purpose!
• Everything is constantly changing
• The human condition develops and from one era to another. This thought
distinguished him from all other thinkers of his time.
• History isn’t a chaotic assembly of random events, but rather something with
drive, rooted in a specific purpose.
• History is constantly thrusting forward an idea of perfection known as an
• He looked specifically at politics in relation to history, defining him as a political
philosopher. His focus revolved around how history thrusts forward.
• Concluded that everything is dialectical. The dialectic is every political theorist’s
toolbox. The concept of the dialectic states that opposing forces produce new
forces (a richer synthesis) – this is how history works (thesis and antithesis
• Only takes place within the spirit – not the material (that’s Marx).
• E.g. Think about how political repression will bring forth resistance. Look at the
civil rights movement.
Thesis v. Antithesis
• Thesis calls for antithesis from within. This antithesis opposes the thesis (e.g.
tension, conflict, opposition).
• Synthesis is produced to overcome; something new.
• E.g. Sexual reproduction.
• There is always an element of selfcontradiction that exists, and thus, the dialectic
• Key figures: Kant and Hegel (both influenced by Rousseau in different ways, and
believe that the world conforms to the mind).
• Movement emerged after turmoil of the French Revolution. Up until this point,
political society and citizens were united by the Church community.
• Kant and Hegel ultimately state the primacy of mind over matter. This is what
characterizes them as idealists.
• “The history of the world is nothing but the development of the idea of freedom.”
• Freedom exists on 2 levels: subjective (subject) and objective (object).
o Subjective: individuals govern themselves according to conscience and
o Objective: social and political institutions (the real world) must be
rationally organized. This allows individuals to achieve a state of reason (aligned with the universal). From here they can act in the world according
to their conscious will.
Marx furthers the idea that The Social Contract is developed to protect the superior status
of the wealthy and elites – to preserve the system. We must understand economic
institutions in order to fully work to overthrow its unequal conditions.
• Ideology refers to the concept of a lens. Marx rejects this notion of being able to
“put on a lens.” Marx argues that ideology refers to a threshold. Above this
threshold, there is a consciousness above reality. Ideology works below this. It
involves the fundamental assumptions that we are not even conscious of – basic
assumptions about the individual, and freedom. Ideology involves intellectual
labour in order to emancipate oneself.
• According to Marx, the workers don’t know it, but they are forming ideologies
• Ideology for Marx was a bottomup, practical approach based in concrete history.
Ideology is a system of idea, assumptions, and thoughts, that mystifies the real
conditions under which we live. Marx’s definition is straightforward – the ruling
class’ ideas dominate in a society (seen throughout history). Ideology creates a
false consciousness – makes us believe and act on things that aren’t true (an
illusion) – e.g. the American Dream.
Conception of History
o The goal of history for Marx is the overcoming of this false consciousness –
before the proletariat can assume the mode of production, they must overcome the
ideological mystification that is this selfconsciousness. Ideology works against
them to function as a sustainer of selfconsciousness.
o Sees society as broken in two separate elements that relate to each other: the base
(economics, labour, mode of production, etc.; fundamental primes of every
society) and superstructure (determined by the base: forms of government,
politics, social relations, religious forms, cultural forms, system of education,
o Every period of history has a different mode of production – each has different
forces and different relations of production.
o Master and Slave, Surfs and Landlord, Proletariat and Bourgeoisie.
o Key: For Marx, man is fundamentally a productive animal (not a political one like
o Goes back to Hegel, with thesis and antithesis relations. Class struggle produces
conflict, and the creation of a for and against group – every system of humanity
further divides those which it governs.
o Communism creates a society where people can fully realize their true potential.
There are to be no classes, and all that’s left is to work and equally distribute
Modes of Alienation 1st (Economic and o Fascinated and amazed by the machine of capitalism.
Philosophic Manuscripts) He didn’t just despise it, but saw it as something
grand, powerful, and captivating. He approached it
by adopting its language of political economy ad
o Under capitalism, labour produces the intended
commodities. However, labour itself is just as much
the commodity as is the material good produced.
You are ultimately alienated from the product itself
as the worker – you don’t decide what is being
made, how that thing is designed, and you have no
creative power over what you make. Despite
investing oneself in the project, he has no ownership
2 o Marx claims that for the labourer, working in the
factory, labour is not the natural act of creative
spontaneity that it should be.
o The labourer only feels at home doing animalistic
things (rather than human things) when they have
been completely exhausted by working in a factory.
You have to pretend to be interested in your work.
3rd o The natural human identity maitains that there is a
consciousness of our universality that we hold – we
are further linked together by free, creative labour.
o Capitalism denies the capacity to realize species
th being, or the human’s identity.
4 o If we are all a part of this nature, then we will likely
al be alienated from each other as well.
o If the object and act of labour are alien to the worker,
who can it really belong to? THIS is the division of
mankind – the division between the ruling class and
the working class.
o Even workers are alienated from each other – due to
ideological differences and a false consciousness.
Private Property = the consequence of alienation.
o Marx questions the wage, and finds the answer in the existence of the labourer’s
state of alienation.
ADORNO & HORKHEIMER
o Looking at the insides of capitalism – mainly its culture and its ideological regime
(how and what is produced ideologically), they question “What is culture? Does it
have to be accepted by everyone?” They are on things like TV, music, film,
literature, etc. and how these elements of culture construct certain ways of living
and behavior in certain individuals. Culture is a monolithic thing, emerging as
“The Culture Industry” – argue that politics and political theory should look to culture to better understand politics, modes of subservience and subjugation, etc.
are propelled through the existence and playing out of culture.
o Culture is NOT chaotic, but something that can only be understood as a total
system – breeds or produces uniformity. They talk about the culture industry as
one of production and consumption, that offers a multiplicity of mass goods. The
continuouslyperpetuated demand is inescapable as it is a totality.
o This rings true to internet and the cataloguing of our activity and histories in the
form of megadata, stronger than ever. Digital and cyber technology have
accelerated the capacity to cataloguing. Consumers appear as statistics on
organization charts – employed in ways very similar to propaganda (a control
o The conception of free choice is illusive and free choice. Because we can choose
between different products, we think we have free choice – but we do not. This is
ideology in its purest form. We are forced to accept what this culture industry
offers us, because there is nothing to escape TO.
o This is one of the major arguments of 20 Century Marxists.
o This is one of the major ideological illusions of the culture industry: free choice.
We don’t have it. We think we do. And in the end we must accept what the culture
industry offers us. There is no outside.
Offers far more depth than even Marx himself articulates. He demonstrates how exactly
ideology works on the individual in specified steps – much more logical and organized.
It looks at how we become exposed and subjected to ideology.
o Defining ideology requires the assumptions that (1) we are animals by nature (2)
ideology emerges from the ruling class and concrete class struggle/positions.
o In saying that ideology has no history, he states that there is history involved, but
none of its own. Ideology is eternal and always with us – entwined within our
humanity. It is all predefined and born into a particular position related to class.
It is eternal in that it is inescapable, and part of the human condition – this is why
we are ideological by nature.
o In his definition, he states that ideology is how we represent to ourselves, our
relationship to the real world – a relationship that is actally imaginary. It is
mystifying in this sense – which is how it is similar to Marx’s notion of ideology.
o When an individual believes in god, duty, and justice, he/she adopts a system of
behaviour and practices that are actually reflective of the institution to which
he/she belongs. How do we approach this problem? (E.g. Church and worship)
o Look closely at the subject. Ideology serves ONE aim/purpose – us as
individuals. “Ideology functions by interpellating individuals as subjects” –
Interpellation refers to giving an identity to someone – being caught in a network
or web that begins to define our selves. It makes free individuals into
What it means to be interpellated or hailed. o By responding to the police officers shout at you as “Hey you!” you are
responding to being hailed and subjected. We are always all already subjected –
we are always in it even when we think we aren’t. It has no outside or limits – we
cannot escape from it.
o You have recognized yourself as subject, as the one being hailed… and have
subjected yourself to ideology, to power.
o What if one doesn’t recognize themselves as being a subject? They become
docile, not resisting. Disobedience in this way is the ultimate ideology in this
o There are good subjects that internalize their hail – state of subjecation. Then
there are bad subjects that provoke things like the prison systems and police. The
implicit thing is that there is actually a revolutionary political potential in
deviance and even criminality – not yet there, but there is still a potential for
evading system of power and objection.
Grand aims of ideology
o More Marxist and Marx: to perpetuate the class system. Keep cultural, political,
social, and especially economic dominance in check.
o Poverty is structurally required for society to continue to function.
o By extending Marx’s notes on ideology, he recognizes that it’s not just illusion,
but also recognition – recognition of ourselves as subjects is simultaneously a
misrecognition. The idea of interpolating subjects is key – the idea that we are
always already subjects – we never existed before this state of subjectivity. He is
a structuralist – in every system, there is no outside to the system. It is very
deterministic in this sense – everything that has to do with the system is somehow
within it, and never beyond.
o There are no individuals that perceive the subjects in our society – we are all
already in the state of being subject.
o Nietzsche is rejecting social contract and natural law approaches to politics (eg.
Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, etc.).
o Nietzsche suspends questions of political legitimacy and obligation (why should
individuals obey the state?) in favor of a historical and psychological analysis of
man’s evolution as a moral animal. For him man is not naturally political, or
moral, or even conscious… but has undergone cultivation for centuries.
o The result of this cultivation is the notion that we are sovereign individuals, who
possess a free will, who can be bound to social contracts and other contracts…
and held responsible for our actions. (Nearly all of modern politics, law and
thought rests on this categories!)
o We have been ‘moralized’ over the