E.P. Thompson  at the 1977 SSRC Seminar on Models of Social Change 3



secondly it's just not an epistemological statement is not a statement that being the terminix consciousness it's a statement about the sociology of knowledge about the processes by which social ideas are formed coming from the observation of process over time and being concerned with a historical sociology of knowledge it seems to me to be about the way in which certain ideas from the pool of ideas certain ideas are selected endorsed by institutions formulated in modern societies and educational forms to give rise to a legitimating ideology which is something quite distinct from those ideas conforming to the interest for particular groups and i think–not example of the formation of ideology is more relevant than soviet and orthodox Marxist ideology so which is it clearly a ideological formation derived from a cool of Marx's ideas with two things are quite distinct yes ideology gives rise to ideology we can study certain characteristic illusions or deep structures and I agree and I think this in advance of modern Marxist thought the consciousness of the way in which it can give rise to certain categories which reach right down to the level of consciousness itself but these seem to me to be already always in friction with another category experience and indeed it is experience particularly which i think is central to our problem now it's a category which requires a great deal more examination and one which is crucial I think the whole problem of social change okay and we all know experience is not innocent we all know that are impurities and experience but equally historian and I think anthropologists know that experience is not illusory that is certain philosophical terms of experience which concentrated upon the impurity epistemological impurity of experience Oh somebody it arms with the material which historians handle every day of their working lives that is experienced breaks into the historians study without any knocking in the form of demographic crises technological change sexual technology the birth control pill crises of subsistence wars and the kind of succession of consequences which Keith Hopkins has just given us this is the kind of way in which experience breaks through and I think in the particular tradition i was referring to our work in popular culture is rather relevant if we're concerning change am I going on to them yes man well I would have now then to really good and he said I think probably really we are saying very simple things he said that the concept of ideology has to be placed alongside an elaborated concept of path and I would say that I would simply rephrase this in terms of the concept of ideology arises within the context of concept of contradiction which is in societies which I have observed mediated by class and this contradiction can be seen in two is first as a contradiction of interest but also as a contradiction of differential experience again a category I haven't fully examined and in terms of differential experience this can be seen in one sense in terms of a contradiction in ideas and we have to remember that in medieval and early modern society much of the practice that society it was a mystery of apprenticeship which was transmitted by the work that the skilled workers themselves and the ruling class could not conceivably have carried on the practice of its own society and I can't talk about that practice as ideology and secondly in the sense that there are alternative norms in any society and much of our work has been concerned with the culture forming process the way in which from below foresters or handloom Weaver's or particular kind of working community form their own necessary normative that there aren't value system which is partly defensive in part would protect you which does not give rise to dispensing with the notion of an overarching dhananand hegemony within which well this whole question is another question that when I would love to talk about the thing that I better not but we return that into this question of social being determined social consciousness within social big we have then to define the involuntary compulsive and received including ideation and norms components of material life social consciousness is how men handle this received experience in cultural ways so that our critical problems are those of determination and those are change require not so much a theory of power as a specific examination of contradiction inherent in specific modes of production of kind of Lee Keath promises Keith Hopkins they kind of dialogue which went on about the transition for feudalism to capitalism which Rodney Hilton and others were engaged and have been engaged in over the years because I could I perhaps just jump to a final a final comment which is about this question of the question which I think they'll a very importantly placed before us this question of the arrested prostitute of relations in a system of domination now this is the thing which I have been for some time studying particularly in relation to 18th centuries of sat in one sense you can see this in Dakota me and I'm a friction between law on the one hand and custom on the other hand domination is never absolute but given a certain equilibrium of classes one can see and this is a very long equilibrium in British society from late seventeenth for the early 19th century you can see in fact a society functioning with stability reproducing itself not without conflict but with particular modes and institutional devices and means of handling and resolving conflict conflict and within this one finds many local resistances one finds particular modes of work particular kinds of community engendering and nourishing alternative modes and one finds the possibility of kinds of revoked and alternative ideas developing this overarching domination is if you like the common sense of a society given the ruling relations of that society which is accepted as part of the daily experience of people as how to get through their life with the minimum of trouble they can't get through life without it but implicit in the notion of reciprocity in any society I studied is that to maintain their legitimation the rulers must not only seen two but they actually seen to perform certain functions and they are to that degree I think actually prisoners on the roof not absolute prisoners but in the sense that unless they perform those functions their legitimacy will be challenged and in the 18th century one Caesars continually particularly crucial relation in the bargaining over prices the food right this is true also France in which legitimacy of the rulers depends upon their handling this very critical moment in social experience shortage of food danger of a subsistence crisis and their manifest ways of appearing to intervene and of actually intervening with the sanction of rioting post from below so that here you have an equilibrium in which both parties are in fact in a kind of reciprocal relation although one is dominating and one is dominated so that when we are concerned with the question of social change one I think must have a concept of contradiction one must have I think a concept of the ethical conditions the logic of process of a given mode of production and the limits beyond which net part beach with transcendence and into that one has to reinsert this lost question in this debate this question agency with question agency and I'm afraid that marks was its way to denounce humanism monix was to be severely denounced for the humanism of his historical consciousness his insistence upon human agency is ever-present there and we have then to examine once more the whole notion and the actual actual term determination are we meaning when we say determination within the given mode of production but there are certain limits which cannot be transcended within that liturgy reproduction now there are seven possibilities which may be immense within that mode of production but beyond that there are other possibilities which are absolutely rejected that a logic of process is involuntary within that logic process but within that logical process many alternatives may be possible is that what we're saying or by determined are we saying something much more deterministic now I tend to take the first position although i think what braddell describes as material life in its determining force is more absolute than the mode of production that is I think there are geologic core demographic determinations are more absolute than the determinations of a murder production whose determinations are those of logical process and epical limits which can't be transcended agency exists within the determination and then if you were to ask how you transcend those determinations you have to turn to the essential motion of contradiction and where that contradiction reaches a point that equilibrium can no longer be reconciled within that society sorry comes along

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

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