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Abercrombie Hill Turner The Dominant Ideology Thesis Notes
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Nicholas Abercrombie, Stephen Hill and Bryan Turner - The Dominant Ideology Thesis Introduction
● The apparent success of capitalism in surviving crises, the absence of violent revolutionary struggle and the general coherence of industrial society is often explained by Marxists in terms of the dominant ideology thesis
○ this thesis claims that there is a dominant ideology and that it creates an acceptance of capitalism in the working classes
○ dominant ideology:
■ is generated by the dominant class's control over the means of mental production
■ is a set of coherent beliefs
■ these beliefs are more powerful, dense and coherent than those of subordinate classes
○ this thesis is comparable to other functionalist theories of common culture in sociology, which claim that societies require a shared set of values and beliefs
● A dominant ideology thesis has to answer four questions:
○ what is the dominant ideology?
○ what effect does it have on the dominant class?
○ what effect does it have on subordinate classes?
○ what is the apparatus that transmits the dominant ideology in society?
■ is the dominant ideology active - the product of one class doing something indoctrination, for example - to another class?
■ or is it structured in terms of relations, and hence not 'instrumentalist'?
● The dominant ideology thesis is both theoretically and empirically unjustified:
○ we can explain coherence in society without reference to a dominant ideology (or even ideology at all)
○ we can find no evidence of an accepted belief set that could constitute an ideology Theories of the Dominant Ideology
● Marx's account (in the German Ideology) states that the ruling class control the means of mental production
○ hence it is a class theoretical account
○ are they saying that the ideology created merely controls public life, or controls all life, so that a subversive ideology couldn't exist?
■ their belief in class struggle seem to suggest that they do not endorse a fully fledged incorporation theory
● Early Marxism was driven by a crude positivism, which sought to derive law-like propositions governing society through economic analysis
○ post-Bernstein Marxists
■ were academics, not activists
■ were interested in the method of Marxism, and objected to positivism, emphasising human agency
■ supposed that the secrets of capitalism didn't just lie in the economy, but in superstructural questions of politics and ideology
○ remoteness from the working class struggle promoted an academic interest in philosophy and art and a pessimistic belief in the essential stability of capitalism Gramsci
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