Varenne: Quotes from Williams' Marxism and literature

Raymond Williams

Marxism and literature

Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1977

Ideology (pp. 55-71)

that it is dangerous to distinguish in theory and analysis between "what people do" ("etic" approaches) and "what people say" ("emic" approaches)

The language of 'reflexes,' 'echoes,' 'phantoms' ... belongs to the naive dualism of 'mechanical materialism', in which the idealist separation of 'ideas' and 'material reality' has been repeated, but with its priorities reversed.  The emphasis on consciousness as inseparable from material social processes, is in effect lost ... (p. 59)

Consciousness is seen from the beginning as part of the human material process, and its product in 'ideas' are then as much part of this process as material products themselves. (p. 59-60)

[The separation of] 'what men say, imagine, conceive, nor from men as narrated...' from 'real life-process' is also at its worst an objectivist fantasy: that the whole 'real life-process' can be known independently of language ('what men say') and of its records ('men as narrated').  (p. 60).

 Hegemony (pp. 108-114)

Gramsci made a distinction between 'rule' (dominio) and 'hegemony' [traditionally referring to domination between states].  'Rule' is expressed in ... effective coercion. ... 'Hegemony' is a concept which at once includes and goes beyond ... 'culture' as a 'whole social process', and 'ideology', in any of its Marxist sense. ... 
To say that 'men' define and shape their whole lives is true only in abstraction.  In any actual society there are specific inequalities in means and therefore in means to realize this process. (p. 108)

this last sentence is a direct challenge to most understandings of "culture" in American cultural anthropology, from Benedict to Geertz but in fact Williams is trying to incorporate what was most powerful in this understanding: that particular "cultures" overwhelm possibilities for thinking and acting in particular historical situations.

The concept of hegemony often resembles the definitions [of  ideology], but it is distinct in its refusal to equate consciousness with the articulate formal system ... which a dominant class develops and dominates... It does not reduce consciousness to them.  Instead it sees the relations of domination and subordination ...  as a saturation of the whole process of living ... to such a depth ... to appear to most of us the pressures and limits of simple experience and common sense. (p. 110)

Cultural work and activity are not now in any sense, a superstructure: not only because of the depth and thoroughness at which any cultural hegemony is lived, ... [but also because they are] among the basic process of the formation of the social and economic structure (p.111)

A lived hegemony is always a process... It does not just passively exist as a form of dominance,  It has continually to be renewed, recreated, defended and modified. (p. 112)

One way of expressing the necessary distinction between practical and abstract senses within the concept is to speak of 'the hegemonic' ... and of the 'dominant'. (p. 113)

Monday, April 17, 2000