You are on page 1of 14

Ideology: Stronghold or Paradoxical Space?

Michel Pcheux
Eugene W. Holland

Minnesota Review, Number 23, Fall 1984 (New Series), pp. 154-166 (Article)

Published by Duke University Press

For additional information about this article

Accessed 28 Nov 2014 18:42 GMT GMT

154 the minnesota review

Michel Pcheux
(trans. Eugene W. Holland)

Ideology: Stronghold or
Paradoxical Space?
Introduction (by Warren Montag): Michel Pcheux, 1938-1983
In a few decades we shall be cruelly labeled
as products of the past millenium. All we had
were compelling songs of the future; and sud-
denly these songs are no longer part of the
dynamic of history, but have been transform-
ed into historico-literary facts. When singers
have been killed and their songs has been
dragged into a museum and pinned to the
wall of the past, the generation they represent
is even more desolate, orphaned, and
lostimpoverished in the most real sense of
the word.
Roman Jakobson, "On a Generation
That Squandered Its Poets" (1931)
In the ruins of the deserted city, specters
wander, some silent, others chattering,
sometimes idle, sometimes engaged in some
eccentric task. If by chance they meet, they
have nothing to say to each other: no evoca-
tion of the past can console them for the pre-
sent but because on the contrary the misery
of the present extends to the past and gives it
its truth. No interpretation of the present is
articulated or if it is articulated by someone it
cannot be understood by anyone else, for the
present is nothing other than this impossibili-
ty itself.
Jean-Claude Milner, Les Noms In-
distincts (1983)
We once dreamt that the thought of an age was the expression of a single, essential great
mind. We speak of the "age of Marx" or the "Freudian epoch" as if thought were diffused
from a central great mind throughout the social whole, slowly perhaps, but with a fatal
We now know better. Revolutionary thinkers, i.e., those who participate in the develop-
ment of the theory that introduces a break in the established order and in so doing upsets
the dominant conceptual regime, are truly unzeitgemassen: untimely, "out of synch,"
unrecognized or, worse, systematically misrecognized by the age that is said to be theirs.
They live and work in a solitude proper to their philosophical and political position, a
solitude that is not necessarily personal but rather theoretical. They are walled in by a
silence that takes the form of either the (unconscious) parodies and caricatures of the
"faithful" or the calumnies and denunciations that never seem to address what has actually
been written or said by these untimely ones. For all too many the silence and solitude finally
become unendurable. We know the results: madness, suicide, murder. It was of such men
pcheux 155

and women that Artaud spoke when he wrote that there are those who are "suicided by
society" for "uttering certain unbearable truths."
The theoretical project inaugurated by Louis Althusser and carried on by his colleagues
was and continues to be a scandal and an abomination to the philosophies of consciousness
and the various empiricisms and formalisms that dominate the philosophical field both in-
side and outside of marxism. Althusser himself recognized that the formula "history is a
process without subject or goal(s)" had "everything required to offend common sense."
Althusser and his group were alone in arguing that human subjects are constituted in and
through ideology; and after Althusser, only Michel Pcheux, in Language, Semantics and
Ideology and a number of essays, seriously worked to develop the theory of ideology and
the problem of the constit ution of the subject . The essay "Ideology: Citadel or Paradoxical
Space?" constitutes a further attempt to adjust and correct the initial theses advanced by
Althusser in "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses."
The theoretical novelty of this overall project insured that it would be carried on in isola-
tion in the midst of a hostile environment. By 1979, as Pcheux noted in his postscript to
Language, Semantics and Ideology, France had come to its political winter. The signs of this
were everywhere. Marxism was "exposed" as the cold dream of a new despotism, a cunning
justification of a society whose most representative instance was the Gulag. This disillu-
sionment required nothing less than a "new philosophy" finally capable of denouncing all
the ruses of power. Similarly, psychoanalysis was "revealed" as just one more normalizing
strategy in a disciplinary society, a technique of inciting dreams, fantasies and desires in
order better to control the bodies around which they were woven. Because Pcheux's work
had been conducted on the basis of a "triple alliance" between Althusserian Marxism, Laca-
rian psychoanalysis and Saussurean linguistics, this was an especially difficult period for
him. Nevertheless, he felt compelled to move forward by intervening in this theoretical
crisis: "To intervene philosophically one has to take sides: I take sides for the fire of a
aitical work which is only too likely to destroy the Triple Alliance' itself, but in which
there is at the same time the possibility that somthing new will be born and against the in-
cinerating fire that produces nothing but smoke."
To take a philosophical position is to take tremendous political and ultimately personal
risks: in the end Pcheux was consumed by this fire. In December 1983, he took his own
life. To understand this act of despair we must place it in its historical context. The genera-
tion that had dared to hope for liberation saw that what once appeared as the "beginning of
a prolonged struggle" was in reaUty a missed opportunity, a contest decided in favor of the
ruling class and hence the beginning of a long downturn. In despair, they turned on their
old dreams hoping that by undoing the past they might console themselves for the present.
The generation of '68 turned on its "Master-Thinkers." In the name of freedom, claiming to
speak for the "silent Majorities," they carried out a campaign against the "totalitarian"
thought of Marx and Freud, i.e., against all those thinkers who reminded them of hopes
they could no longer bear to entertain. Such a campaign (which is far from over) did not re-
quire, as Stalin did, the clumsy mechanisms of state terror and official denunciation.
Instead, the aggression was inscribed in attitudes and gestures, in a rising tide of con-
tempt for the teachers whose work was now hated for the very reasons it was once admired:
its coherence, its rigor and above all its subversiveness. The new philosophy succeeded
(even without producing a single textual monument) by the sheer weight of its publicity in
driving theory into a realm of silence and invisibility: a censorship beyond the law and a ter-
ror without violence.
Even in the face of this enormous ideological offensive, Michel Pcheux refused to ig-
nore the weaknesses and errors in this own work. While those around him retreated into a
phobic dogmatism that was incapbale of acknowledging the conflictuality of its own theory
or "advanced" beyond Marxism in a manner reminiscent of the cold-war generation in the
U.S. to denounce the God that failed, Pcheux continued to work on the question of
ideology, rectifying the theory in the light of the day-to-day practice of the dass struggle.
He even, along with other Althusserians, ventured on to the hotly-contested terrain of
Anglo-American analytic philosophy to claim its materialist element. And yet, in the
demoralized atmosphere of the Parisian intelligentsia he found himself increasingly
156 the minnesota review

isolated, part of a shrinking group of beleaguered marxists still trying to organize a

materialist intervention in the fields of philosophy, linguistics and psychoanalysis. He
despaired that things would ever improve in France and looked to the U.S. for support and
recognition. The support and recognition came, but too late.
It was just over fifty years ago that the linguist Roman Jakobson was moved by the
suicide of the post Mayakovsky to declare that his generation had done no less than
squander its poets. He named them all, the voices that through suicide, madness or in the
guise of a "natural" death had fallen silent. The hopes of 1917 shattered against the cold
reality of the "actually existing socialism." A totalitarian bureaucracy turned the language
of the revolution against itself. It was no accident that a generation of marxists turned to
(he consolations of the Hegelian dialectic, for they had lived through one of the crudest
ruses of all: the moment of liberation had been transformed into its contrary. The voice of
poetry ceased and the silence was broken only by the idle chatter of those who had sold
their services to the state.
Following Jakobson, we need only recall the premature death of Barthes and now
Foucault, the tragedies of Poulantzas, Althusser and Pcheux and the bitter disintegration
of Lacanian psychoanalysis, to speak of a generation that squandered not its poets but its
To take theory seriously is to comprehend its relation to practice, i.e., to the class struggle.
We must reject the academic eclecticism so prevalent in the U.S., in order to work "in a
materialist way." We must grasp the conflict of forces that defines the theoretical field in
which we are working in order to construct a "line" that will allow us to intervene in this
conflict. It is in this way that those of us trying to develop the concept of ideology will con-
tinue the project on which Pcheux labored.
BIBLKXRAPHY: Michel Pcheux
Sur l'Histoire des Sciences (with Michel Fichant), Paris, 1969.
Analyse Automatique du Discours, Paris, 1969.
Les Vrits de la Police, Paris, 1975. English translation: Language, Semantics, and
Ideology, New York, 1982.
La Langue Introuvable (with Franoise Gadet), Paris. 1981.

My intention is to make some obervations about the relations between

the notions of ideology, the subject, and political discourse.* Rather
than pretend to construct these notions or criticize them in the space of
pure theory, I have preferred to approach them here via the political
issues of our present moment, the early 1980's.
More precisely, I intend to begin with that adversity with which
analysis situated in the marxist tradition is faced: not any supposed
"theoretical deficiencies," "delays," or "deviations" with respect to
historical materialism, but the concrete historical question raised by the
forms of existence and modes of functioning of "already-existing

This essay was originally delivered as an address at the Twelfth Annual Meeting of the
World Congress of the International PoUtical Science Association, at Rio de Janeiro,
Brazil, August 1982. Mr. Holland's translation will also appear in a forthcoming volume:
Hayward Alker, Jr. (ed.), Political Discourse (International Political Science Association,
Rio de Janeiro). A portion of this essay (in a different translation) has appeared in Rethink-
ing Ideology: A Marxist Debate, eds. Sakari Hnninen and Leena Paldan (Berlin:
Argument-Verlag, 1983).
pcheux 157

socialism" or "real soicalism," which precisely lays claim to marxist

theory to the point of making it often enough into a new kind of
State religion. To claim that "true" marxist theory has nothing in com-
mon with this order to reality is an intellectual pirouette of little interest:
I prefer to hazard consideration of the incription of "already-existing
socialism" or "real socialism," which precisely lays claim to marxist
theory to the point of making it often enough into a new kind of
its relation to subiectivity and discursivitv.
1)First of all, a trivial but indispensable historical point: the anti-
capitalist revolutions stemming more or less directly from October, 1917
did not take place at the heart of the capitalist system (e.g. in the 19th-
century England analysed by Marx), but in certain parts of the periphery
of this system (in empires, protectorates, or colonial zones subject to the
general process of capitalist development).1 What is important is that this
historical fact reflects a structural division in the capitalist mode of pro-
duction (CMP) itself.
2)This division, core/periphery, in fact points up the existence of an
essential lag between:
a) a central core, in which capitalism developed "on its own basis," by ex-
panding small-scale independent production into full-fledged industry
(with producers of "modest origins" leaving the lower ranks [to become
capitalists]), and introducing "from below" the exploitation of salaried
workers who are increasingly separated from their means of production;
b)peripheral areas in which the CMP is introduced "from above" by in-
vesting pre-capitalist State apparatuses (feudal-monarchical "fortresses")
with the power to impose capitalist regimentation and the extortion of
surplus labor-power through a series of coercive constraints of an "extra-
economic" nature.2
3)This structural division between a "path of development" through
conflict with authoritarian absolutism (path #1) and one through fusion
with it (path *52) is a division internal to the history of the CMP. And it
has as a corollary a series of divisions in the ideological forms of sub-
jugating individuals as well as in juridico-political forms (the "minimal"
democratic State vs. the "strong" State with its underdevelopment of civil
society; an English-American style procedural legal system based on
non-codified jurisprudence vs. a continental-European style doctrinal
legal system based on codified regulations, etc.).3
4)The division in the historical forms of ideological subjugation is
crucial to my thesis4: it can be presented schematically through a set of
oppositions concerning the practical differences in the relations of sub-
jects to their body, their language, and their thought:
*On the one hand, we see a link between the following: the juridical
forms of individual liberty and the educational practices of "self-
158 the minnesota review

government" and open debate; widely diversified religious practices

not united under a single ritual, which interiorize the repression of im-
pulses in the invisible form of morality; a certain conception of
enlightenment as the spontaneous manifestation of individual ex-
perience; in the register of ordinary meaning, an everyday understand-
ing of the facts of life, language, and thought that is considered as a
construction of practical rules and procedures which adapt themselves
to events.

?On the other hand: a constant relation of dependence on ad-

ministrations and bureaucracies, along with respect for strata, hierar-
chies, and boundaries which function as visible, external instances of
repression; customary obedience and deference; religious interpella-
tion in the form of ritualized behavior (including practices of indoc-
trination, censure, and confession), and an inclination for the sacred
and for spectacles (with their train of secrets and conspiracies); a
tendency to consider anything concerning the teaching of grammar
(regarded as the metaphysics of common sense) and rhetoric (regarded
as the art of True Speech) as official State business.
In the form I have just presented it, this series of differences represents
little more than an extremely fragmentary sketch, unable to take account
of the far more complex, concrete specifics in which the two "paths" of
development are historically combined in differing degrees. It seems to
me that .such a sketch nevertheless enables us to challenge the pretention
to theorize about the "dominant ideology of the CMP" in general, in-
asmuch as it designates the contradictory duality of forms whose dif-
ferentiation assures the mode of existence (of reproduction and transfor-
mation) of subjects, discourses, and ideological practices in the space of
capitalist development as a whole.
5)Another possible advantage of this perspective is that it may lead
us to consider the historical fact of the Second World War as more than
an accidental deviation of inter-imperialist contradictions into
"pathology," a view which explains nazism as a regression to pre-logical
symbolisms, deadly madness, and "totalitarianism": for from this
perspective, wouldn't the Second World War constitute a process of con-
densation of this division between the two development-paths of the
CMP, in the form of their "fight to the death"? Nazism in this light
would be not merely an archaic and regressive ideology, and aberrant
return to barbarism, but above all the ultimate effort of the "Prussian"
development-path in its most modern form, and the form closest to
the central core to take control of the general development of the
6)The historical defeat of hitlerism placed the "American" path of
development more or less permanently in command of capitalist develop-
ment; that victory, sanctioned by US imperialist hegemony, has at the
same time constituted for the last forty years an immense politico-
pcheux 159

ideological resource for the entire core of the CMP:

That victory contributes to masking the modern form of subjugation
(the interiorized exploitation-repression of the western mass-worker5,
who is exluded form political power) at the very heart of the capitalist
system. It also helps mask this core's own tendency toward "ger-
manization" (to borrow Noam Chomsky's term), notably in the expe-
dient of neo-liberal anti-Keynesian economics " la Reagan": the
moral majority reinforces at home and abroad the political
authoritarianism of the anglo-american style "minimal" State that
is, the subtle totalitarianism of a panoptical formation devoid of visi-
ble masters.
* That victory also masks the practical interpntration in the
capitalist periphery of the two paths of development (through prac-
tices inherited form the periods of colonial concentration-camps as
well as military interventions like Vietnam and operations such as [the
"destabilization" of] Chile...) and also the global homogenization of
techniques of repression, which become more and more
* Finally, and most importantly, that victory permits maximum
benefits to be reaped from the actual situation of "already-existing
socialism": the concrete consequence of the fact that the anti-
capitalist revolutionary movements have failed (up till now . . . ?) to
strike at the center of capitalism is that "already-existing socialism"
consists essentially of a historical series of more or less violent
domestic political upheavals at the peripheral margins of the system
at the weak points of the "Prussian"-style path of capitalist develop-
ment. "Already-existing socialism" is thus not a symmetrical world in-
dependent of capitalism, but a series of successive growths [incrusta-
tions] within the overall development of capitalism itself.6
7) This asymmetrical situation of the "second" world and fragments
of the "third world" as enclaves within the enclosure of the capitalist
world system corresponds to the fact that "already-existing socialism"
was formed not according to the plans of any knowledgeable marxisms,
but through the takeover of Prussian-style State apparatuses, their
strategic configuration and ideological and discursive practices with
all the symmetrical counter-identification with the vanquished adversary
that entails. To what else could we attribute the tendency of "already-
existing socialism" to produce and reproduce "fortress-under-seige"-style
States, which deny their internal contradictions by means of a military
logic of frontiers, and continually function in a state of emergency, in the
name of the People, for the sake of re-organizing the ensemble of social
relations under a Party and by means of a political State religion? From
this point of view, Stalinist ideology is not an aberrant deviation, as
many militant revolutionaries were able to believe in Europe during the
160 the minnesota review

years 1960-757, but a lasting form of State populism ("The State of all the
People") whose defense as a unified camp-bloc leads in some cases to arm-
ed intervention as the ultimate form of the "State of emergency". The prac-
tice of "emergency" is also an ideological practice, based in last resort on
the imperative of survival (hunger and fear) which can justify anything.
8)The statement "There is no military path toward socialism"8 is a
good example of the unavoidable functioning of ambiguity in political
discourse. This statement comments both on the historical fact that there
have been for the most part and up till now only military paths
"toward socialism", and on the political fact that these military paths . . .
do not lead to socialism. From this point of view, and whatever the
results of the military coup, the historical question raised by the move-
ment of the Polish masses, who have insisted on requiring democratic
freedom at all levels of society as the crucial problem of "already-existing
socialism," is inseparable from another historically-decisive
question: that of a possible course of development toward anti-
capitalist upheavals at the interior of the capitalist core which would be
capable of contesting its logic without allowing themselves to be absorb-
ed by that logic (as seems to be the case for the various European soical-
democracies presently in crisis, and as was the case for the socialist
movements of the 19th century). From this perspective, the fragile pro-
cess of change undertaken in France since May, 1981 constitutes a uni-
que experiment whose fate seems to depend on its capacity to ally itself,
ideologically and politically, with European and Third-Worldist tenden-
cies of detachment and independence from the logic of blocs' according
to which the West continues to extend its sway over the North (the do-
main of technologies and parliamentary democracies) while the East con-
tinues, like it or not, to approach the South (with its zones of natural and
energy resources, administered by States of emergency nutritional as
well as military of quite varied political stripes).
9)To attempt to conceive of such processes of change at the level of
the ideological and discursive forms put into play in them presupposes
first of all measuring the extent to which any analysis (and notably marx-
ist analysis) finds it difficult to escape the historical grip of categories,
schmas of thought, etc. linked to the "peripheral" development path
through the strategic problematic of conquering and taking over various
"strongholds". As soon as it is a question of striking at the central core of
path #1, the decisive point seems to be the profoundly mystificatory
character of any problematic of overthrow [renversement]: path #1
cannot be overthrown (in the sense that one could undertake to over-
throw the edifice of an administrative or military apparatus in order to
penetrate it and "redirect" it to ends symmetrically opposed [to its
original ones]), because the functioning of ideology characteristic of this
development-path does not depend on a logic of stable objects with fixed
boundaries10: it does not comprise a stronghold, but a paradoxical
pcheux 161

In the face of the explicitly metaphysical forms of realism of path #2,
path #1 functions more subtly as a paradoxical metaphysical space,
engaged at the same time in a process of "logical" (empiricist and
pragmatic) clarification of meaning, which leads to a new metaphysics of
common sense (cf. on this point Les Vrits de la Palice, especially
Chapters 1 and 2), but also in an effort to deconstruct metaphysics, put-
ting equivocation and ambiguity to work through a series of subtle and
effective games (Wittgenstein). In the domain under consideration here,
the notion of "tactical ideological struggles"11 might designate, not the
logics inscribed in the stable figure of the stronghold, but those kinds of
mobile confrontations that do not set in opposition classes, "interest-
groups," or positions determined a priori, but rather bear on the
reproduction/transformation of class relations themselves. Hence we
would have a series of confrontations calling into question the very
definition and boundaries of "political discourse", inasmuch as these
confrontations bear on the very processes by which (on the terrain of sex-
uality, private life, the environment, education, etc.) capitalist
exploitation-domination reproduces itself by adapting itself, transform-
ing itself, reorganizing itself. For "reproduction" has never meant
"repetition of the same".
Althusser's theses on Ideological State Apparatuses,12 as an effort to
develop certain intuitions of Gramsci on the notion of hegemony and the
invisible proximity of the State and everyday life, constitute a valuable
resource here, provided that they are understood to mean that the pro-
cesses of ideological reproduction (which produce self-evident meaning
and consitute the subject as a subject-full-of-meaning, cause of itself, its
thought, gestures, and speech) are also conceived as spaces of multiform
resistance where the unexpected continually appears. For any ideological
ritual constantly runs up against flaws, unsuccessful acts, and lapses of
various kinds which befall and disrupt the "eternity" of reproduction.
What characterizes these tactical ideological struggles as they traverse
different popular movements is that they refer to paradoxical (per-
manently equivocal and ambiguous) referents that are at once identical
with themselves and antagonistic with respect to themselves. This kind of
paradox is illustrated by the story of the two Italian princes who each
swore to God: "I desire the same thing my brother desires (and am in
full agreement with him)" while saying to himself, "I want to seize the
city of Turin for myself." Paradoxical referents of this kind (under
rubrics such as the People, the Law, Work, Sex, Life, Science, Peace,
Nature, Freedom . . .) function in mobile relations of force with perplex-
ing outflanking manouvers, and are susceptible to convergences and op-
positions of considerable instability.13
This notion of "tactical ideological struggle" may be shocking or in-
comprehensible to disciples of the orthodox marxist metaphysics of the
162 the minnesota review

realism of classes, which presupposes fixed boundaries and a stable enti-

ty for ideologies and particularly for political ideologies. But this
methaphysics which never takes risks continues to represent a serious
threat to popular and workers' movements:
* For example, if one considers the role, ideologically inexplicable in
the terms of that metaphysics, of the "populism" that reduced the
European left of the 30's to impotence in the face of an outflanking
manoeuvre on the part of ideological forces that were politically
"free"14, and that ended up turning against the workers' movement
* In the same vein today, that same orthodox marxism proves itself
incapable of thinking, in its own space of "already-existing socialism,"
the effects of a class struggle whose agents remain invisible to it. And
meanwhile, particularly through the technical-social-political division
of labor secured by State populism15, the conditions of a novel system
of exploitation without "capitalists are reproducing themselves, with
unforseeable repercussions.
* Similarly, this marxist metaphysics which continues to consider
the working class as an object blinds itself to the social decomposition
affecting the working class, particularly in western countries, by
means of a combined process of weakening individuals (the experience
of uprootedness, of solitude, of internal emptiness) and of mothering
by a benevolent State.16
From this point of view, the internal crisis of capitalism is also a (cruel)
play on the theme of freedom: the new strategies of the CMP free in-
dividuals from their conditions of life, from defenses and securities con-
structed over the generations, by reducing their existence to its in-
stantaneous bio-psychological bases, devoid of historical memory. The
result is the equivocal interlacing of a neo-libertarian political tendency
aimed against the State and a neo-conservative tendency for "transcen-
ding political illusions" toward a "truth" of history which is cynically
biological. From this point of view, it could be said that the isolation-
fragilization-welfare-emergency-terror complex constitutes today the in-
visible point of contact between the two development-paths of the CMP,
the crux of their divided unity, based on the new populisms of our era
and oscillating between a caluclating love of the State (which is not the
same thing at all as a disinterested concern for public affairs) and a
phobic hatred of the State. The categories of orthodox marxism have no
relevance to this oscillation, perhaps because they are too caught up it it
10) Faced with this historically multiform and theoretically opaque
reality of populisms, to begin to conceive of these heterogeneous, con-
tradictory, asymmetrical and mobile ideological processes as linked with
emerging practical transformations in the socio-historical forms of sub-
pcheux 163

jectivity, methods of organizing struggle, and regimes of discur-

sivity18 this requires daring to take risks with respect to metaphysics.
And in particular to take the risk of confronting what, from Nietzsche
to Freud, from Wittgenstein to Foucault, has already begun to transform
the ideological structures of rationality, by investigating that mobile
fragility of thought which appears not only "from on high," in the cer-
tainties of "intellectual elites" who believe they command the privilege of
conceptual (clear and distinct) expression, but equally as much, if not
more so, from "below," through a myriad of equivocal stammerings,
making their way (and making their voices heard) in the interstices.
To begin to grasp this circulation of everyday ideolgocial raw
materials, caught in the "self-evidence of meaning," yet bearing effects
capable of provoking events, movements, mass interventions (while
always remaining indefinitely provisional, without guarantees or fixed
boundaries a priori) this presupposes that we also recognize the intrinsic
connection that such processes entertain with that reality everyone calls
"language" and which certain people designate (particularly through
the Lacanian reconstruction of psychoanalysis) as the order of the
Signifier, the symbolic register, referring to the enternity of the un-
conscious in the Freudian sense of the term, as it works paradoxically at
our history, without any "radiant future" on the horizon.
If all these questions are really taken as crucial questions and not as
some spiritual folkloric or literary extravagance of materialist
thought they presuppose that we consider language not as a mere
means enabling us to describe theoretically this or that process (as a
reflection of that process), but rather as the mechanism [ressort] that
constitutes those processes themselves, by means of the "language-
games", the metaphorical slidings, and the enunciative paradoxes that
structure discursivities in and against the "body" of rules of any language
The apparatuses of political discourse characteristic of feudal-
monarchical spaces were marked by visible linguistic boundaries at the
level of the material difference of languages [langues] and the separation
of codes, distributing subjects to locations pre-determined by the ap-
paratus itself. The discursive spaces of advance capitalism, particularly
those deployed in its central core, dislocated political
discourse: equivocation functions here without predetermined boun-
daries, because its functions concern the very boundaries of language,
the meaning of statements, and the subject-positions that may be inscrib-
ed within them. These spaces where "difference inheres in identity" [ou
"le mme est pris dans l'autre"] ceaselessly displace the discursive points
of ideological subjugation, as well as the locations from which resistance
might be expressed, without the logic of these displacements ever being
construable as a closed system. There is no "game of all games."
164 the minnesota review


1In another work, "DUmitations, retournements, dplacements" (L'Homme et la Socit,

October 1982), I have tried to outline the distinction between the strategic configuration of
the French Revolution (to change worlds, to leave feudalism behind), that of the unrealized
revolutionary movements of 19th-century socialists (to change the existing capitalist world,
by pushing the bourgeois revolution to the limit), and that of 20th-century proletarian-
peasant revolutions (to construct another world within the old one).
T"his opposition between two "paths" of development in the CMP, alluded to by Marx
(Capital, Volume III, Chapter 20, "A Historical OutUne of Merchant Capital") and addres-
ed by Lenin under a different rubric (the opposition between the "American" and Prussian"
paths in "The Social-democratic Agrarian Plan of the First Russian Revolution,
1905-1907"), was the object of Uvely debate in the 1950's (reprinted in Dobb and P. M.
Sweezy, eds., From Feudalism to Capitalism: Problems of Transition (Maspro, 1977). The
work of Barrington Moore, Jr., Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy (Boston:
Beacon Press, 1966), approaches this question from another angle, providing a series of
concrete historical analyses of the contradiction between the "democratic path" and
"revolution from above". See also Rgine Robin and M. Grenon, "A propos de la polmig-
cjue sur l'Ancien Rgime et la Rvolution; pour une problmatique de la transition," in La
Pense 187 (1976).
3On the possible relation of this point to linguistic questions, see Franoise Gadet and M.
Pcheux, La Langue introuvable (Maspro, 1975), Chapter II, Sects. 12 & 13.
4In speaking of the subjugation of individuals, I presuppose readers' familiarity with the
work of Althusser and Foucault, which calls into question the pre-existence of the subject
as self-evident anthropological foundation.
'"By replacing the skilled tradesman with a recently-immigrated, unskilled and especially
unorganized mass-worker, capital shifts the overall balance of class relations in its favor for
a long time to come;" Benjamin Coriat, L'Atelier et le chronomtre (Bourgeois, 1979), p.
*Within the "sociaUst world," the difference between countries such as the USSR, China
and Cuba which have undertaken the construction of a new world on their own and those
which have discovered that world only through its imposition manu militari, as is the case
in Eastern Europe, is historically important for distinguishing the characteristics of these
different countries , but strictly secondary from the point of view of their structural position
as enclaves.
7ThIS period is marked by a relative heterogeneity in the poUtical and ideological Unes of
"already-existing sociaUsm" at the time (China, Cuba, Vietnam ... in relation to the USSR);
this heterogeneity opened a space for radical movement (toward a "different sociaUsm")
which mobilized simultaneously on the basis of anti-imperialism and as a concrete alter-
native to the Soviet State form. In their considerable diversity, these movements cor-
responded to a class struggle in ideolgoy over the question of the withering away of the
State under sociaUsm. The Soviet re-homogenization of the "sociaUst world" (Sino-Soviet
tensions apart) has since eliminated all of that.
8A recent declaration by Italian Communist Party leader Pietro Ingre[?] regarding the
military takeover in Poland (December 1981).
9In this logic of blocs, the USSR continues to function as the proof, guarantor, and precon-
dition of the "transition to sociaUsm." The Italiani Communist Party clearly broke with this
situation of historical blackmail when it declared: "The effects of October, 1917 have run
their course." [?]
""The attempt to put the ideologico-political form of the stronghold into motion (by aU the
"dialectics' imaginable) wiU achieve nothing: it would only produce the classical figure of
the Trojan horse, which is relatively effective in the space of path Wl, but would become in
the space of path #1 a patheticfortress on wheels whose manouverabiUty could only clumsily
imitate (by means of trickery, spectacles, and staff secrets) the mobile agility of forces
which are in their element "as fish are in water."
This point caUs all of the foUowing into question: the realist and metaphysical conception
of social classes as separate camps, the ideologico-political domination of the Party form,
and the practice of permanently delegating responsibility (through spokesman/inter-
pcheux 165

preters/officials of the masses).

1 [To translate Pcheux' bivalent expression "lutte idologique de mouvement," which con-
denses both the mobility (mouvement) of this kind of struggles, its independence of fixed
positions, and its association with poUtical movements (mouvements) not grounded in
discrete classes (and frequently single-issue based, such as ecology or day-care), I have us-
ed the rubric "tactical ideological struggle," drawing on the distinction between strategic
(fixed-position) and tactical (mobil) operations discussed by von Clausewitz and developed
with respect to social practice by Michel de Certeau in an article entitled On the Opposi-
tional Practices of Everyday Life" (Social Text #3, FaU 1980, pp. 3-43), which is excerpted
from his forthcoming book, Pratiques quotidiennes: Pour une smiotique de la culture or-
dinaire. See also de Certeau's "Une culture ordinaire," in Exprit 10 (October 1978), pp.
3-26. - trans.] The expression lutte idologique de mouvement" obviously refers to the con-
ceptual pair, postion/movement, which was introduced into modern through t by Gramsci;
at the same time, it attempts to alter what the expression "a war of positions" retains of a
logic of objects with stable boundaries (the military form of attack on an entrenched
^ee La Pense (1970) and Positions (Editions Sociales, 1975). Althusser certainly did not
provide that impossible "theory of ideology" which so many have generously imputed to
him, sometimes to dismiss it out of hand, sometimes to turn it into a closed scientific
system. But one of the incontestable results of his work is to have hit the poUtical narcissism
of workers' movement organizations in its most sensitive spot: the metaphysical belief in an
end (of class struggle, of history, and of ideolgoies).
DFor an example of concrete discursive analysis of this kind of displacement of meaning
(regarding the notions of crisis, planning, and the new economic order), see "Are the
masses an animate object?" in Linguistic Variations, D. Sankoff, ed. (Academic Press,
1978), pp. 251-66.
^Wasn't this "freedom" of popular movements left to their own devicesthat is to say, in
fact exposed to all the recuperations whose paradoxical mechanisms are analysed by J. P.
Faye in Les Langages Totalitaires facilitated by the historical ejection of certain tenden-
cies (anarchism, for example) from the strategic planning of the workers' movement? The
historical recuperation of anarchism by the poUtical form of State populism is nicely il-
lustrated, in any case, by developments such as Varguism in Brazil, which combines the
positon of foster father (providing sustenance and education) with that of the supreme
benefactor of the Nation and the People. (I draw here on the unpubUshed works of M-E
Torre Lima: "De l'anarchisme au popuUsme brsiUen" and "La figure nigmatique de
Getulio Varges.")
15TlIe StaUnist type of State popuUsm (the "Father of the People," the "State of aU the Peo-
ple," etc.) appears in this light as the result of a change of course on the part of peasant-
based russian populism following Lenin's failure to forge an alliance between the urban
proletariat and the peasantry. On this point, see Chapter I, Sections 9-15 of a Langue in-
trouvable (F. Gadet and M. Pcheux, 1981) devoted to the ideological battles over ques-
tions of language and of poUtics in language that accompanied this change of course.
16TlUs mothering divides the working class into a professional group, integrated and pro-
tected through its "acquired advantages," and an over-exploited group, exposed to
unemployment and treated as migrant labor-power lacking professional training.
17TWs oscillation may weU constitute the contemporary condensed form of the ambiguous
and irregular double-relation that popular and workers' movements have always maintain-
ed with the State (past, present, and future). From this point of view, the traditional terms
"reformism" and "anarchism" represent misleading conventions: they presuppose a true
nature ("revolutionary"?) whose twin deviations they then claim to identify whereas it
may well be that something entirely different is going on: for example, the contradictory
play of the only two historically stable tendencies constituting the substance of popular and
workers' movements: revolutions are, after all, events, and not substances.
18Cf. on this point the work of E. Laclau, particularly his Politics and Ideology in Marxist
Theory: Capitalism, Fascism, Populism (NLB, 1977).
19On these issues, see in particular Les Vrits de la police (Maspro, 1975/MacMiUan,
166 the minnesota review

1982); M. Pcheux, "Analyse du discours; langue et idologies," Langages #37 (1975); J-M
Marandin, "Analyse du discours et linguistique gnrale," Langages #55 (1979); J-J. Cour-
tine, "Analyse du discours politique (le discours communiste adress aux chrtiens),"
Langages #62 (1981); F. Gadet and M. Pcheux, La Langue introuvable (Maspro, 1981);
and B. Conein et al., eds., Matrialits discursives (Presses Universistaires de Lyon, 1981).