Donald L. Donham

in History, Power, Ideology

Published by University of California Press

Published in print June 1999 | ISBN: 9780520213371
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520920798 | DOI:

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Some time ago, Edmund Leach, following Ludwig Wittgenstein, wrote, “Logically, aesthetics and ethics are identical. If we are to understand the ethical rules of a society, it is aesthetics that we must study.” Using that intuition with respect to social theory itself, this chapter considers the contrasting moral visions of neoclassicism and Marxism via the rhetorical structures described earlier. If the plot of Chapters 2 and 3 were all there was to historical materialism, the story contained therein would not be recognizably Marxist—perhaps Nietzschean or Weberian, but not Marxist. The chapter does not claim that Marxism is “only” a trope, nor that it is the cultural construction of labor power or of Maale descent “only” superstructural. Rather, it argues that romantic irony goes some distance toward defining an essential aspect of Marxism, namely, its commitment to a certain set of assumptions about human nature: succinctly put, that power is deeply ambivalent. A prominent theme of the previous chapters has been the relationship between de facto power and culturally encoded ideology—between base and superstructure.

Keywords: Marxism; social theory; Maale; neoclassicism; power; base; superstructure; labor; historical materialism

Chapter.  11369 words. 

Subjects: Comparative and Historical Sociology

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