Rough Notes on Methods (HUM415)

I’m trying to formulate a list of critical methods Hawkes employs in Ideology. If you have any suggestions I’d welcome them.

1. “X has become so pervasive it has effectively ceased to exist.”

This formulation ought to evoke paradox, the interpenetration of opposites, the dialectic.

Identity is relational in other words. The light/dark binary, for example. There is no light without dark and vice versa. To say that all is dark, for instance, to say that there is a total absence of light, is to liquidate dark because there is nothing to which it can be contrasted.

Note this is a logical rather than an empirical argument. Also, incidentally, that the tendency to give priority to empirical evidence can be construed as a function of ideology. Adorno’s critique of instrumental reason (rationality fetishized) is useful here.

2. “Routing it through the totality.”

Avoid the fetishization of facts. In isolation a fact can “mean” anything. Recall Hawkes’s purposefully provocative example. Initially, it almost sounds like the sort of thing some neoconservative blowhard would invoke in an effort to pathologize African-American culture. Yet by routing that fact through the totality we come out on the other side.

3. The use of “theological” categories for secular work. Ex. “Satan,” “evil,” “idolatry.”

Reading Hawkes is actually challenging how I think, which is hugely exciting. I tend to view his use of theological concepts in the way that I interpret the significance of “the book” in the Hughes Brothers’ 2010 film The Book of Eli. It doesn’t signify religion so much as it symbolizes human culture in general. Thus to associate fetishism with Satan is to argue that there are aspects of the social formation that actively confound, delude, or otherwise harm us.

4. Negation. Negation of the negation.

“Marx perceives alienation as the objectification of human life and thus as a negation of the human subject” (122). We live in a state of negation, a negation that must in its turn be negated. How do you dispel a lie that is experienced as a truth?


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