ABSTRACT

In the preceding chapters, I have characterized Bakhtin’s approach to the theory and critique of ideology in a primarily analytical vein, stressing his affinities with the Western Marxian project of Ideologiekritik and with the humanist and interpretive preoccupations of hermeneutical theory. For this penultimate chapter, by contrast, I wish to pursue a different line of inquiry. I argued in chapter three that Bakhtin’s development of a non-epistemological, nonreductionistic account of ideology, which he conjoins with a sophisticated philosophy of language, represents a valuable corrective to many of the shortcomings to be found within the received view of ideology. Moreover, I suggested that Bakhtin’s writings anticipated (and even participated in, albeit obliquely, through the early writings of Julia Kristeva) the emergence of a not dissimilar problematic in the 1960s and 70s which followed the dissolution of the orthodox theory of ideology. This realignment was most strongly demonstrated in French intellectual circles, with the work of Roland Barthes, Louis Althusser and Michel Foucault (including their various disciples and fellow-travellers). Yet given this partial convergence between Bakhtin and the structuralist and poststructuralist traditions, we would seem

to be faced with something of a dilemma. The task that confronts us at this point is to trace the genealogy of this theoretical development and, in so doing, to differentiate between the Bakhtinian and the neo-structuralist approaches not only with respect to the conceptualization of ‘ideology’ as a theoretical object but also to the critical practices bound up with its interpretation and critique. For various reasons, I have chosen to concentrate on the representative writings of Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault. An equally important concern will be to vindicate Bakhtin’s superiority in certain crucial areas vis-à-vis a politically-engaged cultural-ideological criticism, particularly with respect to what I term the ‘problem of resistance’ in contemporary social theory.