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The production of moral ideology

The pl’oducl.ion

mOl’al ideology
Andrew Collier
Vly aim in this paner is to throw some light on
the nature of moral i~eology hv examining its
origin and function in terms of nsvchoanalytical
theory, as well as of ‘1″rxi sm,
‘Iv assumntions
at the outset are that anv moral irteologv serves
a socially renressive function, and that a forP1
of practical reason is nossi))le I·.’hich is in no
sense moral or sociallv renressive; the elimination of moral irteologv is therefore taken as a
rational rtesirteratum. 1
T take it that the critiaue o~ moral idenloqy belongs tn bvo se i ences: lIistori cal ‘1aterial-isP1 ann Psvchoanalvsis.

T shall start I·.’ith ,-In
attemnt to -justifv mv use of nsvclo”nal’rticill
cnncents, ann to rtelimit the scone nf SUC”l concepts in relation to the historical materialist
analysis of irpoln!lv in qeneral.

Tn the s(‘con,l spet i (‘n r sh” 11 con~; ic1er the
social funetilln -’11il’l1 :”1or(11 i·lenloqies e;en’I’ in
social formation.” hl.SPcl on c:L,ss I’xnloit”tinn
and domination; “ncl the ch”r”cteristics ,:.’hicl1
any moral ideolo([:” mlst hi’lve in order to serve
this ,-function (i’lnrl ‘.’!llich i’lll mOL,l j deolocjies
rto l’iq~e); and also the specific rcauirenents
of the capitalist mo(le of nrmluction in the
area of moral irteoloqv.

Thi~, section I”jll
helonq entirely to the histnric”l-mi’lteri”list
critiCfue of ieleologv; it ie; intended (as is the
whole analysis contained in this r-“-lnf’r} to ),e
applicable equallv to the Lhe(lret i c”l exnressions of moral ieleology develn r ,pll )m nhilnsophers i’lnd other ieleologisL~;, dn,l tn nnllllL,r
moral ideologies.

Tf explicit reFpren,-e is
made mi’linly to the former, thie; is ,pc,,’lse T
personally am not 0ualified tn umlerti’lke the
(perhaps more profitable) analvsis nf nonul~r
moral ideologies; there is anyway no sn.,ce in
this paper for a detailed account either nf
such ideologies or nf systems of moral rhilo-sophy.

Rut precisely because all moral irlen-logies, popular or theoretically worker] out,
share certain corrunon features, and must shAre
them in order to serve their social function,
such detailed analysis of particular ideologies is not necessary for th~ purposes of
this paper.

In the third anel final section I will take
up my findings concerning certain characteristics of moral ideologies from section TT,
and relate them to certain concepts belonging
to psychoanalytical theory; on this basis T hope
to uncover the unconscious process of the
production of moral ideology, and make a few
observations on the prognosis for the possihle
dissolution of moral ieleology in a socialist
society which had revolutionised the familysystem.

1. The Theoretical Framework
Clearly the judgement that moral ideology has
a socially repressive function is derived from
Historical Materialism.

It might be thought
that this is a sufficient explanation of such
ideology – that the ruling class will more or
less consciously inculcate the moral ideology
most convenient to it, and that this ideology
will prevail. This view has several objections

to it: (a) It overestimates the role of consciousness in the production of ideology. Men’s
ideas are a product of their social conditions,
not primarily of their societal conditioning.

It is methodologically incorrect from the standpoint of Historical Materialism to proceed
directly from the specification of the superstructural forms (political or ideological)
best serving the interests if a particular
ruling class or – what is essentially the same
thing – the neegs of the dominant mode of production in a given social formation, to the
superstructural (political or ideological)
effects actually produced in that social formation.

(b) It fails to explain why members of a
subject class should accept ideas antagonistic
to their interests. After all, one does not
believe everything one is told, and if everyone
did, there would be ~o possibility of an
opnressed class revolting against its oppressors.

(c) It does not allmv for dysfunctional
ic1eolmJical develonments within a social formation.

The character-structures produced in
canitalist social formations and the ideologies
,’lssnciated with them, are by no means wholly
useful from the point of view of the successful
cnhesion and clevelorment of these social form,~t i on~;, thnucjh they must no doubt be largely
so, for cnDitalisn to survive. Por instance,
the nrcvalence of neurotic elisorders adversely
,frccts the aims of caritalist production, as
it interferes with the working capacity, as well
~s the hanniness, of the individuals concerned.

Yet these 11isorelers are the effect of a type of
r i1 J”‘.ilv ‘.d1ich is essentiAl to capitalism. There
“re inelininelble contradictions in capitalism
,lt the level of i(leologv, i’lS well as of politics
an,l ecnnornic:s – in thi s Celse a contradiction
l’et’,.’een thr i lleolnni cal needs And the ideoIn(Jjc,’ll efFect:s of c”nitalism.

Teleolnoici’ll ctate Annaratuses
‘ne nf the. TTlnst sti:’lul”tinn c1iscussions of the
nroclllction of i(leolnnv in recent “Arxist thought
is Althusser’s essi’lv ‘Tcleolonv anc1 th~ State’,?

but it spems to me to })8 uns”tisfactory in
innort”nt resrects.

Tts annroach to the prohlem
nf ideology in terTTlS of the neec1s of the capitalist rnnde nf nroduction concerning the renroductinn ()f ~;uitilbl(, aqents of the nrorluctjve
process and of rl’Lltinns of domin”ltinn/suborelinntion I’Pt-..’ecn the? representatives of canital
ctnel the Lll)nur-force is absolutely correct for
understandinq the ideological requirements of
ci’lnitalism, but for the reasons noted above,
that does not make it a theory of the production
of ieleology in a capitalist social formation.

(It is surprising that Althusser should neglect
this point in view of the fact that he more
than anyone else has contributed to our understanding that a social formation does not express its material foundation in the way that
a Hegelian totality expresses its ideal
foundation. 3)
Ideology appears dn Althusser’s essay as a
content corrununicated (however unconsciously) by
institutions which for the most part (the exception is the family) exist precisely to fufil this function.

The production of ideology
appears (to parody Althusser’s own terminology)
as a conspiracy without a subject. To be sure,
ideology is not produced by cynical liars in
high places, but everything is as if it is.

But this would be a serious error; of course
there are plenty of cynical liars in high
places, with immense means of the dissemination
of ideas at their disposal; but ideology is
largely produced without their intervention, and
the whole practice of ideological struggle
should be carried out in a way which is quite
unlike that in which it would have to be


carried out if a conspiracy-theory (with or
without a subject) were true.

For instance, if it were the case that racialism were propagated among the workers by the
bourgeois press, anti-racialist propaganda produced by the left would seem to be the most
effective antidote. In fact, however, it arises
spontaneously and largely against the influence
of the official propaganda of the bourgeoisie,
and is most effectively overcome by the organisation of black and white workers in a common
struggie against their clas’s enemies.


However, at least in the case of moral 1deologies, the major role of the action of ‘Ideological state Apparatuses’ (ISAs) cannot be
denied. Moral ideology cannot be presented as economic ideology can, should be, and has
been – as an objective appearance, contrasted
with the essence of the reality of which it is
an appearance, but deriving from that reality
within the object. 4 Moral ideology is produced
in the first place in the minds of individuals.

There is also an appearance of reality corresponding to a moral outlook, but it is ‘subjective’, it is produced by the moralistic psyc,tlic

‘There are no moral/phenomena at
all, but only a moral interpretation of the
phenomena’ – Nietzsche:5 The evil in the world
appears (from the’ moral point of view) as the
product of individual wickedness; motives (such
as greed, lust, pride, van~ty) appear at once
as self-explanatory givens and as ‘attitudes’

taken up which could equally well have been
rejected, etc. But these interpretations are
dependent on the presence of moral ideology
which is in the first place not an interpretation of reality, but an ego-ideal and a·set of
imperatives, operating at the level of unconscious mental processes and reflected in conscious ones.

I shall therefore use the terminology of
ISAs (despite some doubt about the usefulness
of referring to them as state apparatuses), but
I shall make certain criticisms of Althusser’s
views. I take as a starting point a passage in
the article ‘On social Classes’ by Nicos
Poulantzas 6 in which he refers to Althusser’s
essay en ISAs. i

In talking of state apparatuses, we must
recognize that these apparatuses neither
create ideology nor are they even the sole
or primary factors in reproducing relations
of ideological domination/subordination.

Ideological apparatuses only serve to fashion and inculcate the dominant ideology.

Thus, Max weber was wrong in claiming that
the Church creates and perpetuates religion:

rather it is religion which creates and
perpetuates the Church. [pS2J
Now this is absolutely correct, but if it is
true of all ISAs, ideological forms which cannot
be accounted for as objective appearances seem
inexplicable. The clue to a solution however
can be derived from a point made by Poulantzas
later in the same paragraph:

… the reproduction of positions in the
relations of ideologico-political domination
does indeed invoke the apparatuses, but it
also invokes apparatuses other than the
state ideological apparatuses – most importantly the economic apparatus it~elf. As a
unit of production in its c~pitalist form,
an enterprise is also an apparatus, in the
Sense that, by means of the social division
of labour within it (the despotic organization
of labour), the enterprise itself reproduces
political and ide~logical relations concerning the places of the social classes.


structural Domination
This points out the striking absence from,
Althusser’s list of ISAs – the workplace itself.

The relative autonomy of ideology, which should
certainly be stressed when it is the effect of
ideology which is in question, has been illegitimately extended to the production of ideology.

How does the workplace produce ideology? Its role
in the production of specifically economic ideology, which is in part its own objective appearance,
has been discussed elsewhere. I am concerned here
with the point that Poulantzas makes – its production of the ideological aspect of class relations
by the despotic organization of labour. This gives
the clue to the error in Althusser’s account. He
sees the ISAs as producing ideology by communicating a certain ideological content, rather than
by effecting specific character-structural modifications. The ISAs as described by Althusser are
not the producers of ideology, but that description is not adequate. Let me illustrate this with
reference to the ISA which Althusser (incorrectly,
as I believe) regards as the foremost one at the
present time – the educational ISA. Much has been
made recently of ‘subtle’ forms of indoctrination
in schools – many of them so subtle that one cannot believe them to be seriously effective. What
is effective is the authoritarian structure of the
educational system. It is not the fact that a
schoolmaster says ‘the English legal system, like
the pre-revolutionary French one, has never had a
class bias’, but that he says ‘say “Sir” when you
speak to me! ‘. Short of direct reactionary
political interference, ·the content communicated
in the educational apparatus will I believe tend
to become more objective, within the present sys- ~
tem (of bourgeois democracy), though there is no doubt a limit to this tendency. The primary locus
of ideological struggle within the educational
system should not be the content communicated but
the relations of domination/subordin~tion, the
authoritarian structure, with its divisive ramifications (prefect system, streaming, certain forms
of assessment, segregation of the sexes etc.)7
This clearly has importan~ practical consequences, not only for the immediate ideolog~cal
struggle, but for the manner in which the ideological apparatuses of the state are to be smashed
and replaced in the workers’ state. The view
which emphasises the communication of ideological
content will tend towards proposals for ideological
dictatorship, i.e. the use of the repressive apparatus of the state to prevent the dissemination of
bourgeois ideas and promote that of marxist ones.

I do not deny that there is a place for this in the
early stages of revolution. Bourgeois society largely
excludes subversive social sciences from its university syllabus (i.e. Marxist political economy from
economics courses, psychoanalytical theory from
psychology courses etc), and a revolution must make
room for these sciences at the expense of their
ideological substitutes. But such measures in themselves would leave the ISA intact as a producer of
bourgeois ideology by its production of the requisite
character-structure by means of its despotic organization. A too intensive and prolonged ideological
dictatorship would actually prevent these transformations of the educational ISA which would, by dismantling its authoritarian structure, make it a
suitable instrument of enlightenment and socialisation in a society not based on class exploitation.

The relative success of the churches in surviving
into the modern age in state-capitalist countries as
compared to capitalist western Europe, despite the
use of the repressive state apparatus against them,
can perhaps be explained by the greater authoritarianism of state-capitalist societies – of which such
use of the repressive state apparatus is an aspect producing the character-structural determinants of
religious ideology. Another example might be
Solzhenitsyn’s novels. Whatever one’s view of their

merit as art and as social comment (The First Circle
seems to me among the world’s greatest novels), there
is a pervasive moralistic ideology in them, which in
the case of Cancer Ward seriously detracts from its
artistic value: a glorification of man’s capacity to
‘tolerate misery, at the-expense of his capacity to
strive for happiness; a tracing of all evils to the
personal wickedness of the men in power; an historical
humanism; all of which lead to the conclusion; let each
individual live up to the highest standards of (statecapitalist) society; if only the leading bureaucrats
did so all would be well. This ideal of virtue unaffected by the vicissitudes of real life is epitomised
in Kostoglotov’s ethereal love for the woman doctor
who is emasculating him ‘for his own good’. It was
certainly not the intention of the Stalinists or their
successors to produce this ideology; which on the contrary they suppress; yet it is just as certain that
it is precisely the savage repressiveness of that
regime which produces this ideology. The diagnosis
of this unmarxist moral ideology in Solzhenitsyn, so
far from justifying his persecution, is a further
sharp indictment of the repressive character of the
state-capitalist regime.

If it is the domination-aspect rather than the
communication-aspect of the ISAs which produces
ideology, several conclusions follow:

(a) ISAs which have no domination-aspect can be
relegated to a secondary role. These are precisely those ISAs which are most purely ideological in function (media, churches etc).

They cannot be counted among the producers of

(bY’The workplace itself, as noted above, becomes
one of the primary ISAs.

(c) The effectiveness of domination in producing
ideology (rather than e.g. simply resentment)
n~ds to be explained.

This requires reference
to psychoanalytical concepts. It will become
clear from this that the family is the dominant

‘produced by the RSA; it is the ISAs which have
this function. They impose morality as a quasiIlaw (the ‘rules’ of the family, the school, the
Iworkplace etc). However moral ideology does not
Iconsist in these rules, which rather express,
concretize and codify its practice, as certain
Isocial practices are expressed, concretized and
‘COdified by law proper. It is certainly not
produced primarily by these rules, but by the
authoritarian structure of the institutions in
I question, which bears the same relation to these
rules that the repressive nature of the state does
to law proper. However insofar as ISAs are ideoIlogical apparatuses, not part of the RSA, this
relation differs. Laws are enforced by the RSA,
moral rules are not for the most part enforced by
. Ithe ISAs, they are legislated by them, but enforced by the ‘inner’ sanctions of moral ideology.

Insofar as this is also true of law, it is only
because of a moral imperative to obey the law.

Hence, insofar as the function of law is ideological, it is dependent on moral ideOlogy for its
effect. However moral ideology as produced by the
authoritarian character of the ISAs, is in the last
analysis dependent upon the underwriting of this
authority by the RSA. This structure may be
represented thus:









le::: in

Regularisation of Moral Ideology
It is perhaps useful here to look at the relation of
law to morality under the aspect of ideology. Law
is naturally located on the juridico-political level
of the superstructure, but in many ways it is an
ideological aspect of that level (though like any
ideological form it has its own political and economic effectivity). Its ideological aspect is in that
it is normative, i.e. it says how certain things are
to be done, sets up institutions to secure adherence
to these norms, etc. It does not however determine
how things are done – that is ultimately determined
by laws of a different kind, i.e. the structural
laws governing the social formation in question.

Rather it regularizes the way in which things are
to be done, just as marriage does not cause but
regularizes sexual cohabitation {even in a society,
if there were such, in which this never occurred
outside marriage}. The repressive function of the
political power of one class over another is
regularized in law. The specific function of this
regularization is an ideological one – the legitimation of that power, and hence its functioning
without bringing the repressive state apparatus
into action. Law may thus be characterized as the
ideological expression of the ‘Repressive state
Apparatus’ (RSA).

Morality has a very similar structure to law,
but no direct connection with the RSA. Its similarity lies first in its normative, univer~alistic,
prescriptive, restrictive nature, and its concern
with responsibility, guilt etc. Often it appears
as the ideal reflection of law; law makes external
demands, morality (of certain kinds) requires inner
acceptance of those demands; the law aspires to be
moral and assumes morality as its supplementary
norm. Hence though it is not illegal to be
immoral, it is illegal to conspire to corrupt
pub!i£morals, etc.

Morality is not enforced or moral ideology



~ Moral rul es secure observance

0 flaw
without recourse to repressive force of
‘inner’ s8nction of moral irleology.

The Family
At first glance, the separation of moral ideology
and moral rules here may be confusing. This is due
to the constraints of working with a three-level
base-superstructure model, which I shall forthwith
abandon in favour of Plekhanov’s five-level model.

At the same time I shall shift discussion from ISAs
generally to that which (for reasons derived from
psychoanalytical theory) I believe to be primary the family.

The levels distinguished by Plekhanov are:

1 The state of the productive forces;
2 The economic relations these forces condition;
3 The socio-political system that has developed
on the given economic ‘base’;
4 The mentality of men living in society; a
mentality which is determined in part
directly by the economic conditions obtaining, and in part by the entire socio-political system that has arisen on that foundation;
5 The various ideologies that reflect the·
properties of that mentality.S
The relevant advantage of this model is the
distinction made between levels 4 and 5, often
simply lumped ~ogether as ‘ideology’, which is
then either explained (in a mechanistic fashion)
directly in’ terms of the economic base, or is seen
as mediated by consciousness, which leads to
idealism. In situating the object of psychoanaly-


sis within this historical-materialist model, I
shall be using certain concepts derived from
Wilhelm Reich (‘character-structure’, Reich’s
analysis of the relation between psychoneurosis
and actual neurosis, etc). Reich was after all
one of the first to attempt to bring these two
dialectical-materialist sciences together, and to
do so in a consistently materialist fashion.

In order to put psychoanalytical theory to
work in producing a general theory of ideology,
it is necessary to work with a concept of the
psyche as a whole, not merely with specific
symptoms. The concept of character-structure as
used by Reich is such a concept, and also emphasises the materiality of this structure – its
physiological anchoring, its production by the
interaction of needs of physiological origin with
the social and physical environment in which
alone these needs can be satisfied, but which also
presents obstacles to their satisfaction, and
determines their vicissitudes.

The point about actual neurosis and psychoneurosis is briefly this: actual neuroses are
those caused by current disturbances in the sexual
life, psychoneuroses those caused by defensive
formations built up in’ infancy. Reich argued
that every neurosis derives its energy from an
actual-neurotic element (this is the economic
principle of the libido governing the occurrence
of neurosis), while its form is laid down by a
psychoneurotic element. The relevance of this will
appear shortly.

Insofar as ‘character’ is conceived of here as
a set of restraints, produced by past frustrations,
on present possibilities of satisfaction – and is
this not also how this concept was used by the
mp;alists who talked about ‘character building’?

– lhe dissolution of character is a rational
desideratum .9
I identify character-structure with Plekhanov’s
level 4.

I take it that the organisation of the
libido is the dominant element in this structure.

The chief determinant of libido-organisation in
level 3 is the family-system; the family is not
(in advanced societies) the dominant element in
level 3.

But it determines the dominant element
in character-structure in two ways: (a) through
its determination of the vicissitudes of the libido
in childhood, during the formation of the character-structure; (b) through its determination of
the objective sexual possibilities open to the
individual in adult ‘life. Character-structure and
sexual life are mutually determinant, insofar as
character-structure determines the subjective
sexual possibilities of the individual, and sexual
frustration reinforces the infantile defensive
formations in the character-structure, while

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sexual fulfilment liberates the individual from
these restraints on his subjective possibilities,
sexual and otherwise. This set of inter-structural relations can be represented thus:







(ietermin8 t ion (‘I f
char”lcter-for”‘ation in childboon





sys tern



1 (d)



forces an~ relRtions
of rronuctioTl

(a) determination of subjective sexual
possibil i ties
(b) economic principle of libido
(c) determination of ob4ective seyual
(d) some ntrect effect (physical
exhaustion fro~ work, overcrowde~
housinp’. etc.)
The manner in which the family-system is dominated by the other aspects of the socio-political
system is quite different from the way’in which
the libido-organisation dominates the characterstructure.

In the former it is an external
domination-relation; the other aspects (law, state
apparatuses etc) simply take priority in advanced
class societies, as being more directly function~
ally related to the economic base, and as being
the locus of greater power. Character-structure
however is dominated internally by libido-organisation; it is a case of the latter being the pattern
of ‘ all aspects of life; the same structures formed
by the vicissitudes of the libido for its organisation, direction and restraint determine the way
in which the individual relates to the world in
ways not specifically sexual as well (cf. Nietzsche:

‘The degree and kind of a man’s sexuality reaches
up into the topmost summit of his spirit’ .10)
Now if we look at the determination of ideology, we see that it will be determined by a structure in which the libido-oranisation is dominant.

Hence we can expect that the whole moral ideology
of an individual will be most clearly represented
by the aspects of it relating to sexuality, as
these directly express the dominant element in the
structure which determines his whole moral ideology.

Thus when critics of moral ideology (e.g. Reich)
concentrate their attack on sexual morality, while
claiming that it is, morality as such which they

are attacking, they are not merely ‘speaking with
the vulgar’ and using the word ‘moral’ to mean
‘sexually moral’; their practice is justified by
sound theoretical considerations.

2.The Social Function of
M,oral Ideology
Historical Materialism must treat morality as an
ideology with a function in any society based on
class exploitation. Any exploiting class will
benefit from the prevalence of an ideology which
will reconcile the exploited to the deprivation of
possible satisfactions which they will suffer as a
resul t of the’ir exploi ta tion. Hence the required
ideology must be antagonistic to natural values
(happiness, the satisfaction of wants) and lead
its adherents to be prepared to sacrifice them.

Its function is thus negative, but it must make
this negative aspect appear as in some way a
positive value. Its imperatives must stand
independently of and in opposition to naturalistic
ones. Finally it must persuade its adherents to
change themselves – abandon wants they have in
favour of ones which can be fulfilled in the context of the class society in which they are

A moral ideology must therefore (a) be independent of and antagonistic to naturalistic values;
(b) be conducive to the attempt to change oneself
rather than to change the world; (c) find a source
of appeal other than that based on conduciveness
to satisfaction. If we examine the way that any
moral theory seeks to seduce its victims we can
easily see that it is by flattering their vanity.


Anti-Naturalism, Self-Change and self-Flattery
Let me say a little more about each of these
characteristics of moral ideologies.

(a) There
is a whole class of moral theories which place
value in moral action itself, not in any end of
moral action. This tradition, deriving from
stoicism and the more irrationalistic forms of
Christianity, found its clearest expression in Kant
and Fichte, but also has left its mark on most
modern moral philosophy, e.g. existentialism,
prescriptivism. This is the clearest form of
moralism in its aspect of independence of and antagonism to naturalistic practical reasoning. An
unbridgeable gap is placed between natural values
and moral imperatives, and the latter are supposed
to take absolute priority. Other modern theories,
such as utilitarianism, share the form of these
theories; they derive their moral imperatives from
natural values, but create a gap between those
values and those imperatives by introducing the
principle of universality, viz. that it is the
(naturalistic) good of all which is to be pursued
by each individual; this moral imperative taking
absolute priority over the naturalistic good of
each individual to whom it is addressed. These
theories I have suggested elsewhere 11 are contradictory insofar as the rational content – the
naturalistic aim – cannot be realised by the sort
of practice dictated by their moral form – the
responsibility of each individual to pursue
disinterestedly the good of all, but only by
collective practice in the self-interest of all.

Imagine a community of strict utilitarians Godwinians for example – allowing their mothers
to burn to death while they rescued great scientists from the flames. 12 The aim of all their
actions would be universal happiness, but can
anyone believe that they would get even averagely
near achieving that aim. (NB this is not the
‘hedonistic paradox’. It is the altruism, not
the hedonism of the utilitarians which is selfdefeating) .

Finally there are moral theories which are axio-

logical in nature, but put forward values which are
not of a naturalistic kind, i.e. are not based on
a scientific theory of human needs, wants, motivation etc. The realisation of these ‘higher’

values (why do we assess values in terms of distance from the ground? This is also something that
psychoanalysis can answer – ‘displacement upwards’)
is given priority over that of natural values,
hence the characteristic of moralism that a subclass of putative reasons for acting (moral ones)
are given precedence over others is preserved.

Now it is by no means the case that the removal
of moral motives would leave man motiveless; it
would leave him to rationally pursue his naturalistic ends. Practical reason of a non-moral kind
involves understanding one’s own needs, developing
them in such a way that their most satisfying form
of satisfaction is possible, gaining knowledge of
and therefore power over the world, selecting the
best means for the satisfaction of needs, etc.

Practical reason in this sense is not universalistic in nature, i.e. it does not necessarily take
‘the good of all’ as its end; but it by no means
follows that it is ‘egoistic’, in that (i) motives
that are other-regarding (though not disinterested)
will enter into it – i.e. love, friendship, etc.

(ii) It will often be in the collective mode, i.e.

the question will be not ‘what shall I do’ but
‘what shall we do’, collective naturalistic selfinterest being the ground for choice. The prescriptive mode here is conditional on and hence
in no way independent of or antagonistic to
natural values (which by no means precludes
conflict of values, and hard decisions). The
introduction of an ‘autonomous’ form of practical
reasoning, antagonistic to natural values is not
inevitable, but serves the function of making
people decide against themselves, and hence for
their exploiters.

(b) An exploited class can react to the frustration of its needs by seeking to change society
so that they need no longer be frustrated, which
will involve revolting against its exploiter~,
if possible overthrowing them. The exploiting
class has an interest in the adopt’ion of the
alternative reaction to frustration on the part
of the exploited, i.e. the effort to, change themselves, to adapt their needs to the possibilities
open within the exploitative system. Every moral
ideology enjoins self-change as opposed to the
effort to change the world. It calls on its victims to take sides with the world as it is,
against their own needs, and hence, in a society
in which exploitation is the main source of frustration, to take sides with their exploiters against

These two practices can be seen in history,
progress consisting largely in the transition in
one area after another from self-change to worldchange as the primary means of resolving problems.

Progress is the replacement of fear of God by
lightning-conductors, of prudence by social insurance, of courage by safety, of chastity by contraception, of charity by social services, of hard work
by technology. The progress of science and the
widening of the strata of the population with a
share in power over their destinies, involves
the progressive redundancy of the virtues, of all
that involves self-control, resignation, selfdenial, responsibility, etc.

(c) Thirdly there is the question: wherein lies
the attraction of these antinaturalistic moralities, requiring as they do a degree of self-change
which can only be described as violence towards
oneself? Their appeal I have suggested is in
their flattery of human vanity, and anyone can
verify this claim easily by reference to’any moral
argument, whether at a popular or a philosophical
level. A person’s vanity is flattered when his
differentia from other beings are praised. In
most cases in the moral sphere, it is the differentia of humans from other species which are made


the basis of this flattery; men are praised for
being unlike animals, and urged to cultivate
those characteristics with differentiate.them
from animals, and despise those which they share
with them. There are even arguments· aPout what
really distinguishes man from the beasts, the
point of which appears to be: whatever it is, that
we shou~d cultivate. Thus philosophers such as
Aristotle have claimed that man is essentially
the rational animal, and hence most human when
doing philosophy (note how professional as well
as human vanity is operative here); some Marxists
have given a moral twist to Marx’s conception of
the importance of social labour in differentiating
men from beasts, and regarded man as most human
when building power stations; and it has been
alleged in hippy literature that man is the only
species of which the female can achieve orgasm wi th obvious implications.

(There are also various’

theories, of less philosophical interest, which
take arbitrary subgroups of the human species aryans, males, females – as the group whose
differentia are to be cultivated; and certain
versions of existentialism – e.g. Kierkegaard’s appear to aim at accentuating individual particularities.

One may perhaps use Rousseau’s dichotomy of
self-love and vanity (amour de soi and amour
proprc) to characterise this dichotomy between
forms of practical reason which aim at the satisfaction of desires (self-love) and those which
serve to increase self-esteem (vanity). There
have been various relative evaluations of these
motives. For Rousseau, self-love is preferable as
not leading to conflict except through scarcity,
whereas vanity creates infinite wants, and is in
a sense intrinsically scarce (i.e. my vanity is
gratified by injuring yours). A similar view has
been held by the Taoists, and also the hippies.

Self-love is ‘doing your own thing’, vanity is
‘ego-tripping’. On the other hand, for classical
bourgeois morality in its Christian and idealist
forms, self-love is ‘selfishness’ and is deplored,
while there is a veritable cult of self-esteem,
‘not losing ones self’ etc, i.e. of vanity. Of
course, insofar as the former condemn ‘egotripping’ morally they are merely inconsistent and
in no better case than the latter. The attempt to
eliminate vanity from human motivation could only
be motivated by vanity. The point against vanity
with which I am concerned here relates to its
ineological – one might say its cognitive effect.

Self-love requires knowledge of oneself
and the world as a necessary means to satisfaction.

Vanity on the other, leads to egocentric errors
(arguing from one’s own experience and intuitions,
overvaluing one’s own – supposed – qualities even
when they are intrinsically undesirable, etc).

Hence it should be eliminated from the determinants of theory, even though it may be indulged in

It should be noted that one of the characteristics of the moralities of vanity is that they
take as a value not the ends supposedly secured by
morality, but the practice of morality itself, for
it is this which, for one reason or another, is
invested with esteem.

Hence morality conditions
axiology rather than vice versa. This has implications for the aspect of these moralities as

If it is better to suffer evil than
to inflict it, it is better also to give others
the privilege of suffering evil rather than inflicting it.

Hence the welfare of others comes to
include their ‘moral welfare’, and in general,
the restraint of their self-love and the gratification of their vanity. According to this view,
one moral obligation is to treat people as persons
i.e. as responsible moral subjects whose selfconception is generally correct, etc. This involves, as the idealist forbears of personalist
ethics saw, punishment rather than treatment of
offenders, etc.

No one with even a nodding ac-


quaintance with Marx and Freud can believe that
people really are ‘persons’. Even if the term
‘person’ does not have the specifically moral
connotations that it does for our Kantians, it is
certainly a concept intended to differentiate
humans from other beings, and pander to the
vanity arising from the differentiation. Apart
from this the concept is pointless for ‘ethics’.

The prevalent contemporary moral ideology seems to
centre on the idea that it is moral to treat
people as persons, immoral to treat them as notpersons. Yet one literally never treats people
simply as persons – it is always more specific
than that; rather one treats one person as a friend
to have a beer and a chat with, another as a lover
to go to bed with, a third as a comrade to sell
revolutionary papers with, and yet another as a
bore to be avoided (these are of course not all
mutually exclusive). There is no way of treating
someone simply as a person.

But neither is there
a way of treating someone as not a person
except in the narrow legal/moral sense of ‘person’,
in which it is correct to treat people as not

(A psychopath perhaps might stub a cigar
out in someone’s face, not for kicks like Maggie’s
Pa in Bob Dylan’s song, but simply because he
wanted to put out his cigar, and the face was
conveniently ready to hand; this perhaps would
count as treating someone as not a person; Maggie’s
Pa’s behaviour on the other hand could not be so
described; his kicks presumably depend on it
being a person that he is treating in this way.13)
In politics likewise one should not treat
people as ‘persons’, but as workers or bourgeois,
comrades or class enemies, etc.

The normal political implication of personalist ethics is ‘classless’ liberalism, though it can also issue in a
sort of metaphysical revolt seeking political out-~
lets, which, because it seeks real solutions to
imaginary problems, tends towards fascism.

A further feature of this appeal of morality to
vanity is the conception of freedom as freedom
from needs by means of the negation Qf needs,
rather than by satisfaction of them.

to necessity is taken as an affront to human vanity,
and hence an attempt is made to portray man as
capable of achieving freedom.,from his needs, not
by satisfying them and creating a ‘realm of freedom’ beyond the ‘realm of necessity’, but by
escaping from the latter.

In the name of this
freedom the urge to satisfaction is denied.

Because needs require external objects for their
satisfaction, this concept of freedom is characterised as independence of the external world, as
opposed to power over the world, which would coincide with freedom in the materialist sense.

Perhaps it is this point that makes clearest both
the role of moralism in the service of exploitation, and the interconne~tion of the three features
of moralism – its antinaturalism, cult of selfchange, and self-flattery, Of course no one can
in reality be independent of the material world or
of his fellows, and the believe that one can is
at once an illusion of the privileged (who are
actually freed from need in the genuine, materialist way, by their satisfaction) and an ideology
commending itself·to the self-esteem of the underprivileged, serving both to justify their deprivation and promote their atomisation.

It can easily
be seen that this cult of independence has a strong
appeal to vanity, urges self-change rather than
world-change, and manifests the hostility to
natural needs characteristic of all moralism.

Finally it may be noted that the mystification
of the deprived by the vanity of morality is for
the most part spontaneous. When one is deprived
of the means to satisfy one’s needs, one wants
their satisfaction, but in the absence of their
satisfaction one wants to retain one’s selfrespect vis-a-vis the privileged. There is therefore a spontaneous tendency to – quite literally make a virtue out of a necessity.

But one then
clings to one’s virtues – i.e. one’s necessities,

one’s dissatisfaction – for reasons of ‘vanity’:

(Cf. Nietzsche’s account of the genesis of slavemorali ty. 14)
It is especially important for leftist political
groups to recognise the existence of these selfproducing ideologies of the oppressed, and to
combat them. Any oppressed class will tend, for
motives of ‘self-esteem’ to make virtues out of
its own characteristics as an oppressed and therefore deprived class, and to cling to and propagate
these ‘virtues’; yet this is just what is most
conducive to the continuation of their oppression
and deprivation.


Ideologies Under Capitalism

It may be worthwhile at this point to say something
about the moral ideologies specific to the capitalist mode of production.

The optimum moral ideology Ln any mode of production will be that which
produces in each class acceptance of the obligation
to fulfil its function in that mode of production.

simultaneously, it must appear that no class is
‘losing out’ in the process. Thus in ‘feudal
ethics’ each class is asslgned different duties
and/or privileges, and this is justified in terms
of the proper function of the respective classes
in the state.

In capitalism, however, class
oppression, no longer hallowed by the ‘divine
order of things’ has to be denied in ideology – so
far as possible the fact of the existence of
classes has to be repressed.

This manifests itself as a generalised petty bourgeois appearance
– the dominant ideology treats everyone as a
petty bourgeois, and corresponds most nearly with
the realities of petty bourgeois existence.

J:::veOryone appears as the autonomous possessor (and
P6s~ible vendor) of his property and his ‘properties’. Everyone has something to sell – the
capitalist sells his product, the worker sells
his labour-power.

Both receive the same benefit
in exchange – money. The qualitative differences
between labour-power and other commodities,
between the need for food and shelter and the need
for surplus value, between dominance and subordination in the factory, is suppressed, in the image
of a universal petty bourgeois market place where
reign ‘Freedom, Equality, Property and Bentham.,15
Thp- illusoriness of this generalised petty bourgeois appearance is familiar to readers of Capital;
but it has its effects at the level of moral
ideology, as has often been noted.

The individual
is devided into a ‘person’ (autonomous and inviolable) and his properties or works (saleable at
will) .16 This is of interest primarily because it
reinforces what I have already argued to be the
formal characteristics of any morality – universal
individual responsibility; and because it contributes to the obliteration of the structured
hierarchy of needs in favour of a mass of interchangeable wants.

Now let us leave the apparently ubiquitous (or
ubiquitously apparent) petty-bourgeois, and look
at the functions of the members of the two main
classes in the capitalist mode of production – the
bourgeoisie and the proletariat.

Both bourgeois
and proletarian appear in two roles – in production and in consumption.

Inherent in the capitalist mode of production is the pressure to hold
down the wage of the worker and increase the
intensity and duration of his work. This means
that a morality of self-sacrifice is requisite.

But the bourgeois, as capitalist, has the function
of accumulating capital, he is the instrument of
capital’s self-expansion.

Hence the requirements
of the system are against his self-indulgence by
taking to.o much revenue out of the surplus value
produced, and thus reducing the fund for the selfexpansion of capital. Thus the requirement of
self-sacrifice is laid on the capitalist as well,
and if the sanction of necessity does not force
this on him with the same rigour as it does on
the worker, it is all the more important that the

ideological sanctions should not fail (and indeed
the workers have never been such devotees of the
puritan secular asceticism of work as the
bourgeois once were) .17
Hence it can be seen that the negativity of
morality is quite universal in the capitalist
mode of production.

However there is another
tendency combatting it; both worker and bourgeois
are consumers, as well as fulfilling roles in the
process of production. IS
The ethic of consumption (the requirement to
pursue maximum quantity of an unlimited and undifferentiated series of goods) is likewise general.

Thus whereas in previous modes of production the
class contradictions specific to those modes of
production were reflected in the addressing of
different moral imperatives to members of different classes, within a single moral code, the
class contradictions of the capitalist mode of
production are not reflected in the morality of
that system.

However the contradictions of capitalism are reflected in morality as a contradiction within morality – i.e. contradictory imperatives are addressed to everyone, rather than
different imperatives being addressed to different
classes – and this coincides with the repression
of the fact of the existence of classes in
bourgeois ideology.

However, the ‘consumer’ aspect of capitalist
‘ethics’, though it is the ‘civilising’ aspect,
still suffers from a repression of class difference, which here leads to the assumption of the
inter-exchangeability of wants, and the elimination of the concept of needs, as already noted.

Hence the two broad types of moral theory
noted above – those which eXC:olude naturalistic
values altogether, and those which interpret them
on a monetary model (utilitarianism). The nonquantitative conception of happiness which dominated pre-capitalist moral theories has disappeared.

3.The Psychic Economy ot
Moral Ideology
Three characteristics have been noted which all
moral ideologies must have if they are to fulfil
their cohesive function in societies based on
class exploitation: they must be antagonistic to
naturalistic values rather than serving them;
they must enjoin self-change rather than change
of the world; and they must appeal to the vanity
of the oppressed as against their material satisfaction.

These three differences between moralistic and naturalistic practical reason can
immediately be aligned with three pairs of psychoanalytic concepts; the superego and the ego; autoplasticity and alloplasticity; narcissism and

Practical reason in the service of human needs
and wants is a function of the ego; moral requirements, as antagonistic to these needs and wants
are deri-/ed from the superego.

Hence the conflict
between the naturalistic and moralistic forms of
practical reason takes place in the individual
psyche as a conflict between ego and superego.

The ego has the task of mediating between the
instinctual demands of the id, and reality.

seeks the most advantageous means of satisfaction
for these demands and acts on the world accordingly_ The superego is originally the internalisation of paternal authority, but this forms the
core of a complex structure in which later
authorities, directly mediating societal norms,
are also incorporated. 19
Thus in his paper ‘On Narcissism: an Introduction’,20 in which Freud used the concept ‘egoideal’ for what he later called the superego, he

For that which prompted the person to form an
ego-ideal, over which his conscience keeps
guard, was the influence of parental criticism


(conveyed to him by medium of the voice),
reinforced, as time went on, by those who
trained and taught the child and by all the
other persons of his environment – an indefinite host, too numerous to reckon (fellowmen, public opinion).

The institution of conscience was at
bottom an embodiment, first of parental
criticism, and subsequently of that of
socie~y. [pS3]
Now Freud tells us that the gratification
obtained in serving this ego-ideal is essentially
narcissistic. This is made quits clear in the
following passage from the same paper, which it
is worth quoting at length, as indicating the
place of morality in the psychic economy:


Repression, as we have said, proceeds from the
ego; we might say with greater precision: from
the self-respect of the ego. The very impressions, experiences, impulses and desires that
one man indulges or at least consciously
elaborates in his mind will be rejected with
the utmost indignation by another, or stifled
at once even before they enter consciousness.

The difference between the two, however – and
here we have the conditioning factor in
repression – can easily be expressed in terms
of the libido-theory. We may say that the one
man has set up an ideal in himself by which
he measures his actual ego, while the other is
without this formation of an ideal. From the
point of view of the ego this formation of an
ideal would be the condition of repression.

To this ideal ego is now directed the selflove which the real ego enjoyed in childhood.

The narcissism seems to be now displaced on to
;~his new ideal ego, which, like the infantile
ego, deems itself the possessor of all
perfections. (ppSO-Sl]

This makes clear the psychological mechanism by
which the demands of the superego for instinctual
renunciation in the interests of a socially
required anti-natural morality, present themselves
as gratifications of narcissism, and hence acquire
a grip on the individual. Moreover the greater
the ;rustrations of the object-libido (i.e. in the
central case – of !exual desire for another person)
imposed by this morality, the greater the supply of
libido narcissistically withdrawn from the world,
available for investment in the ego-ideal. Such
narcissistic gratification must be viewed as a
neurotic or psychotic alternative to gratification
in the real world; it is an alternative use of
energy, a withdrawal of cathexis from other people
to one’s ego-ideal.

In his paper on ‘The Loss of Reality in Neurosis
and psychosis’,21 Freud characterises neurosis,
psychosis and psychic health in the following way:

… in neurosis a part of reality is avoided
by a sort of flight, but in psychosis it is
remodelled. (i.e. not remodelled by practice,
but ‘in the mind’] … neurosis does not deny
the existence of reality, it merely tries to
ignore it; psychosis denies it and tries to
substitute something else for it. A reaction
which combines features of both of these is
the one we call normal or ‘healthy’; it denies
reality as little as neurosis, but then, like
a psychosis, is concerned with effecting a
change in it. This expedient normal attitude
leads naturally to some active achievement in
the outer world and is not content, like a
psychosis, with establishing the alteration
within itself; it is no longer auto-plastic
but allo-plastic. (pp279-80]
Thus, in self-change as an alternative to
changing the world, carried out from narcissistic
motives in response to the demands of the superego, we see the three characteristics of moral
ideology united into a system in the neurotic


psychic economy. Psychosis is a “further stage
in the misconception of reality developed on this
basis. 22
The psychic econo~y of moral ideology may be
represented thus:





(a) libidinal demands
(b) narci~sistic ~ratification by identification with e~o-ideal
(c) moral restraints
(d) aspects of the real world anta~onistic
to satisfl3ction
(e) ~r~tification of ob4ect – libido

Certain of my assertions in the earlier parts
of this paper can now be justified. As internalised parental authority is the core of the superego, the patriarchal family must be the basis of
all moral ideology. Later authorities have psychic
force only because the superego is already formed
in the family situation, and”feelings which
originated in relation to the father transferred
onto them. Libido is diverted from sexual objects to provide the energy for this essentially
narcissistic cathexis. Hence the ISAs are
necessarily authoritarian and anti-sexual; therein
lies their effectivity.23
As long as the superego is strong, frustrations
imposed by the present structure of social reality
will reinforce moral ideology; weaken the superego, and they will be seen as intolerable retraints, to be resisted and if possible abolished
by the overthrow of that structure. Recent
ideological history has tended to verify this
view: as sexual freedom has made advances (albeit
limited ones) in western society, there has been
less tolerance of the irrational authority of
bosses and bureaucrats by young people. Reich’s
claim that the less sexually repressed an individual was the more likely he would be to fight
class exploitation and political oppression, has
been confirmed, and the concept of ‘repressive
de-sublimation’ exposed as a mystification.

Of course Freud himself was far from being a
political revolutionary and did not draw these
conclusions. Yet he was a true scientist, and as
such was ‘of the devil’s party without knowing
it’. He was not unaware of the historical dimension of moral ideology, or of Lts neurotic form.

This can be seen from papers such as that on
”’Civilised” Sexual Morality and Modern Nervousness’,24 or from the following passage:

In our research into, and therapy of, a
neurosis, we are led to make two reproaches
against the super-ego of the individual. In
the severity of its commands and prohibitions
in troubles itself too little about the
happiness of the ego, in that it takes insufficient account of the resistances against
obeying them – of the instinctual strength of
the id (in the first place), and of the
difficulties presented by the real external
environment (in the second). Consequently
we are very often obliged, for therapeutic
purposes, to oppose the super-ego, and we
endeavour to lower its demands.

Civilisation … merely admonishes us that the
harder it is to obey the precept the more
meritorious it is to do so. But anyone who
follows such a precept in present day civilisation only puts himself at a disadvantage
vis-a-vis the person who disregards it. 25
He even concludes that a change in the relation·
of human beings to possessions would be of more
help than any ethical commands, though he combines
this with a criticism of socialists (not, I fear,
unjustified) for having ‘a fresh idealistic misconception of human nature’.

The Fight Against Moral Ideology
The implications of the foregoing analysis for the
immediate ideological struggle of the workers’

movement are easily stated:

(1) Propaganda (the dissemination of ideas)
must always be seen in a wider context of the unconscious determinants of ideology. For instance
the appeal of fatuous slogans like ‘firm and fair
rule’ or ‘people matter’ can only be understood in
terms of the idealised father and infantile
narcissism respectively.

The ideological practice of the left should be
based on the materialist recognition that ideas are
not produced by ideas but by material/social
conditions; propaganda must be subordinated to
other forms of ideological struggle, as a mere
accessory. The organisation of collective action
on the part of the workers, and also of other
oppressed groups, to achieve their ends by
struggle against their oppressors, already transforms, the micro-social structures which perpetuate
ide9i~gy, by overcoming atomisation, deference etc,
as ways in which these situations are lived.

This forms a basis for the transformation of ideas
All this applies to other forms of ideology as
well as moral ideology, and is generally accepted
by left-wing organisations, though there is a
tendency among unorganised leftists to miss these

(2) In relation to specifically moral ideology,
the main task is to eliminate it from the determinants of propaganda.

There exists on the left
a deplorable tendency to couch political propaganda in terms of conspiracy and betrayal, and
to attack ‘corrupt’ individuals rather than
capitalist institutions, thus playing the same
diversionary game as Heath’s talk of ‘unacceptable faces of capitalism’. The nauseating
hysteria of certain socialist journalists over
the Lambton affair is a striking, if politically
unimportant, example of this.

(3) Recognition of the role of the family,
sexuality and character-structure in the production
of ideology means that the vexed and dangerous
question of ‘life-styles’ cannot be avoided. This
issue is dangerous because, once raised, it is
extremely difficult to avoid moralistic solutions.

This results from the fact that it is only on the
basis of socialist institutions that the determinants of character-structure can be changed, and
to require people to change within present society
would be no more than a moralistic impertinence. 26
It is best therefore in this connection to
formulate some negative principles:

(i) There is no moral basis for socialism, no
such thing as ‘living as a socialist’ within
capitalist society, and no imperatives incumbent
upon socialists as such other than that of working
for socialism. How a socialist gets his money or
his kicks is politically irrelevant.

(ii) The structure of a revolutionary organisation cannot be the same as that of an ISA (e.g.

the army or the church as described by Freud).

While it is true that the workers’ party in no
way prefigures in its organisational form the
future society, it must not reproduce the ideology
of bourgeois society either.27
Beyond this all that can be said is that

socialists should take psychoanalysis more ser~
iously, not only as a theory, but as a practice;
and, in general, should take every opportunity
to promote the weakening of the ‘cultural superego’ .

The final question which
wish to raise
(without any hope of reaching a solution) is that
of the fate of moral ideology in a socialist or
communist society. The classical position of
marxism on this subject is that morality as an
autonomous form of practical reason would disappear with the abolition of class antagonisms. 28
This is perfectly correct, if what is meant is
that moral ideology would be a dysfunctional
historical anomaly if it existed in a socialist
society which had abolished classes, the state
and material scarcity.

Freud saw the superego as potentially func~
tio~al as an ally of the ego against the id.

This view however assumes a degree of antagonism
between impulse and prudential reason, a degree
of necessity for gratification-deferment, which
would not exist in the type of society in
question. 29 The collectivization of man’s prudential and altruistic concerns would make it
increasingly possible to live by impUlse. Moreover there is nothing in Freudian metapsychology
to support the conclusion that a rational content
can be given to the demands of the superego; it
is essentially negative in relation to the,
instinctual demands of the id.

However it is not a priori impossible that the
psychological determinants of moral ideology would
prove to be inelminable. The question of their
possible elimination must be posed at the level of
the character-structural effects of material conditions (including social institutions).

Clearly a struggle against moral ideology at
the level of ideas would be at best insufficient,
at worst just another moral ideology. The only
way to prevent the formation of a superego would
be the transformation of the family-structure. to
the extent that there was no one in that relationship to the child that the parent of the same sex
occupies in present society.

Suppose the unit for the care of cpildren were
a commune, comprised of several adults of both
sexes, whose sexual life was not monogamous, and
Who shared tasks in relation to their children.

It need not be supposed that sexual relationships
would be completely promiscuous, or that the
children would have no closer relations with their
parent(s) than with other adults. There would
nevertheless be no one person who would be the
source of authority and security for the child,
and the rival for the affection of the parent of
the opposite sex. The core of the superego – the
prohibiting parent, internalised as a precipitate
of oedipal conflicts – would be absent; given the
absence too of the producers of the secondary
aspects of the superego – authoritarian apparatuses – and of social obstacles to sexual freedom,
one can envisage the withering away of the superego and the emergence of a generation of people
who could resolve the conflicts between their
desires and the world by an informed and cooperative practice without the intervention of
moral motives.

Whether or not this is possible,
it is only in this direction that socialists can
look for the elimination of a type of ideology
which can be useful only to a society based on
class-exploitation. What must be decisively
rejected is any attempt to inculcate a ‘higher
socialist morality’, whether this is old bourgeois
morality writ large, as in state-capitalist
countries, or some new ideal worked out in abstraction from real human needs.


Let me provisionally distinguish morality from
the non-moral or ‘naturalistic’ practical













reason that couid replace it in this way:

Moral imperatives are addressed in a universalistic way (to anyone, by anyone, for anyone)
to individual responsibility, with blame
(possibly punishment) as a sanction for default;
‘naturalistic’ practical ‘imperatives’ are
addressed in a particularist way (to a specific
group, by that group, for that group – the
individual as ‘unit group’ being the limiting
case) to collective action for the satisfaction
of needs, the sanction for default being that
those needs remain unsatisfied.

In Lenin and Philosophy, New Left Books, 1971.

See his essays ‘Contradiction and Overdetermination’ and ‘On the Materialist Dialectic’,
in For Marx, Penguin, 1969.

For two such accounts, see Normal Geras’

‘Marx and the Critique of Political Economy’

in Ideology in social science, ed. Robin
Blackburn, and John Mepham’s ‘Ideology in
Capital’, in Radical Philosophy 2.

Beyond Good and Evil, ‘Epigrams and Interludes’,

In New Left Review 78.

See also Jacques Ranciere’s criticisms of
Althusser in his essay: ‘On the Theory of
Ideology – the Politics of Louis Althusser’

in Radical Philosophy 7.

Fundamental Problems of Marxism, p80.

I make no reference to Reich’s later speculations.

His apostasy alike from scientific
rigour and socialist politics has led to a
regrettable neglect of his contribution to
science by serious Marxists.

This neglect has
been reinforced by the peculiarly pharisaical
form which his amoralism often takes – at once
upholding the perfection of unrestrained man,
and bristling with self-righteousness at any
deviation from this ideal.

However it is as easy
to peel off Reich’s romanticist ideology from
his scientific contribution as it is to peel
off Freud’s classicist ideology from his.

The views of Reich that I refer to in the
text are best set out in the middle section of
Character Analysis. The Sexual Revolution and
The Mass Psychology of Fascism are useful
applications of those ideas to the study of

Beyond Good and Evil, ‘Epigrams and Interludes’,

In my article ‘Truth and Practice’, Radical
Philosophy 5.

See Godwin’s Political Justice, bk.~, ch.2,
‘Of Justice’.

The song is ‘Maggie’s J”arm’ on his LP ‘Bringing
it all back home’.

In his Genealogy of Morals.

It may be noted
however that the master-morality too is motivated by vanity – i.e. self-differentiation from
the slaves.

It is not a naturalistic practice
aimed simply at satisfaction.

Capital, vol.I, p176.

On this point, interestinJ ~~~k ~as been done
by Herbert Marcuse (‘A Study on Authority’ in
studies in Critical Philosophy), C B Macpherson
(in Possessive Individualism), and Istvan
Meszaros (on ‘universal saleability’ in Marx’s
Theory of Alienation). One of the sources of
the personalist ideology referred to earlier can
be seen in this feature of bourgeois society.

Unfortunately the market relations which form
the basis of this ideology are criticised in
part from the standpoint of this ideology itself, which is as self-defeating as Proudhon’s
attempt to criticise bourgeois property relations from the standpoint of the bourgeois
justice to which they gave rise.

Thus in his 1844 manuscripts Marx says of
bourgeois political ecohomy:

… its true ideal is the ascetic but extortionate miser and the ascetic but productive
slave . ..

Thus political economy – despite its worldly
and wanton appearance – is a true moral science,
the most moral of all sciences. Self-denial,
the denial of life and of all human needs, is
its cardinal doctrine.

The less you eat, drink,
and read books; the l~~s you go to the theatre,
the dance hall, the public house; the less you
think, love, theorize,’sing, paint, fence, etc,
the more you save – the greater becomes your
treasure which neither moths nor dust will
devour – your capital.’ (pllO, Moscow edition)





In the Grundrisse Marx says:

‘” although every capitalist demands that his
workers should save, he means only his own
workers, because they relate to him as workers;
and by no means does this apply to the remainder
of the workers, because these relate to him as

In spite of all the pious talk
about frugality he therefore searches for all
possible ways of stimulating them to consume,
by making his commodities more attactive, by
filling their ears with babble about new needs.

It is precisely this side of the relationship
between capital and labour which is an essential civilising force, and on which the
historic justification – but also the contemporary power – of capital is based.

(quoted by Martin Nicolaus in his essay ‘The
Unknown Marx in Ideology in Social Science,
ed. Robin Blackburn)
perhaps socialists should stop carping moralistically about the evils of the advertising
industry and recognise in it an unwitting
ally – arousing the workers’ awareness of the
good things of life which the forces of production developed by capitalism can produce, but
which the capitalist relations of production
prevent the mass of workers from obtaining.

Se’e The Ego and the Id for Freud’s systematic
elucidation of the formation and interaction
of the ‘institutions of the psyche’, ego,
superego and id.

In Freud’s Collected Papers, vol. IV.

Collected Papers, vol.II.

Cf. Marx’s 4th thesis on Feuerbach:

.,. the fact that the secular foundation lifts
itself above itself and est~blishes itself in
the clouds as an independent realm is only to
be explained by the self-cleavage and selfcontradictorines of this secular basis.

latter must itself, therefore, first be understood in its contradiction and then, by the
removal of the contradiction, revolutionised
in practice. Thus, for instance, once the
earthly family is discovered to be the secret
of the holy family, the former must then itself be theoretically criticised and radically
changed in practice.

See Freud’s account of the army and the church
in Group Psychology and the Analysis of the

Freud argues that the cohesion of these groups
depends on their members identifying with their
fellows at the level of the ego, projecting their
ego-ideal onto the leader, whilst ‘the love
relation between men and women remains outsiqe
these organisations.’ (p73)
Collected Papers, vol.II.

Civilisation and its Discontents, pp79-80.

Cf. Engels in Ludwig Feuerbach and the Outcome
of Classical German Philosophy:

Only very exceptionally, and in no case to his
and other people’s profit, can an individual
satisfy his urge towards happiness by preoccupation with himself. Rather it requires
preoccupation with the outside world, means to
satisfy his needs, that is to say, means of
subsistence, an individual of the opposite sex,
books, conversation, argument, activities,
objects for use and working up. Feuerbach’s
morality either presupposes that these means
and ohject~ of satisfaction are given to every




individual as a matter of course, or else it
offers only inapplicable good advice and is
therefore not worth a brass farthing to people
who are without these means.

To avoid misunderstanding, let me say that
(i) I don’t see much danger of revolutionary
organisations propagating the ideas of the
official bourgeois apologists (with occasional
exceptions like the scandalmongering about
individual bourgeois figures already mentioned) .

Rather it is a question of possibly reproducing
the unconscious determinants of ideology;
(ii) it is not the official bourgeois ideology
which these organisations are in danger of
perpetuating, but the regressive ideologies of
the oppressed (in the sense of Nietzsche’s
account of Christianity). Contemporary examples
of such ideologies which have infected sections
of the left might be ‘ouvrierism’ with its
concomitant anti-theoretical cult of practice,
and radical feminism.

See e.g. the references to morality in The
Communist Manifesto, or in Bukharin’s Historical

Marcuse’s concepts of surplus-repression and
the performance-principle (as the forms which
gratification-deferment and the realityprinciple take under capitalism) are of value

See his Eros and Civilisation.

The significance
~f Yves Blein’s

The first man to compare the cheeks of a
young [voman to a rose h’aS obviously a poet;
the first to repeat it IvaS possibly an

[Preface to Dialogues Ivj th Marcel Duchamp,
Thames and l~dson, 1971, p13]

vhereas it is undeniahly the case that Duchamp,
Tzara and Picabia were original thinkers of a
high standard, it is harder to make similar
judgements in the case of the Neo-Dadaists.

Among the exceptions of the later movement,
Klein is a particularly interesting figure;
and I think that the deepest philosophical
implications of his whole oeuvre are to he
found in the ‘Ritual’.

I~at, then, is the ‘Ritual’?

Its full title:

the Hi tual for the l,elinquishment of the
Immaterial Pictorial ~ensitivitv Zones.

exchanged certificates of Zones of Immaterial
Pictorial sensitivity for gold leaf. These
Zones were ‘immaterial’ therefore, thev could
not be seen or held.

Tn a ,vord, thev were intan’lible. The gold leaf with which these zones
I”,ere purchaserl was anything but immaterial – it
had to be the genuine 22/carat a’rticle!

certificates were valid only when they and half
the gold had been either destroyed or irretri~v­
ably lost. The ‘Ritual’ manifesto, which Klein
wrote in justification of the ‘happening’, enrls
wi th the following ‘…,ords:

From this moment on [the certificate having
been rlestroyed, and half of the golrl lost]
the immaterial pictorial sensitivit11 zone
belongs to the buyer absolutely and intrinsicall!l. The zones havinq been relinquished
in this way are then not an!] more transferable by their owner.

[Yves Klein, 1928-1962, :-:elected fvritinqs,
Tate Gallery Publications, pS3]

Several distinct concepts are questioned
implicitly by the ‘Ritual’ and these will now,
be discussed.

(for Cathy)

Yves Klein is probably best-known as the painter
of huge monochrome canvases, such as the
International Klein Blue series.

However, like
the majority of the Neo-Dadaists, he placed
much emphasis on the event, the ‘happening’, as
opposed to the finished article.

Tt is such a
‘happening’ which is the suhject of this essay.

However, before embarking upon the main part of
my argument, I wish to briefly consider the
achievements of the Neo-Dada movement as a whole,
attempting to demonstrate what an outstanding,
innovating figure Klein was, in an otherwise
tepid, repetitive movement.

Unfortunately, the majority of the NeoDadaists fell into the trap offered by historical repetition and attempted revival. As Marx
wrote in the ‘Eighteenth Brumaire’:

Hegel remarks somewhere that all facts and
personages of great importance in world
history occur, as it were, twice.

He forgot
to add: the first time as tragedy, the
second as farce.

Not only was much that the Neo-Dadaists
‘achieved’ farce (this they would not have
objected to in many cases), it was farce of the
‘worst kind, being dull anq unoriginal. The
judgements made by Marx on the relative values
of ‘the Uncle’ and ‘the Nephew’, have been
reiterated by probably the most un-Ilegelian
mind of the century – Salvador Dali:

So, according to Klein, money can buv a
zone of immaterial nictorial sensitivity. This
may at first seem absurd, but like all the best
absurdities, there is method in the apparent.

madness. Despite the heavy attacks which it is
undergoing at the moment, ‘art’ in our society
is still an essentially elitist category of
interest and participation. The concepts of
‘art’ and ‘property’ remain inextricably
linked. Art still essentially refers to
possessions. These ‘possessions’ need not
necessarily be the country manors and parkland,
the finery and wealth of the landed gentry.

These are primarily material possessions. The
possessions to which much modern, avant-garde
art refers, are intellectual. consider how
much modern art is based upon making allusions.

Finnegan’s Wake and The Waste Land are the two
literary examples pAT excellence. Composers as
far removed from each other in their working
methods as Stockhausen, stravinsky and lIindemith
capitalize upon the audience’s familiarity with
the music of Bach, Beethoven and Mozart. The
visual arts present similar manifestations of
this trend. Consider the allusions which a
painter as un-theatrical as soutine was making
with his painting of a flayed ox (which assumes
an uncanny human shape) which only hecomes
fully comprehensible when one knows of the
Rembrandt ‘Flayed Ox’ in the Louvre. Duchamp’s
notorious~LHOOG similarly makes sense only when
the spectat~r knows of the reputation and cultural ‘sanctity’ which has become attached to
Leonardo’s ‘Mona Lisa’.


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