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Class, Consciousness, Control, Communication

Against this apparatus, which does not merely
reproduce bourgeois relations in the form of
ideological representations but controls access to
knowledge and the instruments of power, the subordinate social groups have, traditionally, little
to offer. However, two things can happen or be made
to happen. One is that the hegemonic apparatus, so
massively and yet so precariously maintained, can
crack under the accumulation of its own internal
contradictions; and the other is that the subordinate
groups can offer a sustained challenge to this
crumbling hegemony. In a complex society the challenge
will not in the first instance by monolithic but will
take the form of an alliance of forces, but according
to historical materialism it is the working class
which will have to take a leading role if the result
of the process is to be the establishment of socialist
relations of production. How this role is to be
construed remains problematic, but Gramsci, for one,
saw the process in terms of the development,on the
terrain of economic relations of production, of an
organic intelligentisia of the working class, capable
of giving political form to a proletarian way of
interpreting the world and of attracting within its
orbit strata of unattached petty bourgeois intellectuals together with representatives of other subordinate and oppressed groups.

There is much that is speculative in Gramsci’s
picture and much that is not fully worked out
theoretically and requires further interpretation and
maybe correction. In conclusion I should like to
make one or two points based on a reading of Lenin
and Gramsci which it seems to me is well founded
theoretically and can be consolidated in social
practice.

Bourgeois hegemony is not static.

its survival on an equilibrium of forces which the
bourgeoisie cannot guarantee, and it has to be
constantly renewed and protected against the appearance of new contradictions through a process of
reproduction of existing ideological relations
throughout the superstructures. (Althusser’ s concept
of the reproduction of the relations of production
through the ideological state apparatus.

Also
through the processes of reproduction themselves) [2].

There are two particular points to be borne in mind
in the struggle to prevent the existing order from
functioning hegemonically: the first is that the
struggle is already happening, and we are part of it;
we are not outside it nor have we invented it.

What we have to do, however, is to define and consolidate our position within it. Second~r the class
struggle (which is what this is) always has an
ideological aspect, which must never be under-rated.

Theoretical struggle and political struggle
both operate on ideology. There is also a struggle
within ideology itself, which has forms as diverse
as artistic activity and consciousness-raising.

~1any Marxists have traditionally been scornful of
wide-ranging forms of political activity which did
not appear at first sight to have ‘class’ content
– for example activity around slogans like ‘fighting
the system’ or ‘building the movement’. But these
are very important aspects of the struggle. They
concern struggle against the materialised ideological apparatus and in favour of a strengthening of
the opposition at the ideological level. As such
they involve hegemony directly and bring the
distant goal of revolution a step nearer.

2

It depends for

Olass, Oonsciousness,
Oontrol, Oommunication
In composing these notes, I imagine myself as
addressing an audience comprised of people whose
professional occupations are conventionally def~ned
in terms of their communcational content: in
particular, journalists, script-writers, teachers,
psychotherapists and, perhaps, social workers. In
other occupation~, whilst communication is indispensable to the carrying out work tasks, it does not
figure in their conventional definition: a teacher
of bricklaying teaches, but a bricklayer lays bricks.

Trelor ‘ateman

groups and their journals now existing in Britain.

There are, no doubt, other reasons than political
ones for the attempts made to be a radical professional (see the cartoon insert in RP 3, for instance),
but I am not here concerned with them. Nor am I
directly concerned with the issue staying in vs
opting out, though my own general preference is for
staying in most things, the Labour Party always
excepted.

Apart from occupational roles, we all occupy
roles which are conventionally defined by their
communicational content – for example, friend or
parent, and what I say has some application to these
roles also.

A part of these notes will deal with what I
think are dominant or important features of typical
patterns and functions of communication between the
professional communicators and their audience.

Another part will propose counter-practices to the
present ones; thus placing these notes within the
frame of reference of radical professionalism (or
radicaloccupationalism). The first generation of
radical students in Britain has graduated and gone to
work, and at work many of these ‘radical ex-students’

have tried to point their performance of job-tasks
in directions dictated by broadly political considerations. This phenomenon is reflected in a number of
(An earlier version of this paper was read at
the Oxford Conference on Social Control in Britain,
6-7th January, 1973)

See L. Althusser, ‘Ideology and the State’ in
Lenin and Philosophy, and Rosaline Delmar, ‘Sexism,
Capitalism and the Family’, in Radical Philosophy 4.

25

I don’t wish to overlook that whilst conventionally defined by their communicational content
occupations contingently or necessarily involve other
activities – teachers still hit their students, social
workers have some say (? is this right) in decisions
about entitlement or non-entitlement to benefit.

Nor do I wish to imply in the inevitable (?) use of
words like ‘function’ and ‘role’ adherence to any
particular sociological theory. Later in these notes
I shall try to use concepts of class and control in
giving explanations of what I take to be typical
patterns of communication within British society and perhaps Western society more generally. And this

implies that the counter-practices I suggest within
the context of radical occupational ism cannot
substitute for a broad political movement directed
against the prevailing structure of ownership, control
and class. In the past, this recognition has allowed
political revolutionaries to remain profe?sional
conservatives – a divorce of practice and practice
as unacceptable today as the politics of the Communist
Parties which saw nothing wrong in such a divorce.

Today, there is an opposite danger: radical
professionalism without (Party-)political engagement.

professional race.

(p.ll )

But the competitive and professional race whilst
– on this analysis – meaningless from the standpoint
of the development of production, is very meaningfUl
from the standpoint of social control – more
accurately, from the standpoint of reproducing the
existing relations of production, though not so much
at the workplace level but at the social and political
level, where fragmenting people is a crucial instrument
of control (Divide and Rule/Unity is Strength).

In Britain today, I think we could understand
many struggles in terms of the kind of contradiction
I have illustrated above. It is not novel: it is
merely an application of the gener&l theory outlined
in Marx’s 1859 Preface concerning the contradiction
between forces and relations of production.

The conventional definitions of teacher, journalist, psychotherapist etc refer to the intention,
object or function of the communications peculiar to
each occupation, as well as to the context of operation of the persons involved (school, newspaper,
clinic). Thus, a teacher teaches, a journalist
informs, a psychotherapist heals or cures.

But this contradiction is not being uniformly
resolved or dominated by the forward march of the
forces of production. The conflict seems to me to
be very unevenly developed, a fact only surprising
because we have been taught a unilinear notion of
historical time. On the one hand, I think one can
find instances in which an institution is implicitly
preparing people for transformed relations of
production – here ‘consciousness’ is ahead of
‘reality’; in others, one finds a reargued defence
of crumbling relations, a defence which, I think,
can only be conducted in increasingly totalitarian
fashion.

What is wrong with such definitions is both that
they overlook the distinction of ideal and reality that is to say, overlook that teachers miseducate,
journalists misinform etc – and also that they take
no account of the other functions performed at the
same time as these defining functions are being well
or badly performed. These other functions are, for
me, most importantly functions of social control.

Both sets of functions come under Althusser’s heading
of the reproduction of the relations of production.

In most cases, and perhaps in all, the two sets
of functions are performed simultaneously. They can
be separated analytically, and I think in practice.

At the level of the contradiction between
communicational and social control functions, I
think the Press and possibly TV are areas where
‘totalitarian’ tendencies are clearly dominant.

This affects the syntax, semantics and logic of the
actual communications – valuable critiques have
already been provided hy George Orwell (the whole of
1984, for instance) and probably even more so by
Karl Kraus (relentless critic of the Austrian Press
and decadent bourgeois culture from l8~9 to 1936;
it is probably worth learning German just to read
his largely untranslateable work) .

What I think are most relevant to us are the
“ays in which the communicational functions and the
social control functions come into conflict or
contradiction. Two examples to clarify what I mean:

In journalism/for the journalist it is part of
his definitional function to inform. This is
relevant in nearly all cases (it ceases to apply
with a paper like France Dimanche where the paper
is self-consciously engaged in pure fahrication).

The actual performance of this function is
encouraged hy some features of the context in
which the paper/journalist operates – e.g.

competition from other papers/journalists – and
inhibited by others – e.g. the social control
function of keeping people politically passive,
making them vote Tory etc, connected to the ownership, control and ideological function of the
paper;
2

In education, I am inclined to think that the
opposite tendency is dominant and I regard education
as a favourable ‘site’ of struggle.

In psychotherapy, the experience of Laing and his
associates does not encourage one to think that healing
and curing is or can be in the present situation a
liberating practice, but rather that it is dominated
by control functions (the ‘engineering’ or ‘soft
police’ approach to the human mind). Strictly, psychotherapy is concerned with the maintenance rather than
the reproduction of the relations of production, and
one could say that antipsychiatry had the same sort of
meaning as industrial sabotage.

In education, meeting changing requirements of the
production process can require (and, I would argue,
does not require) changes not only in the ‘content’

of what is taught but in the ‘methods’ of teaching
– ‘methods’ are equally relevant to the reproduction (and transformation!) of the relations of
production, despite the fact that Althusser seems
to see them as purely instrumental in the transmission of chunks of science or ideology (a point
of view relatively justified if you teach in the
Ecole Normale Sup; but most teachers teach working
class children in schools, where method makes all
the difference). Thus, the author of the
Introduction to Counter Course (Penguin Education,
1972) writes:

Official society is hidebound by forms of
learning and discovery that do not even meet
the needs of its own most advanced sectors.

Planning and research for Modern Industry
require that knowledge is fluid wherever
education is frozen.

It innovates where education copies the obsolete, subverts where
education obeys, integrates and generalizes
where education is parochial, collectivizes
where education sets individual against
individual in a meaningless competitive and

And so on. Each institution or apparatus clearly
requires a separate and detailed analysis which is
obviously beyond the scope of these notes.

II

26

Some people would say that professional functions
(or specialised professionals) are necessarily instruments of social contro) and that therefore either
function or role or both is to be rejected. I do not
accept this position. I think it derives from a
failure to distingUish the two aspects (communicational/social control) which I have separated, and
from an equation of any form of differential knowledge
with actual domination rather than the possibility of
domination. (The absurdity of this position is that
while rejecting some special forms of knowle(lge – e.g.

anything produced in a University – it is forced to
accept certain cultural skills and ends up having to
postulate an arbitrary cut off point – thus, in a
recent pamphlet Who is in Control? conventional

justness, reasonableness and coherence of existing
social practices – political institutions, moral
rules, ‘our conceptual scheme’ etc – and are committed
to proving those points. In other words, they are
conscious or unconscious ideologists: the answers
are known in advance; only the questions and arguments
remain to be found. This is transparent in political
philosophy: we live in a democracy, and this is not
mere opinion; our institutions are essentially democratic. How prove this? Why, demonstrate that our
language obliges us to call our institutions ‘democratic’? And how prove that? Why, by showing that
the word ‘democracy’ is applied to ‘our’ institutions
(and not, e.g. to those of the Russians. That the
Russians call their institutions ‘democratic’ is
neither here nor there, since they don’t do it in
English). I am not exaggerating here :in a paper
The Mystery of Speculative Construction which some
RP readers will know (it’s he en around since 1969;
copies on request) I present a detailed case-study of
procedures not unlike those just caricatured.

grammar is self-consciously rejected, but conventional
spelling and punctuation is very much in evidence and
so we end up with agonising statements like “THIS
BOOK AIN’ T ACADEHIC”. One can sympathise with the
agony of someone who feels trapped by his grammar,
but when he tries to drop it but forgets to drop the
spelling and apostrophes as well, the resulting style
can only strike a note of ringing falsity).

Given the distinction I’ve tried to make, what
scope is there for asserting the communicational
against the control functions? And what does such
an assertion involve?

In my remarks to the Oxford Conference on Social
Control in Britain (Jan 6-7, 1973) from which these
notes derive, I distinguished – abstractly – three
social control effects or functions of supposedly
communicational trades, those of rendering people
passive, fragmented and ‘ignorant’.

And I counterposed to them, equally abstractly – the functions
of encouraging activity, solidarity and knowledge.

In both cases, I see the three categories as closely
interdependent conceptually and from the point of
view of explanation. For example, Laing and
Esterson’s ‘schizophrenic’ girls and women in Sanity,
Madness and the Family are passive to the point of
catatonia, fragmented – isolated from others – in
both practice and theory to the point of solipsism,
and in some extended sense of the term they are
‘ignorant’ (see my interpretation in RP 1, the reply
in RP 2 and my reply in RP 3). All three features
can be successfully related to the family and hospital
context, and I think I indicate some of the conceptual
connexions in my RP notes.

Yet given their own rules, professional philosophers cannot produce the conclusions they want.

Ra ther than challenge the conclus ions, ho””ever, they
end up fudging the arguments, sometimes by tautology,
sometimes by simple bad logic, sometimes by appeal
to what is ‘unimagineable’ and sometimes by simply
not imagining half the problems that really matter.

The student of philosophy is the victim of a
peculiarly vicious double bind – he is told he is
going to be taught to think clearly, objectively etc
and is then muddled up from start to finish. How
many are the philosophy students who mistakenly
conclude they are stupid? (cf. Jonathan R~e in RP 2,
pp.26-7).

Encouraging activity, solidarity and knowledge
will mean different things in different times and
places. Since these notes have been put together for
Radical Philosophy, I will indicate what I think are
some of the relevant existing practices of professional philosophers and some of the counter-practices,
open alike to professional and non-professional
philosophers.

These remarks are, no doubt, half-truths. Yet
they serve to locate a practice against which I wish
to assert the idea of one counter-practice. I’d like
to define a radical philosophical counter-practice
simply consisting in the reflection on one’s own
thought and intervention in discourse and in” social
relationships from the point of view of promoting the
rationality of thought and discourse, the truth of
what is thought and said and the conditions of
possibility of these two things. I set out this
proposition more fully in a paper Outline of a
Conception of Philosophy, available on request.

don’t think the idea is as obvious or trivial as it
may seem, (and there are obviously many more
dimensions to philosophy and Radical Philosophy)
though in fairness to the reader I should say that
both this paper:and the one earlier referred to have
been declined for publication in this journal.

III

I run prepared to assert that professional philosophers are, on average, less logical, less precise,
less lucid than at least some other groups – or at
least, that they fall far short of their own standards
of rigour and precision. I think they are generally
confused and confusing. Yet they are supposedly
(they tell us so themselves) the guardians of rationality and clarity etc. Why should there be this
contradiction? It is I think because they presuppose

******************************************************

“If society at large suddenly resolved, in the
manner of what used to be regarded as progressive
schools, completely to dismantle all machinery of
coercion, there is plenty of reason to apprehend
that things on the whole would go rather worse as
a result than they actually do.”
(G. J . Warnock: The Object of ~1oral i ty)

***********************
“Education is not neutral. It is either a means
for liberation or a means of oppression.”
(Paulo Friere)

27

“In its struggle against these conditions criticism
is not a passion of the head but the head of passion.

It is not a lancet, but a weapon. Its ohject is an
enemy it wants not to refute but to destroy …..

The criticism dealing with this matter is criticism
in hand-to-hand combat, and in such a combat the
point is not whether the opponent is nohle, equal,
or interesting, the point is to strike him.

The
point is to permit the Germans not even a moment
of self-deception and resignation. 1I1e must make
the actual pressure more pressing by adding to it
the consciousness of pressure and make the shame
more shameful by pub lici zing it.” (Harx)

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