Karl Marx II

I am motivated to post some excerpts from Marx because I got a new secretary in the media laboratory which, for reasons I can explain but do not understand, I seem to supervise. The former secretary, a person after my own heart, had printed out the Communist Manifesto and hung it on the bulletin board. The current secretary appears to be a conservative Christian, and I decided that some of the more obviously subversive decorations would have to go if he were to feel at least marginally comfortable.

An important reason why I like Marx and Althusser is that they talk about ideology, not a set of ideas, you realize, but that “imagined relation
to lived conditions.” So much of what we are trained to consider ‘natural’ – social hierarchies, property, the bourgeois nuclear family – are in fact ideological constructions, and there are alternatives. And because these things are ‘in the [ideological] air we breathe,’ their artificial nature is easy to forget.

In my infamous ‘reeducation,’ for instance, I was expected to feel shame at not having had children. That this was a viable choice, even a revolutionary one, was not a permissible thought. I was also expected to have more trouble than I do with matters such as buying cars and houses, driving long distances alone, and filing income tax returns. I found myself taking these suggestions into consideration. It was a most antifeminist reeducation, but given the antifeminist atmosphere in which I live, it took some time to realize that this reeducation was not being done for the sake of individuation, but of patriarchy.

Yesterday I took the Communist Manifesto off the laboratory bulletin board, and brought it home. I had been planning to work from home in the afternoon, but my Internet connection fell down for an hour or so, and I found myself reading Marx. I actually posted the fragments I posted for apparently frivolous, Friday reasons: I hate “dating”!

I scandalized a friend last month by saying that I hate dating, and am interested only in idyllic, fantasy-like affairs, or else actual relationships. She asked, but how do you get either without first dating? I said, they spring into existence fully formed. They walk up to you. (I would, actually, say something similar about friendships: many of the friends I have, I knew were friends from the moment I met them.) I would add that the idyllic, fantasy-like affairs can turn into actual ‘relationships’. But I think the American tradition of ‘dating’ as test driving, is odd: either it is going to work, or it isn’t. With relationships, as with schools, towns, and jobs as well, every time I have had serious doubts, but still told myself to be sensible, be reasonable, and “give it a chance,” I have been wrong. It has always served me better to trust my instincts. I also think ‘dating’ is often just a way of keeping people on tap but at bay: click here for sex and socializing when you want them, click there to turn them off, when you don’t. In that way it resembles prostitution. My friend was scandalized. Are you?


8 thoughts on “Karl Marx II

  1. I am scandalised by nothing, I think I’m sorry to say, having spent many years up to my knees in the metaphorical sewers of humankind’s construction. There was recent study reported over here which found that (apropos decision-making) the group making decisions quickly and on the basis of ‘gut instinct’ chose more wisely than the group subjecting the process to lengthy and apparently rigorous consideration. And as regards human relationships, how else is one to proceed? ‘Dating’ as science? A dating agency for positivists, perhaps? Pft! It’s in the eyes :o)

  2. You’ve now inspired me to dig out some Marx and do some re-reading.
    GREAT post!
    And dating? OMFG!!! I am SO outta that game, I wouldn’t even know how to go about it. Or even care to pursue it.

  3. PS Me Old Granny used to say that men fell in love through their eyes, and women through their ears. I wonder how true that is?

  4. I assigned “Invitation to Sociology” by Peter Berger and am reading it myself now–loving every line, except for the fact that he didn’t seem to recognize that there were, in fact, women sociologists, as well (everything is “the sociologist…he…” blech!) Anyway, your raising the issue of the socially-constructed ideological base for all these things we think are “natural” evolutions and institutions resonates with Berger, which is fun for me (I love it when things come to me in harmony!)

    As for dating, no, I’m not scandalized. Trying to “engineer” a relationship is like trying to will an orgasm or a bowel movement. Relationships really are natural. We can work at them and sometimes have to–after they’ve first made themselves apparent, but you can’t put just any set of ingredients together and make a cake. The magic is the BEST part…and the most fun. ;^)

    I’m increasingly welcoming fun these days.

  5. CB – I like it! Haven’t explored it much yet, but I like it!

    CS – “Invitation to Sociology” by Peter Berger, another book I need to read (I have been aware of this for some time, but I am glad to be reminded).

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