The Parasitism Of Official Ideology On The Beliefs Of The Ruled

Download: Destroying the Master’s House With the Master’s Tools: Some Notes on the Libertarian Theory of Ideology

Scott does not go far enough, however. He goes too far in stressing the dependence of ideologies of resistance on recuperated content from ideologies of domination, and then neglects the reverse.

By definition, we have made the public transcript of domination ontologically prior to the hidden, offstage transcript. The result of proceeding in this fashion is to emphasize the reflexive quality of the hidden transcript as a labor of neutralization and negation. If we think, in schematic terms, of public transcript as comprising a domain of material appropriation…, a domain of public mastery and subordination…, and, finally, a domain of ideological justification for inequalities…, then we may perhaps think of the hidden transcript as comprising the offstage responses and rejoinders to that public transcript. [94]

But opposition movements do not merely recuperate the symbols and values of the ruling ideology as a weapon against the system of power. The ruling ideology itself was created, in the first place, by appealing to pre-existing symbols and values which possessed resonance in the larger culture.

A good example is the way in which Federalist literature and polemics during the ratification debates over the proposed U.S. Constitution in 1787-1788 attempted to sell it to a skeptical public in terms of the prevailing anglo-republican value system.

James Scott argues that one reason for Marxism’s rapid inroads among the 19th century working class was its powerful resonance with this earlier Judaeo-Christian vision of history:

It is impossible to read the Communist Manifesto without being struck by how much it owes, normatively and structurally, to Christian eschatological thinking: a debased world of oppression and sin, a deepening crisis, a final clash between good and evil, the triumph of good, the perfect society, and the end of history. In this context, the appeal of socialism to the Western working class must have rested, in some part, on how neatly it tracked the millennarian narrative of Christianity they were already familiar with. [95]

The Wobblies, likewise, probably owed a considerable amount of their rapid spread to the adoption of a propaganda style much like that of the Salvation Army, based on street corner bands and soapbox speeches; many Wobbly organizing songs were deliberate parodies of Salvation Army hymns.


94 Scott, Domination and the Art of Resistance, p. 111.

95 Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed, p. 400n.

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