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But rather than criticize Glen and Mitchell on these grounds Williams goes them one better, as if literary criticism can only make progress by dialectically absorbing and resituating previous stances.
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A little later Williams suggests that not the Songs but their readings can be called innocent or experienced. If all of us Blake critics have enlisted under a mental or a corporeal banner, then I must belong to some hybrid faction, the corporeal, history-oriented critics who think that Blake is sometimes simple and coherent. But even in this chapter I wonder about the ground of comparison.
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It seems to me that what critics have really ignored are the profound differences between the two, and because Williams also ignores them his deeper similarities strike me as superficial. His discussion of the terms and their histories is well-informed but perhaps not fully considered; at least I found it misleading or puzzling at times.
Surely the precondition of being an ideology is that it is, in part at least, false, and the first task of ideology-critique is to demonstrate its falsehood; then it may attribute its currency to the interests or distorting social position of those who believe it. Marx, after all, thought that bourgeois economists understood economics very well; Smith and Ricardo were both scientific and ideological.
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Yet I think he never convincingly explains just what this means or how one could do it. Simply to think up a utopia does not exempt one from ideological errors. Why cannot the same criteria reason, justice, dispassionate examination of all the facts apply both to existing ideologies and imaginary utopias? The imagination, of all Romantic places!
Ideology and Utopia in the Twenty-First Century
In how many minds? What conditions promote the utopian image? Any adequate description of just what a utopia is — and even Ricoeur seems reluctant to provide or find one — must, as any purely literary history would, contain an account of what the utopian project is. Without making any claims to exhaustiveness, it might run something like this. Our capacity for imagination defines us as precisely as our power of speech. In order to be able to cope with tomorrow I have to create, today, however briefly, an image of the world I am about to enter.
I have, of course, every reason to suppose that tomorrow will be much like today, and that all the few differences can be foreseen. I have to imagine, but my imagination is bounded by what I know and have experienced. I cannot conjure up a wholly different world because if it were wholly different no one, including myself, would have any means of understanding it. But if I am more ambitious, and dissatisfied with the world which I do inhabit, if I want to know, and to let others know, what a better life might look like, I can think up an alternative or possible world, one in which all, or most, of the components of this world are present but in which they are organised differently, sometimes radically so.
I would then have created a utopia. Armed with such an image, I might believe myself to be in a better position to criticise the world in which I do live than those who simply begin with that world. Whereas utopias are offered to us as images for us to emulate so that we might escape the limits of the world where we are, ideologies are built into that world.source site
Lectures on Ideology and Utopia, Paul Ricoeur. (Hardcover )
Ricoeur is not the first to link the two. This one contains the texts of a series of lectures delivered at the University of Chicago and lovingly and very skilfully re-assembled by one of his students, who has provided an excellent introduction. Most of them are about ideologies, rather than utopias, or about those — Marx, Althusser, Weber, Habermas, Geertz and Mannheim — who have written about ideologies.
As one might imagine from a writer so concerned with the role of metaphor, Ricoeur is particularly sensitive to the ways in which both ideology and utopia rely upon the human ability to organise the social world through imaginative construction, through symbol and representation. For Ricoeur, there is no escape from ideology through science, since for all its claims to scrupulous objectivity now largely discredited except perhaps within the innermost regions of the scientific community itself , science itself is inescapably ideological. We can only hope to transcend the condition of our cultural world by creating the conditions of one that is wholly other.
It is what we would call ideology which comes between the world outside and the shadows on the cavern wall. But this will be true only so long as the utopia remains firmly located in the imagination. Because utopias are literally nowhere, all their creators since Plato have always been ambiguous, and deliberately so, about their exact moral and practical status. Can More really have even hoped to see England transformed into a communitarian monastic community? However critical he might be of the contemporary political order, he is firmly committed to a society based on private property and the pursuit of fame.
He is, Ricoeur might say, bounded by the ideology of the world to which he belongs. But just how far he has been convinced after Hythlodaeus has given him a true picture of the situation remains unclear.
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