Ideology & culture

Rafael Reyes (
1 May 1995 22:32:54 GMT

Hello people,

I've been reading Richard Handler's _Nationalism and the Politics of
Culture in Quebec_. I've found it thought provoking but it has left
me with more questions than answers and I thought this might lead
into a good discussion.

>From my reading (and admittedly I have not read it in its entirety
but skipped around a bit) he is essentially arguing that Quebec
identity was created largely through a process of interested
objectification by elites in Quebec, namely intellectuals and
politicians. This process consisted of largely of selection of
particular "traits" by these interested elites which are then
held up as "characteristic" of Quebec (ex: regional dances).
This process creates "timeless" elements out of things that were
neither timeless (in some cases may have largely vanished by the
time they were selected) nor "native" to particular places.

In the beginning of the book he argues that he is looking at meaning,
ending the book with a discussion of de Tocquevilles analysis that
democratic/egalitarian society leads people to feel isolated and
powerless, suggesting that the "objectification" fills a void. The
content is not particularly significant. Yet at the same time,
because the process is governed by these interested elites, it is a
process of mystification. This leads me to my first question. What
is the relationship between meaning and mystification?

I'm still grappling with the notion of a non-evaluative analysis of
"ideology" (a la Geertz: Ideology as a cultural system), this certainly
seems like what Handler is after, and yet Handler seems to say that
there is a real (empty unbounded groups) and unreal (objectified identity).
Does collective meaning-making necessarily entail objectification?

Clearly, there is an ideological process at work. However, as Daniel
Linger pointed out (1994. Has Culture Theory Lost It's Minds? Ethos 22(3))
people are not empty vessels and they "project" meaning rather than
simply consume it. In that vein is my next question. How does such
an ideological process "take" or gain "currency" in a collective?

Some have argued that identity may take the form of a collective problem
or the axes on which principal disagreements may ride (again Linger,
Spindler, and others). Does this counter-argument hold much weight
in your minds?

I could go on but I think this is plenty for starters. Also, if any of
you have any recommendations on books looking at ideology and culture,
ideological readings of culture, objectification & ideology, I would
greatly appreciate it. I'm just starting to get into the issue(s) and
I'd like to learn more (post or email).


Rafael Reyes