Skip to content

Topics in Critical Theory: Repurposing “Ideology” for the Present

Instructor(s): Lisa Wedeen
Winter 2020

This course examines selections from the vast literature on ideology—with attention to the political commitments and intellectual genealogies that have made the concept both important and vexed. We begin with Weber and then explore a variety of trajectories in the Marxist tradition. The bulk of the course will entail examining ideology’s relationship to material practice, the notion of interpellation, the usefulness of “hegemony,” and the problems associated with false consciousness. We shall also analyze ideology’s connection to prevailing theoretical concerns, such as those related to “subject” formation, affect, new developments in capitalism, and dynamics associated with contemporary “democratic” liberal, as well as authoritarian, political orders. We conclude by considering how social science has employed and developed this body of knowledge, why the concept seemed to lose its explanatory power, and how it might be repurposed for the present.