Post-modernism Today

A Brief Introduction



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Linguistic idealism of



Post-modernism rejects structures, causes and truth in favour of fragments, contingencies and uncertainty. The all-pervading system i.e. capitalist system is no concern of it, it rejects the study of the systemic unity of capitalism and laws of motion. It is notable that post-modernists attract our attention to consumerism, problems of individual existence, deforestation, the subtle sources of extant power, etc. but one misses the study of the crisis of capitalism and its vulnerable areas to overhaul this system. Its focus on language, culture and discourse blunt the spirit of grappling with the objective world. The basis of post-modernist theories is "discourse" which brings to the fore language which is all we can know about the world and so we have access to no other reality. This idealism has turned language into an all-pervasive force both—sovereign and dominant, virtually diminishing human agency. Everything is discourse you see and discourse is everything. Such linguistic theories, as we have referred to before, unequivocally announce that we are linguistic creatures, the world in which we act is a world we come to know and describe through readymade language.

Such "discourse" or "text", the jargon may vary, with the basic message remaining the same, defines, limits and conditions what we know, do or imagine in this world. It should however be admitted that Saussure was the founder of a theoretical, methodological concept which stood against the methodology of linguistics called comparative philology during the heyday of British imperialism and the rise and consolidation of the German nation and German bourgeoisie, who wanted to be a partner or sharer of the spoils of imperialism. He was strongly against racialism. This helped in the fight against racism and fascism. However, the post-modernists/post-structuralists make a cunning use of Saussure to dish out a theory serving the present system of exploitation. Their fatherhood goes actually to the idealist Plato, though they ascribe their real fatherhood to Saussure.

What started out as interpretative methods borrowed from Saussurean linguistics and hermenutics, in course of time, through a Derridean play of words, post-modernism/post-structuralism reached its height of idealism by making a drastic departure from the objective basis of language. When political struggle is reduced to abstraction by some post-modernists basing themselves on language and language-games, there is no way out to identify the system against which people must have to struggle. Structural linguistics as stated above absolutely concentrated on studying the relations of elements in a given structure, not the content or the normative aspects. Saussure’s stress that "in the linguistic system there are only differences" provided the theoretical premise of the later-day post-modernists/post-structuralists. In the same way, despite some differences with Saussure, Roman Jacobson’s assertion that "I do not believe in things, I believe only in their relationship"reminds Saussurean concept. But while they still retained the structural relation between the signifier and the signified, post-modernists/post-structuralists reached the new horizon of idealism by snapping this relation altogether.

One writer, favouring Derridean radicalization of a discourse concluded : "This radicalization involves the recognition that being post-metaphysical or writing after Platonism is already caught up in relationship between the inside and the outside, the within and the beyond, etc., relationship that, if taken for granted, only affirms the metaphysical bonds that one is attempting to overcome ..." [Walter Brogan, Plato’s Pharmakon : Between Two Repetitions, in Hugh J. Silverman, Derrida And Deconstruction, Routledge, New York and London, 1989, p.12] One of the chief philosophers of this new idealism, Derrida actually produced so-called radicalism being indifferent to actual social practice against the system of exploitation and oppression. He could easily declare that he "would hesitate to use such terms as "liberation"[Jacques Derrida, Deconstruction ad the Other in Dialogue with Contemporary Continental Thinkers, ed. Richard Kearney (Manchester : Manchester University Press, 1984), p.121, Quoted in David Mcnally, Language, History, and Class Struggle, Monthly Review, July-August, 1995, p.14]

This idealism preaches that with our imprisonment within language, the maximum possibility through the theory of ‘Deconstruction’ is a mere play of words. However, it is hopeless to liberate ourselves from immutable structures of exploitation and oppression, supposed to be fundamentally rooted in language, not in the inequitable social system. What Deconstruction can at best do is to mollify our spirit of studying the root cause of exploitation for an overhauling of the system into feeble attempts at a very low-intensity verbal duel with the supposed decentered power at a certain academic level. This so-called radicalism is virtually a call for abdication of political responsibility when capitalism and imperialism threateningly show off their fangs all over the world.

The play of words and also suppression of some words assuming universal forms in Deconstruction, is an open-ended process towards uncertainty with no center or foundation. The idealism is tangibly present in Derrida’s play of words, deferring one (of the many) for the other. Differance is not God or negative theology, claims Derrida, yet in the first flush of Derrida’s more famous account of differance in a well-known text he clearly states that differance is not an entity and that it makes no appearance and has no truth, observes John D. Caputo. It sounds a lot like the hidden God. Sometimes differance is actually that ultimate unknowable, the unknowing of which constitutes the most learned wisdom. Derrida clearly states that when the thought of differance (Being) "goes beyond ontic determinations it is not a negative theology, or even a negative ontology" [Jacques Derrida, Writing and Difference, Trans. Alan Bass (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1978, p.146 quoted in John D. Caputo, Mysticism and Transgression: Derrida And Meister Eckhart in Huge J. Silverman (ed) Derrida And London, 1989, p.27.]. Thus difference/differance does not confirm a hidden God (deferring himself behind the chain of signifiers) but neither does it deny God. Derrida himself admitted that "ontological anticipation, transcendence towards Being, permits, then, an understanding is but the ether in which dissonance can resonate. This transcendence inhabits and founds language."[Jacques Derrida, Writing and Difference, ibid p.146] John D. Caputo elucidated the above saying that the role of difference/difference is to establish the conditions within which discourse functions. It founds (and unfounds, undermines) languages, vocabularies, showing how they are both possible and impossible without a closure. So difference/ differance establishes the possibility (and impossibility) of a language, which addresses God.[John D. Caputo, ibid, p. 28] This idealist, ultimately God-oriented, boundless, uncertain philosophy of language, which is also supposed to be determing human existence, cannot get us anywhere. The play of words turns out to be a worshipper of God-centered, though the language claims to be without any centre of its own. It is obviously an anti-historical, anti-evolutionary, anti-materialist concept of language. Marx conceived of the infinite mind as an illusory projection of finite beings and nature as transcendentally real. Marx replaced the Hegelian immanent spiritual teleology of infinite mind by a methodological commitment to the empirically-controlled investigation of the causal relations within and between historically emerging, developing humanity and irreducibly real, but modified nature. Marxism rejects the logical mysticism born out of conjuring tricks of words as dished out by Derrida.

The ‘discourse’ theory, based on language as the over-arching sovereign, conceding only to discursive knowledge is openly anti-rational and anti-objectivity. Despite variations among the post-structuralist/post-modernist thinkers all have a common foundation: they challenge objectivity and truth. They are quite disastrously anti-scientific. While many structuralists ultimately remained more or less with objective things or subjective ideas, the post-structuralists/post-modernists proceed towards the extreme point considering that we cannot live as human beings below the level of language categories and social meanings because it is language categories and social meanings that make us human in the first place. Thus there remains no deeper subjective reality behind the ordinary socially created intelligibility of our world. This way the objective world is turned upside down conceding the language categories and social meanings as ultimate reality. Language in this view, precedes the objective things and subjective ideas. This line of argument gives a privileged position to Culture over Nature, and priority of the Sign over Ideas. This concept of idealism leads to further extremes. Language attains abstract self-sufficient status without the objectivity of things or the subjective mind perennially interacting with the objective world.

Reification (i.e. the act or the result of transforming human properties, relations and actions into properties, relations and actions of man-produced things which have become independent of man and govern his life) transforms human beings into thing-like beings, which do not behave in a human way but according to the laws of the thing-world. Marx discarded such reification in Capital.[Capital III, ch. 48] Marx exposed crude materialism and "this reification of things and the reification of the relations of production". With such a so-called post-structuralist/post-modernist view of language we can no longer speak of mere false ‘reification’, instead we see ideas taking on a ‘thing-ish’ objectivity. In reality what suffer from such idealist extreme view are the concept of Truth and Falsity. With the departure of objective things and subjective ideas there cannot be any fundamental role for the truth as a correspondence between the domain of objective things and the subjective idea. In such a foundationless scheme, when language categories and social meanings are accorded the status of "objective" idea in the post-structuralist/post-modernist way, truth or seeking the truth becomes the inevitable victim.

Such discursive theories turn language not only into an independent domain, but also into an all-pervading force, reducing human agency to a non-entity and making human beings merely linguistic creatures. i.e. robots with articulation.

Such theories using various jargons like "discourse" or "text" are also applied to the political realm as well by some post-structuralists/post-modernists. And here we face a dangerous pessimism or at best an accommodative feeble resistance at local levels. Oppression or exploitation is supposed to be rooted ultimately in the way in which we are defined linguistically, the way in which we are positioned by words in relation to other words. For this reason, this idealism in the garb of radicalism wants us to live within the prison-world of language. In the face of real-life exploitation and oppression, it offers the rhetorical gestures or the play of words. Derrida hesitates with such terms as "Liberation" in the name of "deconstruction" and ultimately turns it into an intellectual jugglery of words and a sort of self-satisfying narcissistic exercise. Foucault is deliberately silent on imperialism and can only think of low-level, local resistance. Sloterdijk provided the quintessential post-modernist view of resistance for our times. Borrowing from Nietzche’s Diogenes Sloterdijk highlights the ‘sensual embodiment’ of protest flouting standards of citizenship, urinating and masturbating in the marketplace as paradigmatic acts. [It should be remembered that Sloterdijk is a prominent devotee of Rajneesh who founded the Rajneesh Ashram. Sloterdijk’s view presented in Manas Roy, Marxism : The Dilemma of Critique, Economic and Political Weekly, June 12, 1993, p.1253]

Thus such new idealism in the present age of globalisation and threateningly increasing power of imperialism and states represent an obstacle to revolutionary struggles on all fronts as: it negates a scientific understasnding towards the development of the social system (with it’s a historical approach); diffuses focus on the chief perpetrators nof exploitation and oppression (by seeing domination everywhere, delinked from the system); and by spreading pessimism in any alternative system, with the understanding that all power corrupts. Instead of plugging the loopholes in the theoretical domain and practice, such linguistic idealism leads us to torpidity and pessimism.

Spinoza (1632-77), the Dutch materialist philosopher rejected dualism of Descarte preaching that only nature existed, being the cause of itself and needing nothing else for its being. For Spinoza, man is a creature in whom the mode of extension, the body, is coupled with the mode of thought, the soul. Engels appreciated his materialism which freed material consciousness, thought and language from idealism. He did not accept Cartesian division of bodiless consciousness and thoughtless body connected by God in the pineal gland [Cartesianism (the Latin transcription of Descartes’ name) identified matter with extension or space. He contended that a soulless and lifeless bodily mechanism combined in man with a volitional and rational soul. Thus he believed in the existence of both consciousness and reality as mutually exclusive with reality reflected in consciousness.]

Idealists broadly preached that abstract thought was already in existence which later entered human brains, thus emerged language. Spinoza rejected such a view like "I think, i.e. my body thinks". This materialist view was a rebuttal of idealist concept. In the Indian philosophy, the Yoga system of Patanjali, pratibha is synonymous with Prajna, the supreme faculty of omniscience. According to the philosophy of grammar built upon the basis of Patanjali Mahabhasya by Bhartihari, Pratibha is intimately bound up with the origin of knowledge and of the objective world. It is the foundational thesis of the Sabdika that the source of all phenomena is Eternal Verbum, called Sabda Brahma or Para Vak. We may assume that the Sabdika Godhead in this idealist view has two-fold aspects as Transcendent beyond Time (in which it is above all predictions in thought and language and as Immanent in Time — in which it is the subject, as well as predicate, of all judgements). Now it is assumed that knowledge as a mode [a mode which excludes Eternal Jnana or Brahman],, which is no other word than from verbal associations, evidently for the reason that it originates from Sabda. Hence an object (arth) which is knowable (Jneya) is also nameable and cognisable and the relation between the name and the nameable, as between knowledge and knowable, is an eternal relation, which the Supreme Being simply manifests in the beginning of each aeon. The manifestation of this relation is co-eval with the origin of the objective world. Naming and thinking being are virtually identical process. This manifestation of the Universal is the same as the revelation of the Veda, which is nothing but the body of eternal names and thought in eternal relation to the Universals. The Veda is thus synonymous with Pratibha, the self-revealation of the Supreme Thought.[Gopinath Kaviraj, Aspects of Indian Thought, the University of Burdwan, 1984, p.12-15] The supreme transcendent Sabda is as it were the dark background of all manifestations and forms, the Absolute of the Indian grammarians. Thought is same as the object, while the former is an internal and the latter is only an external aspect of one and the same Reality. This way we find that for idealist Bhartihari this original consciousness remains in the form of words, ie. the world of consciousness = language = God = Brahma. With such views it is no wonder that post-modernists flock to Hindu mythology, as insects to a light.

The Bible states: "In the beginning was the word" [John 11]. So also was announced in the Vedic scriptures "God is word". This idealist view propagated that logic or any thought is nothing but the thought in language. Plato, Descartes, et al also considered that the reflection of thought is language. Hegel went back to Spinoza and found it that human thought cannot be solely expressed as perceptible form through language. Working man works as a conscious man. Language is only a part of his whole consciousness, Hegel added. However, for Hegel, thought is produced independent of human beings, thought is a sort of subjective mental activity.

In the words of Lenin, "Essentially, Hegel is completely right as opposed to Kant. Thought proceeding from the concrete to the abstract — provided it is Correct (and Kant, like all philosophers, speaks of correct thought) — does not get away from the truth but comes closer to it. The abstraction of matter, of a value, etc., in short all scientific (correct, serious, not absurd) abstractions reflect nature more deeply, truly and completely. From living perception to abstract thought, and from this to practice — such is the dialectical path of objective reality. Kant disparages knowledge in order to make way for faith : Hegel exalts knowledge, asserting that knowledge is knowledge of God. The materialist exalts the knowledge of matter, of nature, consigning God, and the philosophical rabble that defends God, to the rubbish heap". [Lenin, Philosophical Notebook, vol. 38, p.171 in Lenin on Language, Raduga Publication, Moscow,1983, p.35-36].

Marx and Engels were not so much concerned with developing a theory of language. Yet their occasional dealing with the question of language leaves for us a materialist conception of language. Marx’s observations relevant to linguistics and linguistic philosophy concern the problem of the essence or nature of language. In German ideology we find the thesis of the unity of material-social activity and language. For him communication is not just one of the functions of language. On the contrary, language presupposes, both logically and factually, the continuous interaction among the people. Criticising the idealist view of language Marx and Engels clearly observed, "Language is the immediate actuality of thought. Just as philosophers have given thought an independent existence, so they were bound to make language into an independent realm." [Marx and Engels, The German Ideology, quoted in David Mcnally, Language, History and Class Struggle, Monthly Review, July-August, 1995, p.13]. What the post-structuralists/post-modernists have unequivocally accepted is the independent existence of language turning human beings into its creatures. What comes out as the centrality of the Marxian view on language is its essentially social aspect, not just contingen or secondary. As consciousness is a social product, so also language is also a social product. Materialism rejects the view of idealists who detach consciousness, thought, ideas, etc. from labour, social production, in other words, practical human activities. Language is thus the form of specifically human consciousness and the consciousness of social beings. Marx wrote in his "Feurbach, Opposition of Materialistic and Idealistic Outlook" that "... Language is as old as consciousness, language is practical consciousness that exists also for other men, and for that reason alone it really exists for me personally as well; language like consciousness, only arises from the need, the necessity of intercourse with other men."[Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. I, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1973, p.32] This is what Marx, the materialist, understood as language. The overall explanatory logic of Marxism revolved around the basic question of positing theories and concepts within practice in order to advance it. Thus it considers the interconnectedness within wholes and differs from those views, which emphasize the relativity of reference to language. The idealist view which moves the other way with language is inevitably trapped within language. It is where the post-structuralists/post-modernists want us to lead, rejecting the rational object-subject relationship ultimately to become worshippers of signs-words, and symbols.

Marxists consider the sign-system of any physical nature serving the communicative functions in the process of human activity. Obviously it plays an important role in the formation of human consciousness. Human consciousness cannot exist outside of language which is socially conditioned. It is a means of accumulating knowledge and passing it down from generation to generation. Knowledge, both perceptual and conceptual, or in other words for the abstract thought language is essential. Language is essential for concretising. Yet it will be wrong to consider language and thought identical. Once a language arises in a society, it develops its own laws, which are different from thought. It is true that the words can, dog, leaf, etc. possess no qualities as such of the animals or things in them but they are socially accepted words and human beings can easily differentiate the words meant for specific living or non-living things. The language signs maintain some inner ‘structure’ or structures but not detached from the objective world. What post-structuralists/post-modernists are engaged in is the abandonment of a subject, be it philosophy or society or the other as a discipline by giving precedence to language structure over it. Thus signified is reduced to an insignificant existence with the dominant and sovereign role of the signifiers, Derridean deconstruction theory in some cases invites curiosity and even unearths the deferred meanings of some words but it cannot get us further to deconstruct the oppressive social system. Actually he wants to say that the language of the ruling class is undecipherable by the common masses and it has to be deconstructed by a small-range deconstruction process abstracted from the real political and other straggles. When Marx asserted that "Ideas do not exist separately from language" [Grundrisse, p.163] it must not be deemed that they are identical and that linguistic structure determines the thought process. It is stated that the ideas of the ruling class in every epoch become the ruling ideas. From this Bakhtin under the pseudonym Volosinov found it that "the sign becomes an arena of the class struggle."[V. N. Volosinov "Marxism and the philosophy of Language", New York and London : Seminar Press, 1973, p.23]

Rolland Barthes declares that when we eat a piece of steak we also eat the ideas of the steak. Such view can be stretched to an absurd level. To elucidate this absurdity an instance may be cited. In 1999 the daily Asian Age published a photo of a Hongkong hotel with four persons sitting around a dining table on which plates were properly placed before each "eater". There was a menu but no actual food as such. The waitress only served them "food" for mental eating as per order. This may be said a post-structuralist/post-modernists eating. This language-based absurd thought is far removed from what Marx considered language as the immediate actuality of thought. The mental eating or the Barthe’s eating of an idea of a steak can be explained through the Soviet natural scientist Pavlov’s reflex theory. Pavlov said that man is not only capable of forming temporary connections on the basis of sense stimulation but also can react on speech, which had become a sign automatically standing for sense stimulations and sense objects. Pavlov called this system of conditional reflex to language as "second signal system", [I.P. Pavlov, "Conditional Reflex and Psychiatry", International Publishers, New York, 1941, p.93, cited in Amal Dutta, Social Psychology And Revolutionary Practice, K.P.Bagchi & Co., Calcutta, 1985, pp. 6-7]. Despite elements of emphatic naturalism and weakness of early scientific investigation, in Pavlov’s view there also remains some link with the social aspect in forming the meaningful sign system. However, an over-structuring of this reflex signal in all thought process will only lead to the absurd concept of Barthes or of mental eating, privileging the signifier over the signified for all occasions.

The post-structuralists/post-modernists, semiotcians in particular, refer to the all-pervading sign-field in the capitalist world. But their apparent condemnation becomes groundless, the more power they attribute to signs and words, the more they lose power to position themselves against the capitalist, consumerist society. They do not have any programme to invoke the struggling spirit from within the society. They go beyond the logic of the structuralists and make post-structuralist/post-modernist positions increasingly more absurd post-structuralist/Post-modernist than ever, to a height far removed from the objective reality. A make-believe world crashes in the course of time and no amount of lying can suppress the true conditions of the world and the universe. It is to befog reality and confuse the intellectuals and large number of people to remain passive against oppression. It becomes more signish that the sign itself, allowing sign to work cutting off the link between the signifier and the signified in a sort reckless fashion towards a sort of idealism radical in word, conservative in reality. It becomes an anarchic play of words or signs subverting socially controlled meaning. Sign is posed as if something material, the only reality and thus they discard all notion of social reality. The wretched of the earth are invoked by post-structuralists/post-modernists to rest satisfied with mentally consuming words for food, not the actual food. And the oppressed and the exploited have to deconstruct the world of signs, the system breeding inequality, oppression and exploitation. The deceptive notion can best be summed up in the words of Lacan: "It is the world of words that create the world of things..." [Quoted in Malcom Bowie, Lacan, Fontana Modern Masters, Fontana Press, 1991, p. 95]

It must be remembered, as Bakhtin finds that all signs — from word to traffic signals are related to the material world and they are social in nature. and for this social aspect, speech is the lifeblood of a language functioning through communication. This social interaction cannot be simply discursive or emotive. Speech is not a realm with an independent existence. It is only one aspect of a multifaceted network of social relations. In a class society signs are also involved in the prevalent relations and for this relations of hierarchy exert in a considerable way on the language and speech. as a consequence the realm of speech with the existence of hierarchy and domination there also remains a steady stream of resistance. The accent of words by hierarchically placed people naturally reflect the class aspects. Thus sign becomes an arena of class struggle and an arena of violent reactions as well. Andre Bettile in his study of a Tanjore Village [Andre Betille, Caste, Class and Power, Changing Patterns of Stratification in a Tanjore Village, University of California Press, Berkley, Los Angeles, London, 1971, p. 53] found it that in the Tanjore district Sanskrit has been a major influence on the bramhins. Here bramhins and non-bramhins represent two different cultures, reflecting the class divisions between them. As the study shows this is reflected in both their speech and language.

In a study of dalit dialect of the Tamils the remarkable differences were like the following:

"Caste status appears to be the dominant social variable correlated with linguistic variation ... The dialect differences appear to be used as expressions of social identity. That is why we find in Tamilnadu, Bramhin dialect which is distinguished from Harjan Dialect."[G.Srinivasa Varma and N. Ramaswamy, Harijan dialect of Tamil,Annamalai University, 1976,Intruduction p.iv.] Similarly Jhon Gumprez found in his study of village Khalalpur in Saharanpur in UP the distinct speech pattern of the Chamars from that of the upper caste [Jhon J.Gumprez,...p.32]. So a Rajput with high socio-economic status warns a caste brother that he is speaking like a Chamar; [ibid p.37] Some writers have also found supposedly mystic powers in a language like Sanskrit which actually helps in Brahminisation. Surnames were used as status symbol in the middle ages by the aristocracy [Max K. Adler, Naming and Addressing,... pp.107-108]. In Italy restrictions were imposed under Fascist rule on Christian names for Germans and Italians considering that those were against national sentiments. [ibid. p.122]. Judico Greek-names were also banished under Fascism. Social stratification pervades in a language, particularly in greeting, apology, expression of wishes, etc. [ibid p.173]. The above makes it abundantly clear how sign becomes the arena of struggle against domination and exploitation.

If there is domination there is also resistance. Post-modernists like Foucault also noted that language is a terrain of power. But the emptiness of his view is revealed when relations of power are reduced to discursive or linguistic relations. This power has no identifiable source in society and as power is constituted by language and we are supposed to be in the prison-house of language, then there is ultimately no actual possibility of resisting that all-encompassing power. The Foucault scheme also dismisses the basis of real resistance. Making a distinction between words and speech, Bakhtin asserted that speech does contain both meanings and themes. The latter involves accents and emphasis that the speakers of various social groups try to give to words for the necessary transmission of experiences and expressions in different contexts. The way of speech varies from one context to the other. And here remains both the possibilities of domination and resistance in a relatively unequal speech pattern with distinct genres spoken by the dominant and the dominated classes. The dominated use their own accents, norms, etc. while resisting the oppressors. There is no master discourse which permeates all contexts although those who exercise power may try to impose a single discourse upon their subordinates. For Bakhtin (Voloshinov) signs are multi-accentual, and the ruling classes also continuously try to reject this multi-accentuality of signs imposing a single world view through discourse. They make it appear like a supraclass, attribute an eternal character to the ideological sign. Counter discourses of the exploited arise as a form of resistance and they emanate from their experiences in the productive activities, relations of productions and inter-actions among themselves.

The Italian Marxist, Gramsci, found that the supremacy of a social group or class manifests itself in two different ways: domination or coercion, and intellectual and moral leadership. This latter type constitutes hegemony. Social control takes two basic forms: besides influencing behaviour and choice externally through rewards and punishment, control is made internally "by moulding convictions into a replica of prevailing norms. "Such internal control is based on hegemony," which refers to an order in which a common social moral language is spoken, in which one concept of reality is dominant, in forming with its spirit all modes of thought and behaviour". Gramsci opined that this hegemony is also obtained by eliciting "consent" [Joseph V. Femia, Gramsci’s Political Thought, Oxford University Press, 1981, p.24.] Gramsci, however, never accepted such hegemony as total as there always exist ideas and attitudes that are "counter-hegemonic" against dominant values and ideas. For him a member of the producing class "has two theoretical consciousness (or one contradictory consciousness): one that is implicit in his activity and which in reality unites him with all his fellow-workers in the practical transformation of the real world; and one, superficially explicit or verbal, which he has inherited from the past and uncritically absorbs." [Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks, International Publishers, New York, 1971, p.333]. This enables us to grasp the revolutionary politics in terms of the contradictions pervading the experience, activity, and language of the oppressed. Gramsci’s view simply helps us understand Voloshinov’s (Bakhtin’s) conception of speech genres in the domain of practical politics of resistance: The exploited using the dominant speech genres and more egaliterian genres in a different relationship to their equals as using a counter-discourse against the dominant discourse. However, Bakhtin’s (Voloshinov) multi-accentual sign does not connote infinitely multipliable meanings as some writers try to indicate. Bakhtin (Voloshinov) did not go to the abstract post-structuralist/post-modernist way of detaching language and speech from the complex relations men enter into for the production and reproduction of the conditions of life. As language is social and related to the objective world, productive activity in particular, the counter-discourses cannot transcend the reality. And here lies the difference between post-structuralist/post-modernist uncertain, infinitely open-ended idealist views with the objective Marxian concept of multiple discourses as oppositional to the discourse of the ruling class. Similarly when a Dalit in India reacts to the upper caste oppressors’ domination in his/her dialect, hated by the oppressors, this opens an arena of struggle. The struggle for the right to speak one’s own language against a dominant language of a dominating group also is a front of just struggle. These are the real-life questions and we Marxists treat the question of language facing them, materialistically.


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