The contemporary analysis of ideology is one of the most metacritical discussions in the humanities, tending to deal less with individual sets of beliefs than with the question of whether the term “ideology” itself continues to be of any use. Karl Marx relied far less on the term than have many of his inheritors, for “ideology” all but vanishes from his oeuvre after 1846, only to reappear after his death in Friedrich Engels's “Anti-Dühring”. According to Theodor W. Adorno, “the unideological thought is that which does not permit itself to be reduced to operational terms”. As Louis Althusser and Roland Barthes demonstrate, ideology is not committed to dissimulating its machinations, but thrives precisely by explaining how it works. We must think of language before or beyond its use value as a medium of action, production, or signification, that is, without asking what it does for us or against us. It is only in this way that we can begin to free our politics from their crypto-utilitarian impulses.
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