Discerning The Subject (Theory and History of Literature) by Paul Smith

By Paul Smith

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6 IDEOLOGY My point here is certainly not to propose some new consolidation of the “in dividual” as source of meanings or actions; far less is it one which considers the “individual” as a plenitudinous bearer of consciousness, complete and coherent in itself. Rather, what is being suggested is that the subject/individual exists in a dialectical relationship with the social but also lives that relationship alone as much as interpersonally or as merely a factor within social formations: alone at the level of the meanings and histories which together constitute a singular history.

One must, I think, argue that this is a utopian maneuver which effectively deprivileges the very real existence experienced by the subject/individual in any given set of social relations. Marx considers the subject/individual only as a cur rently unrealized form of exactly that lure which has been offered by traditional notions, including the Hegelian one: Marxism looks forward to bringing about an “individual,” exactly, whose unalienated activity “will coincide with material life, which corresponds to the development of individuals into complete in dividuals” (1947, p.

The next chapters take up this question of resistance by examining two particu lar areas of contemporary discourse which seem to offer analyses and theories capable of projecting radically effective contestatory action. In Chapter 3 I dis cuss some of the implications of deconstruction—or, more particularly, of the work of Jacques Derrida. I argue here that any potential resistance that decon struction might mount is in fact compromised by its lack of a theory of subjec tivity and agency. In Chapter 4 , 1 look at some work in contemporary educational theory-w ork which is deeply informed (as, I suspect, is Derrida’s) by the writ ings of the so-called Frankfurt School.

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