Authored by: Charles W. Mills

The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Injustice

Print publication date:  April  2017
Online publication date:  March  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138828254
eBook ISBN: 9781315212043
Adobe ISBN: 9781351814508


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The academy, no less than any other institution – and certainly the radical academy – is subject to the vagaries of intellectual fashion. “Ideology” as a concept was a crucial tool for Western progressives in universities in the 1960s and 1970s seeking both to theorize the repressive dimension of ostensibly liberal capitalist states and to challenge their own disciplines as generally complicit with that repression. In the United States in particular, the revival of the Marxist left (albeit “New” rather than “Old”) on campus after the purges and witch-hunts of the McCarthyist 1950s would stimulate the formation of radical caucuses in a wide range of subjects (Ollman and Vernoff 1982). Railing against establishment orthodoxies, establishing new journals where they could speak truth to disciplinary power, these radical scholars saw “ideology” at work in both everyday and elite consciousness. Whether drawing on Frankfurt School “critical theory” (Held 1980), Georg Lukács’s (1971) “reification,” Antonio Gramsci’s (1971) “hegemony,” or Louis Althusser’s (2001) “ideological state apparatuses,” they sought to reveal and expose ideology’s pervasive and negative influence on social cognition. But the increasing problems, and eventual collapse, of self-describedly Marxist states and movements would take down with it Marx’s apparatus, whether justifiably or not. By the mid-1980s or so, and even more glaringly following the 1989–91 East Bloc debacle and accompanying proclamations of “the end of history,” talk of Ideologie and Ideologiekritik began to seem hopelessly old-fashioned, tied to a dubious meta-narrative about capitalist crisis and the coming socialist revolution, and committed to an Enlightenment vision that seemed to some intrinsically “totalitarian.” Instead these critical lenses would largely be replaced by Derridaean deconstruction and Foucauldian discourse theory. Postmodernism and post-structuralism would become the new radical orthodoxy for scholars in need of an optic for the emancipatory revisioning of the existing order.

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