Marxism – Althusser and Jameson Essay

Marxism – Althusser and Jameson Essay

Utopia and ideology are two most important concepts when it comes to deal with the Marxist thoughts and philosophy. The historical construction of both of these thoughts was refined through the philosophical writings of Marx and his contemporaries. Jameson’s writings on Utopia have been focused more on the failures of the Utopia rather than exploiting its strengths and weaknesses. However, both the concepts of Utopia as well as ideology are often linked and intervened with each other in the work of Jameson. His basic idea of utopia is based on the assumption that an ideological formation in any given culture or society is not possible without being implicitly considered as utopian. (Buchanan). He considered utopia both as a far cry for the future and at the same time “indictment for present” because utopia in a society can serve dual purposes. (Buchanan). Before a revolution, utopia can serve as a strong force for creating a collective vision however, in an era after revolution; it can be counter-revolutionary in nature.

The possible relationship between the utopia and ideology therefore also characterize that ideology uses utopia to bring in the social and political change in a society however, when the objectives are achieved, utopia and ideology again become two distinctive and separate elements of the society with utopia as a system which destroys the political and social system of a society whereas ideology serve as the binding force which keep the political and social system of the society as a continuing process to keep the existing system intact.

The traditional Marxist thoughts considered ideology as a sense of false consciousness- something which force individuals within a society to live a life of oppression. However, Jameson was of the view that ideology also keeps a system intact and keeps it going without disturbing the basic fabric of the society. In a way, this view is closer in significance to the views of Althusser because Althusser viewed ideology as a strategy of containment rather than destruction. He termed ideology as a fictitious or imaginary relationship of the individuals with the reality i.e. how the individual ideological values fit into the real world. In a sense, the element of utopia is integrated into the concept of ideology. However, Jameson digresses from him on the basis of sociological changes which occur after the materialization of ideology into real world. At this point, society becomes relatively reactive to the utopia and ideological formations of the society are developed without taking into consideration utopia.

These thoughts also signify the basic differences between the Utopia as well as ideology as both at some point in history work as a corroborating variables however, with the change in society, the basic orientation and significance of both the concepts reverts back to their original meaning. Althusser’s ideas on the ideology as well as utopia are therefore make a diversion from those of the Jameson in the sense that Althusser consider the relationship between different ideas such as religion, politics and economy are partially independent of each other however, exert reciprocal affects on each other. This view is significantly different from the basic view of the Marxist thought that the economy is the dominating variable of all.


  1. Buchanan, Ian. “Ideology and Utopia in the work of Fredric Jameson: or the counter-revolution in the revolution.” Arena Journal (2005): 1-12.

  2. Buchanan, Ian. “Metacommentary on Utopia, or Jameson’s Dialectic of Hope.” Utopian Studies (1998): 10-18.

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