Michèle started her career as a Sociologist and many of her earlier works and feminist works are considered sociology, such as The Anti-Social Family. The page lists some of her sociology books and articles which do not appear on other pages.
The Politics of Truth: from Marx to Foucault
“The concept of ideology – traditionally one of Marxism’s most persuasive ideas – has recently been subjected to devastating criticism. Michele Barrett shows that Marx’s own writings offer a confusing array of possible approaches to ‘ideology’, which the classical Marxist tradition consolidated as ‘mystification that serves class interests’.
Barrett locates Gramsci and Althusser as key figures in the breakdown of the classical Marxist conception – Gramsci’s work presaging the separation of class, politics and ideology found in Laclau and Mouffe, and Althusser’s failing to deliver an adequate approach to subjectivity. Foucault – replacing Marxism’s ‘economics of untruth’ with his own ‘politics of truth’ – is examined as an exemplar of post-structuralist critiques of ideology.”
“This book is at once a textbook survey and critique of theory of ideology, and the site of Michèle Barrett’s settling of accounts with Marxism. With the honesty we have come to expect from her, she announces that she has now nailed her colours ‘to the mast of a more general post-Marxism’. Foucault, despite some jitters about his competence, has been entrusted with the helm, and Laclau and Mouffe are prominent among the crew.”
Kate Soper, Feminist Review 44, Summer 1993
Max Raphael & the Question of Aesthetics, New Left Review 1987
“Questions of aesthetics, never unduly prominent in Marxist approaches to culture, have recently become relegated to an extremely marginal position in theoretical and critical debates. It is not that Marxism has failed to develop a tradition of work on aesthetics—for in the past it has—but that such concerns are currently out of fashion and, indeed, seen as politically reprehensible. Insofar as this generalization is right, it poses major theoretical and political problems, suggesting in particular that Marxists are unable to engage with bourgeois criticism, dominant educational practices, or popular beliefs. Evasion of the question of aesthetic pleasure and value has left not only Marxist criticism but also radical cultural intervention in a relatively weak position. For this reason I shall argue that it would be useful to re-open the question of materialist aesthetics. Later sections will critically consider the analysis of the art critic Max Raphael, whose work illuminates both the points of interest and the dangers inherent in such a project.”
The Origin of the Family by Friedrich Engels, intro, Penguin
Michèle’s introduction to Penguin edition of The Origin of the Family by Friedrich Engels.
Materialist Aesthetics, New Left Review 1981
“Marxist aesthetics has long since rejected the reductionism of those who sought to ‘explain’ art simply by reference to its supposed determination in the interests or ideology of particular social classes. The shift away from economism, from the unsatisfactory and intolerant division between ‘base’ and ‘superstructure’, has engendered a radical reconsideration of the text, or cultural artefact, itself. This text, according to many varieties of contemporary Marxist criticism, must be recognized as a signifying system with its own powers of production: the production of meaning. An empiricist sociology of art has been eclipsed, and the methods of textual criticism found amenable to a Marxist purpose. Yet for some this has merely been to impale materialist aesthetics firmly on the other horn of the old dilemma, and one not necessarily providing a better vantage point from which to view the world of art. A sociological approach was at least more promising than a reading of Marx that tends to overlook the contents of his arguments and focusses instead on his use of metaphor and metonymy in writing them down.”