Chapter 2 in Wodak, R., Forchtner, B., (eds.) The Routledge Handbook of Language and Politics, pp 27-39
This chapter explores the work on language, ideology, and politics of Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci, and Louis Althusser. While only the first two explicitly considered language, all three adopted a totalising approach, forcefully critiqued ideologies and domination, and stressed the unity of social theory and political practice. The chapter addresses Marx’s ideas on language and consciousness, ideology and its critique, and political struggle and domination. Marx interpreted language as an expression of practical consciousness and critiqued the effects of the manual–mental division of labour, which inclined intellectuals to believe that ideas were the motor force of history. The chapter reviews Gramsci’s pre-prison writings and prison notes on language, economic base-superstructure relations, the state and intellectuals and links them to his university studies in philology. He emphasised the need to develop hegemony that would articulate a national-popular will as the basis for a revolutionary transformation of society. The chapter examines Althusser’s views on ideology, the state and politics.