Roland Barthes's The German Ideology

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In The German Ideology, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels attribute the rise of ideology to the division of labor, where “man’s own deed becomes an alien power opposed to him, which enslaves him instead of being controlled by him.” Marx likens the division of labor to the division of ideas from reality. According to Marx, “men are the producers of their conceptions… and the existence of men is their actual life-process,” but ideology distorts this fact, inverting it so that ideas create reality, as German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach would have it. Because the bourgeoisie controls the factors of production, it is this class’s culture – and thereby its ideology – which prevails. Roland Barthes likewise speaks to the prevalence of bourgeois culture and its role in the oppression of the working class in his seminal semiological study Mythologies. Barthes discusses how the bourgeoisie has propagated its “anonymous ideology,” normalizing the standards of the class to such an extent that it overtakes the culture, “our press, our films, our theater, our pulp literature, our rituals, our Justice… everything” falling “dependent on the representation which the bourgeoisie has and makes us have.” In order to describe the mechanics of myth, Barthes draws on the terms of Ferdinand de Saussure, the father of semiology. Barthes adds a layer to Saussure’s dissection of the relationship between the concept (the object being signified) and the sound image (the arbitrary signification of the
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