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4 - The Marxist texts

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 May 2011

Michael F. Bernard-Donals
Affiliation:
University of Missouri, Columbia
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Summary

In Marxism and the philosophy of language and The formal method in literary scholarship, Bakhtin shifts his attention from the relationship of the self and the other in the process of understanding utterances and texts, and takes up instead the problem of how humans use language to construct history and the ways in which the construction of that history might provide a vehicle for social movement and change. What marks these texts from earlier ones is Bakhtin's discussion of language as ideological material. Rather than seeing language interiorized simply as language – that is, as a medium of social exchange – in these two texts (as well as in parts of The dialogic imagination and in the Dostoevsky and Rabelais books), Bakhtin understands language as a material object that is as much formative of as it is formed by human subjects, and takes part in the transformation of the world in the same way as tools of production. Particularly in Marxism and the philosophy of language and The formal method, this explicit acknowledgment that language is ideological material allows Bakhtin to understand not only how language is used to construct selves, but also how it constructs collections of selves into social groups, and how the linguistic commerce between those groups is formative of social reality and produces social change.

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Chapter
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Mikhail Bakhtin
Between Phenomenology and Marxism
, pp. 87 - 103
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1995

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