Economics in Popular Film

Week 1: Discussion Questions (and some initial responses [R] to ponder)

Q. What is the difference between overdeterminism as epistemology and as ontology?

Q. What are the implications of the concept of overdetermination?

Q. What does it mean to say that theory is overdetermined and therefore "loses the privileged and exalted status it enjoys within alternative theories"? Can you think of some of these alternative theories?

Q. What does it mean to have contradictions within a theory? Can you provide an example of this?

Q. In an overdeterminist framework, is it possible to determine which of many influences are more important than the others. If not, why not?

R: The authors of the text, Knowledge and Class do not discuss this concept of overdetermination outside of the context of Western philosophy and social science. However, it can be argued that the concept, as understood in the text, lectures, within Freud and Althusser, and elsewhere has been extant (both as epistemology and ontology) within Asian philosophical thought for thousands of years, particularly within Daoism and Zen Buddhism. Give some thought to the effect the concept would have on doing theory, conceiving of the self, understanding society and social change, on making sense of relationships, other people, the concept of race, and any other issue/concept you think interesting enough to bring to the table in the seminar.

Q. Are the dualistic concepts of liberal and conservative grounded in a form of essentialism? If so, think about a way to describe this essentialism. If not, then what is the basis of this dualism? Is this duality based on some fundamental Truth about human beings or is it a social construct? If the latter, then what purpose does it serve? Can a person be both liberal and conservative at the same time?

Q. What are some examples of contending essentialisms?

The authors present, within the text, a version of Marxian theory that is formed on an overdeterminist basis. Is this the only way to construct a variant of Marxian theory? Are there alternative Marxian theories? How might different Marxian theories lead to different worldviews, including different political positions?

Copyright 2005 by Satya J. Gabriel, Mount Holyoke College