The Barthesian "motivated" Signifier-Signified Connection

    Barthes is not an academic, not a "scientist" like Levi-Strauss or Durkheim, but rather he is a cultural commentator and critic.   Whether the social symbolism is produced by mythically structured representations of food or wrestlers' bodies, Barthes assumes that their "mythologies" are false representations of the socio-economic facts.  This differs from Levi-Strauss's view of myths, whose "truth-value" was of no interest to the researcher trying to reconstruct the myths' probable cultural significance.   Barthes believed that "motivated" cultural myths "abolish the complexity of human acts" by subtly falsifying human relations for political purposes.  The little dramas enacted by the cultural products he analyzes seek to do ideological work on participants' minds, and Barthes' goal is to unmask that work and its mechanisms.

    Though Barthes generally is predictably anti-establishment in his politics, he sometimes could represent the mythologizing force he described as something that did positive social work for its participants/consumers.  His Marxist sympathies often led him to find, in working class "mythologies," comforting compensations for the generally oppressive conditions under which workers lived.  Nevertheless, he usually managed to discover, in their falsification of reality, a potential danger to participants which a doctrinaire Marxist critic would call "production of false consciousness."  Be especially alert, when working on your own Cultural Criticism, not to fall under the spell of the mythic system you are analyzing, its "false consciousness."  The successful critic, no matter how deeply seduced, ultimately remains immune to the sign system's magic.