Categories of elitism and alienation

INN533 – Information Organisation

WEEK EIGHT: Reflections on classification and cataloguing.

Major cataloguing schema like AACR2, ISBD, RDA, FRBR, DDC, and LCC are incredibly complex and opaque.

Herbert Marcuse referred to a process of subjecting all discourse to the logics and purposes of organisations in a ‘historical continuum of domination’ (1991, p. 171) in which technocratic organisational behaviors, including professional praxis, are imbued with the faux objectivity of science and the ideology of progress that nevertheless excludes ends not compatible with contemporary Western political economy (pp. 147-166).

In that context, its seems that elaborate abstractions like the cataloguing schema ‘hail’ or interpellate their practitioners and users, in an Althusserian sense (Lahtinen, 2009, pp. 47-49; Elliott, 2006, pp. 208-210), as scholars and professionals, presupposing an uncritical collaboration in being no more than those personas or stereotypes.

It is probably heresy to respond to cataloguing orthodoxy with a Habermasian rejection of deferring judgement to ‘bureaucratic elites “informed” by experts and interest groups’, whose collective effect is to erode civil society (Finlayson, 2005, p. 120).

But in keeping with Habermas’s emphasis on pluralism, perhaps it is possible to recognise some aspects of all cataloguing schema as potentially useful, perhaps by limiting implementation to the least convoluted deployment suited to a specific task at hand.


Elliott, G. (2006). Althusser: The Detour of Theory. Boston, MA: Brill.

Finlayson, J.G. (2005). Habermas: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lahtinen, M. (2009).  Politics and Philosophy: Niccolò Machiavelli and Louis Althusser’s Aleatory Materialism (G. Griffiths & K. Kölhi Trans.). Boston, MA: Brill.

Marcuse, H. (1991). One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the ideology of advanced industrial society (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.

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