Note on Ideology


Saw some mention that "everything is ideology".

No it isn’t.

Ideology is not the sum total of the products of our consciousness, which such a universalizing phrase would suggest.

A lot of spiritual literature makes this mistake too

social constructs (a phrase that often gets entangled with or mistaken for ideology) = consciousness (thought) = samsara

..that is just wrong

Ideology has a specific meaning. It’s not just "thoughts and/or opinions" What we see as often as ideology is the result of affect (emotions). They may be stirred by ideological means but emotions are not ideology, material conditions are not ideology, social relations are not ideology but are conditioned by ideology, all thoughts are not ideology but are conditioned. This should be blatantly obvious to anyone who’s studied Buddhism even if they don’t have a clue about western philosophy.

One current notion that everything outside my own head is ideology is also wrong. Most of what’s in people’s heads is ideology and much of what’s outside is true if one pays adequate attention. This is demonstrated all the time in relationship of any kind.

On the other hand there is another notion that everything inside my own head (consciousness basically) is irrelevant/ideological/needs to be suppressed/etc. This also is foolish.

Another one is “move from the head to the heart” as if feelings are the only thing that matter. That they should be unquestioned and allowed to “flow” whatever the circumstance. This affective authority is a pretty strong strain in some popular Buddhist circles. It’s foolish and turns people into whiny children without any self-control. At the extreme it is infantilizing and encourages dependence upon parental figures, or those who have set themselves up as parental figures for whatever reason. This is part of a bigger picture which I’ll set out more clearly in future. 

Anyways I’m just reading a paper about this stuff. "Affect, Not Ideology A Social identity Perspective on Polarization" in which the authors say it’s not necessarily ideology that is creating current situations of political polarization but affect (emotion) since many of the disagreements aren’t even about political issues, which many of the participants in these debates really know little about, or any substantial differences in opinions, but about being emotionally inflamed.

Maybe you want to read this paper too. It’s a PDF.

I’m going to do a lot more writing about ideology in the future but I wanted to get this point noted now.


3 comments on “Note on Ideology

  1. Hi Nellalou,

    Just read the paper. Don’t think its very useful. Its the sort of silly sociological paper I don’t want to see. Life is too short.

    Have to admit I skimmed the charts and some of the ridiculously technical jargon. It seems to me that sociologists bend over backwards to prove that they are fully fledged empirical scientists (and still manage to get it up the backside from really empirical scientists anyway)

    After wading through it I came away with these points. Quote:

    ‘compared to party affiliation, ideology is a weaker basis for subjective political identity’

    ‘not only have Americans become more polarized over time, they now also show greater animus for the out-party than do the British, even though party identification in Britain is an expression of both political identity and class identity’

    For parties to be seen in ideological terms would require an awareness of their policy stances, yet most Americans have difficulty correctly locating parties on issue scales’

    ‘the evidence is strong that partisans are affectively polarized. it is less clear what exactly underlies this development. the evidence we have presented suggests that political campaigns are implicated, and there are reasons to believe that the fragmentation of the media market is a further contributory factor, but future research will need to address these possible explanations more systematically’

    As far as I can see it all boils down to this:

    If ideology is a weaker basis for subjective political identity it follows that less thinking is going on in party politics, which seems to be a round about way of saying that most partisans are stupid people. Fragmentation of the media market seems to be a round about way of saying that increased competition has led to a ‘dumbing down’ of content and an unthinking non-ideological portrayal of party politics—in other words that stupid media people are feeding stupid stories to stupid people.

    Couldn’t all of this be surmised simply by looking at fox news for five minutes and another five minutes at the national convention of either party. Which leads me to believe that the professors who wrote this paper are themselves either stupid or very highly paid cynical assholes.which all explains the pained state of the pepperspray bodisattva’s mind and his love of the word moran—he’s American and must contend with suchlike on a daily basis!

    Still, I love reading here, even if you have wasted a good hour of my time with this sillybillymullarchyshitenotworthadamnsociologicalninkumpoopary.

    Greetings from not so snowy Switzerland!

  2. Some make similar critiques about SNB, NB and so on. Everyone has their own preferred language of discourse. Some of these specialized languages are more useful than others for certain purposes. I find sociological approaches to attitudes, for example, more useful than philosophical approaches because context needs to be accounted for and that’s an intrinsic part of the approach social sciences take in their descriptive efforts.

    Your two paragraphs encompassing “If ideology…on a daily basis!” have a couple of points I’ll respond to.


    “increased competition has led to a ‘dumbing down’ of content and an unthinking non-ideological portrayal of party politics—in other words that stupid media people are feeding stupid stories to stupid people.”

    Not “non-ideological”. It is wholly ideological. It is the highly manufactured and refined ideology of stupidity. Multi-billion dollar industry. They don’t get so good at it without a lot of work and workers.

    2. professors, morans, etc.

    Some Americans are OK.

    In addition.

    I have not wasted your time. You have wasted your own time.

    There is nothing but wind in this part of Canada. Take that as you will. :-)

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