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.