1. It seems to me, that ideology could be viewed as a set of ideas and ideals that stretch past a single individual, which differs it from a life philosophy. Ideology strikes on our desire to have a collective consciousness, to have something in common with other people and, through having that something, belong to an entity larger than ourselves. This makes ideology a necessary and indispensable tool for social control whether it is a family, a corporation, a political party or a whole country. Ideology sets up a variety of ideals or a vision, to which an individual, or a group, should aspire. If we look at the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, who promised to “Make America Great Again”, we could see an ideology at work – a vision of Greater America appealed to many Americans who, under severe media pressure, chose to trust an authoritarian leader who connected with them through emotional tantrums and contempt for “dirty” and corrupt politicians. 

Now, ideology does not have to be rational – numerous examples from 20th century could help us see that some state ideologies (e.g., communism, fascism) or cultural ideologies (drug culture of the 1960s) were successful without being rational or long-lasting. In my opinion, ideology captivates people because of its somewhat divine ability to hold power over others – if we take Cold War, both West and East were confident in their rightness and did not stop trying to get more and more influence in countries that appeared undecided in their socio-economic direction.  

It seems to me, that with the seeming statistical success of capitalism and the rise of individualism in the West, the concept of ideology is undergoing some changes: it is becoming more aggressive and more pro-active in recruiting people that have failed to develop their own ideology and a moral code. It should not be a surprise to see a revival of age-old ideologies such as nationalism, racism, sexism and blatant propaganda – individual freedom, education and the power of choice are detrimental for social control and the position of the ruling class. 

2. In my view, the role of government intervention is the dividing line between liberal and conservative ideologies. While controversial civic issues such as abortion, drug legalization and gun control might have its supporters and opponents on both sides of the political spectrum, I believe that the question of “What happens to my tax money?” is what makes voters choose what party to affiliate with. As we saw in the “Crash Course” video, family and school are big determinants in political education – it seems to me that this system takes care of the age-old issue of “individual vs. collective” perfectly. An individual is constantly tormented by a question “What is common good?”, or “How do we get affluent as a group?” – in the U.S. one can praise individual freedom (right) or equality (left) and find a political party that sees the issue in the same way. A common notion that people’s political preferences change with age, turning from liberalism towards conservatism, might depend on a higher salary that one draws as one gets older – the notion of smaller government and smaller taxation will naturally come as sensible, while for a young professional of a minority group, burdened by institutionalized racism (or sexism) and student debt, voting for a liberal party will appear to be most reasonable. 

3. I think Althusser’s definition of ideology is very dark, dystopian and technological – to see people as “cogs in a capitalist machine” and see them as subjects, not individuals are ways to covertly express one’s disgust for humanity and political systems of the time. It seems, Althusser might have been depressed by behavior psychology and the technological advances that influenced academia by simplifying or explaining certain patterns of human behavior, including behavior in groups. The simplicity of that view could have presented previous works of social scientists and philosophers as wrong, weak or even redundant – to fall into “we are all parts of a big machine and nothing else” is no surprise. I think to present ideology as non-existent and “virtual” is a smart way to rebel against it and pretend it does not exist, but at that point it is easy to confuse ideology with common sense – how far can one get claiming that there is no need to put a question mark at the end of the sentence if grammar is an imaginary social control structure? 

Leave a Reply