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    Default Why do Social Theories Become Ideologies?

    Why do Social Theories Become Ideologies?

    An ideology is systematically biased by its assumptions and it constantly must protect its assumptions from erosion if it is to maintain the status of its ideology. For Marx the ideologist becomes a constant apologist for his ideology. An uncritical or vulgar social theorist, even though personally very critical of the established order cannot overcome the social osmosis resulting from the society and is unable to realize his critical intentions.

    A system of knowledge is inherently limited and distorted by its assumptions. Because of these assumptions it abstracts certain aspects of reality and conceptualizes the subject matter in a highly selective manner in accordance with the assumptions. The physicist restricts her focus to matters that can be quantified in terms of weight, time, distance, and perhaps wavelength.

    “Each form of inquiry operates within the framework of and the limits set by its basic assumptions, and offer an inherently inadequate account of the world.” Since non-philosophical inquiry is not aware off or able to question its assumptions “they have a constant tendency to claim universal validity and transgress into areas not their own.”

    The author argues that “the assumptions underlying and constituting a point of view may be not only methodological, ontological, and epistemological, but also social…To be a member of a society is to occupy a prestructured social space and to find one self already related to others in a certain manner.”

    The superficial student of social theory “is compelled by the very logic of his inquiry to become its apologist. Even if he were critical of his society, his very level of investigation condemns him to becoming its apologist…because the surface of society is ideologically constituted, so that whoever remains confined to it can do little more than reproduce the underlying ideology.”

    All accepted social theory becomes ideologically constituted because society in general becomes its apologist. Society in general becomes an apologist for a social theory because that society, which has never been taught critical thinking, is unable to comprehend matter beyond the appearance of reality.

    The inquiring mind requires a philosophical attitude if it is to illuminate that which is beneath the surface of social reality. I claim that ‘CT (Critical Thinking) is philosophy lite’ is a useful and accurate metaphor for the student of social reality. CT is the first step toward facing and conquering the “apologists’ dread”.

    I think that Marx would say that ideology is a set of ideas to which a group of individuals place great trust. Within this group of individuals most will become apologists for this ideology because most members have never been taught to think critically. Thus every set of ideas to which many are drawn will become an ideology. An ideology then is a set of ideas that is very popular and which is forcefully promoted by a large number of apologists. Thus the ideology is enforced by force.

    The difference in being a critical thinker or an apologist is that the critical thinker is conscious of his or her fallibility and is conscious of the assumptions that are part of the set of ideas making up that particular domain of belief.

    The critical thinker recognizes the tendency to be biased and can remain rational about his or her set of beliefs. The Christian or the Muslim who remains a critical thinker rather than an apologist can keep the set of beliefs while maintaining a balanced view of that domain of knowledge and how that domain of belief fits into a society in harmony.

    “Strange as it may seem, Marx’s concept of apologia bears a remarkable resemblance to, and can be best understood in the context of the traditional discussion of the nature and task of philosophy.”

    Philosophy is, as a philosophy professor said to me when I asked him what philosophy was about, a radically critical self-consciousness form of inquiry. Philosophy is the only domain of knowledge that has the attitude and discipline required to critically question its assumptions. All domains of knowledge start with assumptions and if these assumptions are challenged then the whole domain of theoretically defined knowledge loses its theoretical rational and legitimacy.

    Pull away the foundational assumptions of any domain of knowledge and the edifice crumbles without it.


    Quotes from Marx’s Theory of Ideology by Bhikhu Parekh.

  2. #2
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    Society does a pretty good job of a) reinforcing "positive" (in the sense that it is helpful to society) ideologies and b) marginalizing "Negative" ideologies. The whole point of post-modern thinking is to break down these accepted ideological norms and allow for competing theories to emerge, though they still have to work within the social structures.

    It's early and I haven't eaten breakfast yet, so I can't really think straight enough. But Debord and Baudrillard come to mind in pointing out how society distracts (Debord's spectacle) or emulates (Baudrillard's Hyperreal) in order to maintain ideological control.
    “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” -Nietzsche

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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst View Post
    Philosophy is the only domain of knowledge that has the attitude and discipline required to critically question its assumptions.
    This is true and it has been true for two and a half millennia since Socrates taught us how to question our assumptions.

    And for his pains, he was put to death.

    And it is exactly the same today. We really don't like our assumptions being questioned. For when our assumptions are questioned it is like our whole world view is being put to death. So in a reciprocal spirit we put the questioner to death or socially ostracise them.

    And this is equally true when the assumptions of MBTI are questioned. It puts us into a kind of psychological panic and we hit out with ad hominem attacks.

    The disadvantage of not questioning assumptions is that we are failing the whole history of Western philosophy and we become sclerotic.

    And the advantage of learning to question assumptions is an agile and supple mind, and then all of Western philosophy is open to us.

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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst View Post
    I think that Marx would say that ideology is a set of ideas to which a group of individuals place great trust.
    Yes, an ideology is -

    1. Pre-digested thought.

    2. It serves interests.

    3. And it has a demonology.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Victor View Post
    Yes, an ideology is -

    1. Pre-digested thought.

    2. It serves interests.

    3. And it has a demonology.
    I would say tha religion is ideology in its purist and strongest form.

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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst View Post
    I would say tha religion is ideology in its purist and strongest form.
    I think it's stupidity in its most vicious, vulgar and humiliating form.
    Same as football really.

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    I think the minute they cease to be remotely connected with reality but continue to serve a purpose for an interest group, Marx was right that classical economics had become an ideology used by an interest group but equally his ideas had the same fate.

    All this stuff about "critical thinkers" and "apologists" etc. sounds like mumbo jumbo, its an attempt to invent a good, enlightened, clever "us" and dumb, unenlightened, apologist "them" from the look of it.

    Obviously not everyone is conditioned the same or has the same experience otherwise there'd be no critical or supportive/endorsing divide (I dont say conservative because there are critical thinking conservatives or perhaps traditionalist is more like it), although I wouldnt say its all to do with class interests either.

    This also seems to be a prejorative use of the word ideology, its not "good" theory, if it becomes ideology, however the original use of the word ideology denoted theory, it was a science inspired attempt to make the study of ideas a substitute for the study of religion which had preceeded it.

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    In so far as religion is an idea it could be considered ideology but I dont think that's what you're meaning, I dont think religion is the same as ideology however, they are different species of ideas, religion is both pre-modern and perennial, while most ideologies are most appropriately considered modern political ideologies.

    That is unless you start to profess that social norms or values, such as heterosexuality, the nuclear or extended family, social conscience, work ethics or personal responsibility and free will are all socially constructed ideologies with a small i, at which point I'd go and read another thread because that sort of thing makes me believe all the things hard core conservatives say about intellectuals.

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