Ideology: Why Care?

What is Ideology?

Ideology is power. It is the glue which connects citizens to allow for voluntary agreements. It is a commonly understood structure which facilitates social contracts between those with guns and those without guns.

800px-Little_Red_Riding_Hood_WPA_poster

Maybe if she had a parent escort her through that dark, scary forest…

I choose to give part of my salary willingly to the government. Partially because if I don’t they will put a gun in my face and throw me in jail, but also because I have been convinced that I am obligated to contribute to my community in an equitable way. But even more powerful is that I have convinced myself that working within the legal framework of my nation is the ‘right’ thing to do. Society has convinced me (through delicious treats) that I should play their game, and I have convinced myself that this game is a moral one to play. The latter statement is a tell-tale sign that ideology has come out in the limelight. It is the belief that certain political behaviors are moral and that to behave differently is immoral.

Like most weird words with too many vowels, ‘ideology‘ comes from the French with its first known usage around 1796. The word was coined by a man named Antoine Louis Claude Destutt, comte de Tracy. Whose great name and sharp looks are an inspiration to us all.

Destutt_de_Tracy

Antoine had a great scarf

Ideology: the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program (Merriam Webster)

In mainstream discourse, ideology is used as an excuse to be lazy. “I am a conservative.” allows oneself to instantly encapsulate all one’s beliefs, viewpoints, and political thoughts into an easily digestible pill. Popular culture has defined what a “conservative” is for us, so once that phrase is uttered, your work is done. No need for discussion on what you think, we now move toward an argument of what viewpoints a conservative has that one may not like. This exercise is similar for Communists, Liberals, Progressives, Anarchists, etc.

This is the power of ideology. Not just that society effortlessly discredits competing ideologies, but at the same time it espouses its own dominate ideology so well that to even ask a question begs an answer. The question I ask is why do we think this way? I seek to explore this question through history, anthropology, philosophy, and whatever other field seems applicable.

Image

“Look to the sun and witness…” says Plato,
“Watch your step or you’ll fall on your face, old man” comments Aristotle

Like all great thinkers (such as our best friend Plato)  and not so great thinkers (like that loser Aristotle), we seek to find truth and meaning in our lives. Ideology is the lynchpin from which will we begin our discussion on why we think the way we do (which will be addressed as this blog progresses) which in turn leads us to how we find meaning in our lives. To get the ball rolling here is a brief on one of the more interesting political ideologies, Fascism. It will be expanded on later.

Fascism: A Brief

A Short History: How it Came to Be

Ever since the fall of the Roman Empire, the Italian peninsula has been under the thumb of foreign powers and of continual conflict. With it came famine, poverty, and lack of security. From barbarian rule to the fragmented (although powerful) city states of Florence, Venice, and Genoa. The kingdoms of Aragon, Spain, Austrian (Habsburg), and French all vied for control of various portions of Italy through shifting alliances, wars, and claims of territory through lineage. While the Renaissance saw Italy as a cultural center, the fragmented nature and bitter rivalries between city states allowed for foreign powers to continue their control over the peninsula.

Hanging_and_burning_of_Girolamo_Savonarola_in_Florence

Aside from all the human fueled bonfires, Florence was a pretty cool place

With Napoleon came the unifying force of nationalism and patriotism. While the Feudal era in human history can be seen as a period of isolation, the industrial era came with it a new push for unification and cooperation. Nationalism is the idea that those with a common culture, history, and ethnic heritage should be united as one people which was quite different from the feudal era (with allegiance to the protective lord or church).

Nationalism became the most powerful unifying force in Europe since the Roman empire. Germany began to solidify under the power and influence of Prussia in the mid 1800s. With the final unification of Germany to the German Empire occurring in 1871. Italy ran in a parallel track. Inspired by the French a long and arduous process of unification occurred starting in 1815 after the defeat of Napoleon (and freedom from foreign influence, temporarily). The Italian kingdom was established in 1870, with all of Italy finally united after World War 1.

It is here that we find our battered and exploited Italy. I end with the statement made from James A. Gregor about the sentiment of Italy during this time.

Italy’s Risorgimento, its effort at reunification and rebirth, made the name of Giuseppe Mazzini familiar to Western thought… Mazzini spoke, with passion, of an Italian rebirth. He spoke of a reunited Italy that would represent a redemptive ‘Third Rome,’ to bring a new message of civilization and morality to a world that had become increasingly materialistic and devoid of purpose. He spoke of the ‘great memories’ of a past that would inspire a new Italy to a ‘new mission.’ He called for an anti-individualistic unity of all Italians at home and a new development of civilization, inspired by Italy, abroad-the ‘vast ambition of a nation, intoxicated by its independence of the foreigner, [and] founded by its own strength.

Fascism: The Third Way

The philosophical development of the movement is complicated and requires many pages to explain. However, a common feature from the transition from national syndicalists, nationalists, and actualists, to Fascism is the sentiment of Giuseppe Mazzini. But that’s for another day.

Instead we will give an overview of the philosophical principals of Fascist thought.

Rationale for Totalitarianism and Anti-Individualism:
Actualists at the time (the philosophy of what is ‘actual’ or ‘real) had argued that the individual self of liberalism was ‘unreal’ and a fiction. The key figures of Ugo Spirito and Giovanni Gentile (philosophers and political theorists in Italy), saw classical liberalism as regarding the empirical self as the ‘true’ self as a facade. In a political sense the individual did not exist. Instead it was the ‘communal’ self which had prominence. It is through the communal self that we gain our character as an individual and interact in a meaningful way with the political world.

Your moral compass, ability to speak language, or even how to survive all comes from our family (or tribe or community). Humans are communal animals and cannot exist in any real sense in solitude. The individual man is isolated and destined for death. It is through our communal self that we find purpose in our lives, it is through friendship and unity with our tribe that we gain our desire to better ourselves.

We now turn these energies toward a greater national purpose. Our community is our Italian countrymen, the vessel for our energies is the government representative of our national ideal, and our innate human desire to work together for the betterment of our tribe is what unites us behind this ideal. The idea being that a nation is like a fine engine, with all parts working toward one collective purpose.

220px-Mussolini_biografia

Interestingly, Mussolini was a socialist intellectual before seizing power via force in 1925

Therefore we need a leader to unite behind which personifies this national ideal and collective purpose. It is easier for the masses to identify with one man than with a faceless vanguard party. We need an Italian who espouses the collective desires of the Italian people. A man who is seen and immediately recognized as a man of the ‘actual’, as a man of action. A man who will defend our interests and fight for our prominence on the world stage of nations. We will no longer be pushed around by foreign powers or nations, we will make a stand against all those who have subjugated us in the past. For if one thing has been learned through history, it is that the weak suffer at the expense of the strong.

For these reasons the Fascist desires a strong leader and rejects individualism.

Further topics:

  • The Third Way (economics of the Fascist)
  • Fascism and Science (why the hate?)
  • Fascism in the modern world

Ending Remarks

An issue I have always had with people when they talk about ideology is they immediately start throwing terminology around. Proletariat this, patriarchy that. The more engaged I became in ideological forums and user groups the more I realized how bad they were at getting their message out there, let alone at converting new accolades. They couldn’t reach out, they couldn’t grab those who don’t know what a proletariat is, or those who don’t know what patriarchy means.

My hope with this blog is to break down the barrier between information and understanding. And to have some fun in the process. This blog won’t be strictly about ideology but that is the primary focus. I plan on adding discussions of philosophy, history, and interesting cultures (and how they viewed the world) for certain historical periods. I hope you find this blog entertaining and enjoyable. I welcome feedback and hope you stick around.

Want To Read More?

Guest Blog History Philosophy

Click on one of the above icons to be directed to a related, high quality article!

Descriptions:

  • Guest Blog: ‘God Bless Fake America,’ a foreigners perspective
  • History: The History of Fascism
  • Philosophy: The Philosophy of Fascism
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21 comments

  1. That ideology is important is established by the villains who misuse it, seemingly. That there is anything moral about government seems as unlikely to me as it did to St. Augustine. That does not preclude a citizen’s moral duty toward the state nor the state’s moral duty toward the citizens, both so often ignored. But while the citizen has a conscience, the state does not. But I admit anti-government bias in advance …

    1. Hi Jack, I appreciate your reply and thanks for reading my article. Allow me to clarify my position a little bit.

      I do not think governments control ideology. Governments can attempt to ‘convert’ a populace to a certain ideology through violence, intimidation, debate, or what have you. But it can fail miserably. A great example of a failure for a government to convince citizens of an ideology would be 1989 Poland. Try as the elites may they could not convince enough Polish people to become Communists. Now you may say well Mr. Duck, does that mean you think Sadam Hussein convinced the Iraqi people of the tenants for the Ba’athist party (Sadam was only taken out by invasion of the US)?

      No. And I think it is quite clear of Sadam’s failure after the Iran-Iraq war with the numerous and deadly uprisings which resulted. I think that was a clear sign that Iraq was unified only by threat of violence, not willing unity.

      You can attempt to use certain ideological principles as an excuse to do certain actions, this is true. But that is no different from using religion, economic self interest, or ethnic heritage to do similar atrocities. That does not mean ideology, religion, economic self interest, or ethnic heritage are pointless in the explanation of our world (all these things can be a force of good too!), but rather, they are a piece in a large puzzle of how we interact in society.

      Once again thank you for your comment and I hope to hear more of your feedback 🙂 Take care

      1. I see little with which to disagree, we just stand at slightly different places philosophically … You prefer Plato over Aristotle; I am opposite. But our conclusions seem very compatible from what I can see. Ideology is in the end, a belief system and most often,, one developed and used in furtherance of somebody’d goals. (Though not always) Or so I see it. Application of the reality test seems a fair measure of the value of a given ideology.

        But I note that the reality test is often applied only retrospectively, when said application prospectively would have been of much greater value … And that characteristic of human nature is for me, a justification for suspicion of any given ideology at the outset. Color me cynical, perhaps!

  2. Thank you for liking my post! I look forward to reading your posts and the wonderful ideas that we all share with each other. Whether we agree or not, there is food for thought that teaches us all to look at something in a way maybe we have never done so. Much love and light to you and have a blessed day!

  3. Good work here keep it up.

    Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws is good for explaining the mores of the people vis-a-vis their form of government. Milton Friedman in Free To Chose and Alexis De Tocqueville do a good job of explaining why a powerful central government can’t work and of course we have John Locke with the justification of removing a corrupt government — but then I repeat myself

    1. Thanks for stopping by, always nice to have feedback. As the blog progresses I’d like to touch upon our Classical Liberal friends like Locke and Montesquieu. They are true titans in political philosophy and helped shape the western world. But all in due time 🙂

  4. Very good stuff. As someone who is also fascinated with political ideologies, I hope you will keep going. It’s been interesting coming to the States from Europe, as many European political groups don’t really fit in the American conservative vs liberal dichotomy. (For instance ones that combine left-wing economic ideas with conservative social beliefs.) It’ll be interesting to see what else you have to say.

  5. I don’t know if I would call it Ideology, per se, or just wanting to Do What is Right. When I Retired, I had put enough money away to do so, but on my terms. Just like Goldilooks (Oldilocks, some say), it’s not Too Much, but it is Enough.

    Common sense tells me, however, that my hard work and a focus on putting myself through college, gave me the ability to retire comfortably. But, there are many in our Society who, through Bigotry, Racism, or even Corporate Greed, have not had the opportunities that I have had.

    So, I am willing to pay a bit more in taxes, because I can. The flip side of that, however, is that I expect those who have even more should expect to pay more. Instead, they act like they were being persecuted. They say that they are the job-creators; but, for where: China, Bangladesh, Vietnam, etc?

    After the Banks were the primary causes of the great Recession (4Q07-1Q09), they all got their Exorbitant Salary and Bonuses, and their Shareholders paid the Fines for their Misdeeds.
    But, rather than re-hire the laid-off Employees, companies just added hours, increased Technology and outsourced jobs. But tell me, Mr. Corporation, how many of your products do those machines and the overseas workers actually buy? Laid-off workers cannot spend.

    This is why I am willing to drive a bit farther and pay a little more to patronize a store that is owned and operated by local people that pay a Fair Wage to their Employees. Happy workers make me want to come back and I know that, when you treat your employees well, you are treating your customers well.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful reply, I think I would argue that “common sense” is exactly a reflection of your ideology. For instance, none of your presuppositions about the world arise from birth, correct? So instead they must be learned from some where. I argue that it’s learned through media, friends, and family. All these things are sent out subconsciously (it’s common sense!) to you, who learn to think similarly.

      I appreciate you stopping by and hope you stick around. I always enjoy those who may disagree or think I’m over analyzing! 🙂 take care

  6. Political ideology is the ultimate stupidity, for it fixes the mind in a pattern so that it cannot deal with a new situation. Jefferson had a dim view of philosophical systems for they penned in the mind.
    Social contract theory is bogus, because if there is one single anarchist within the territory encompassed by the State, there is no unanimous social contract; the anarchist is coerced, as is any minarchist who doesn’t want to agree to a social contract.
    We have inalienable Natural Rights not because of a social contract, but because of our reason and our conscience which tells human beings very clearly what is a malum in se and what isn’t.
    Modern Libertarianism is Jeffersonian Classical Libertalism, although there are six or seven types of Libertarians. The real ones stress Individual Rights and don’t believe in the myth of corporate rights. Libertarianism is a branch of political philosophy dealing with property rights ethics. It leads to free-market Capitalism. The Bill of Rights requires private property to be carried out, for there is no freedom of the press if the government owns the newsprint, ink, and type. There is no freedom of speech if there is no private hall one can rent, etc.
    Don’t agree with your view of the State as a benevolent social institution that, though you are coerced at gunpoint into it, you don’t mind paying taxes to it. I do, and I don’t think the State is like a friendly neighborhood grocer; more like a predator looting the productivity of the private sector and workers to live off their surplus, but I personally can easily live in a Minarchist State that had only police, courts, jails, public sanitation and health, small military against invasion, and taught reading to children (Jeffersonian requirement, but not by coercion. Jefferson said that the damage done to Natural Rights by carting off a child to school by force against the wishes of the parent did more damage to Natural Rights protection than the damage to the child. I agree)

    Very good blog. What we could use on the web is more discussion of these political concepts by thoughful bloggers like yourself, even if we don’t agree. I learn more from people I disagree with than preaching to the choir. — Silverwolf

    1. Hello Silverwolf! I love to have people disagree with me in thoughtful ways. I think both parties benefit from some friendly argument/discussion.

      Your comment brings up some very complex issues which I hope to address later on. But on the surface I will say anarchists are very interesting to me. I imagine you distaste any form of coercion unless strictly necessary (such as the one between a parent and a child). Personally I think society and me personally are better off from lite oppression (not totalitarian oppression more modern day America oppression) I think it propels us to greater things whereas we become complacent.

      I hope you stick around to prod me more, I look forward to some anarchist critique :).

      1. I should clarify that I am not an anarchist, I’m a Minarchist, or believer in minimal government, and Classical Liberalism. After reading the theory of anarcho-capitalism as explained by Prof. Murray Rothbard, the founder of the Libertarian Party in the early 70s, and the last of the line of the modern Austrian School Economists, Mises and Hayek (who won the Nobel Prize for Econ in 1973 and whose “The Road to Serfdom” converted me from a mixed economy view, to a almost all private sector view with some minimal government and environmental protections.)That is, I think Anarcho-Capitalism is valid and could work, because it still has Law, though it doesn’t have Government, much like the Native American tribes Jefferson mentions, and its basic law is that you can’t aggress against the person or property rights of any other individual.

        However, I don’t think America is anywhere near ready for that level of thinking psychologically, since it is so brainwashed into collectivist thinking, and thinking the government is themselves, that it would be hopeless to advocate anarcho-capitalism as a politician. eeople would instantly associate Anarcho with Anarchy, as I first did when I heard the term. And, after reading the arguments of Libertarian theorists, I also am not fully convinced about matters like privatizing the roads, and privatizing police forces and jails. I could easily see private and/or religious courts handling divorce and corporate contract disputes. But I also don’t see why a very minimal Jeffersonian government, pro individual-free-market, with sound money and environmental protections against corporate pollutions, and a representative government with democratic elections, (we’re a Republic utilizing democratic elections and a Bill of Rights, not a Democracy) couldn’t work fairly well in America. (A Democracy without a Jeffersonian bill or rights is merely mob rule.)

        Collectivism also ends by destroying a society, and a socialist economy will always undermine the soundness of the currency through deficit spending and inflation, leading to racism and social conflicts. We’re seeing that now in America. So the choice is Libertarianism or Collectivism. There is no “mixed economy” workable as I once thought. — Silverwolf

  7. Very interesting post, as well as commentary. I note a lack of discussion about the most effective, and productive, ideology ever experience by man. It is basically the only source of reliable, and continued, “good” on earth and that is Christianity, more specifically Protestantism. I sincerely feel that all other ideologies pale by comparison and as a result, Christianity is insidiously, routinely, and deliberately overlooked (or worse, ignored) by the academic (secular) intelligentsia. And the reason? Who can argue with its success? If nothing else, Christianity generated Western Civilization and as a result,man’s existence on earth has improved 1000 fold. What other “ideology” can lay claim to that? All others, including other forms of “religion”, have ended badly because they are based on “getting even” for some imaginary “offense.” Thank you for following my blog.

    1. Hello there!

      There is an argument to be made of the difference between religion and ideology. I personally think religion can (but not always does) supersede ideology. This is because it covers more than ideology does, it deals with a deity and life after this world. Ideology is always concerned with the world we live in now, and the actions we take in the political world (and the morality of those actions). Some religions try to push into the political sphere in varying degrees. Islam does this much more than Christianity does. While Christianity gives us some great guidance on what to eat, how to have sex, how to sell slaves, and to respect authority; it is missing that unique piece that Islam has, There is no presupposition on human nature which will ultimately bring about a new political “era”.

      The church has always been “not of this world”, so it’s fighting an uphill battle in my mind.

      Thanks for your comments, take care.

      1. I suppose that’s why most ideologies fail and American (Christianity inspired) democracy triumphed. One cannot be exclusive of the other and succeed. Christianity did not have to “push” it’s way into American democracy because Christianity actually generated America’s version of democracy. Big difference – as coercion was never necessary, thereby nearly guaranteeing its success. Interesting discussion.

  8. That is certainly a thought but one I fervently disagree with. To call early American democracy christian inspired would be an insult to Christians who are wholeheartedly against slavery, the subjugation of women, or the unabashed willingness of the early United States government to back out of its own contractual agreements with native American tribes.

    The uniqueness of American democracy is only that it survived, to attribute it to Christianity so easily should give a christian pause after reflecting on American history and comparing it to the teachings of Christ.

    A stark difference indeed.

    1. Let me just clarify a bit, the point is not that I think America was uniquely evil, it’s just that there are numerous Christian and non Christian nations in world history who have made similar immoral decisions. To say democracy is uniquely Christian is a difficult argent to make I think. Since democracy didn’t come about until almost 2000 years after Christ.

      Also I do not think 1800s America was any more or less immoral than, say, catholic Spain or Hindi India.

      What would you say is uniquely Christian that led to this uniquely american democracy? As you know America shares it’s religion from Europe which also became democratic and was solidly Christian.

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