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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
- The Third Way (economics of the Fascist)
- Fascism and Science (why the hate?)
- Fascism in the modern world
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.
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- Guest Blog: ‘God Bless Fake America,’ a foreigners perspective
- History: The History of Fascism
- Philosophy: The Philosophy of Fascism