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John Zaixin Zhang

 
 
 

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Decker on Ideology  

2009-04-07 12:55:08|  分类: 意识形态 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Decker, James M. Ideology. Houndmills and New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2004.

6-7.

For the purpose of this volume, one might define ideology as a reciprocal process wherein subjective, institutional, and political ideas operate within a power web of both the intended and the unanticipated. Under this definition, no ideology can be entirely conscious, for the concept is [7] in constant flux as individuals, institutions, and politics influence one another. Ideology is thus – paradoxically – unstable even as it functions to produce power.

8.

Marx further anticipates Engels’ later notion of false consciousness when he argues that ‘this demand to change consciousness amounts to a demand to interpret the existing world I a different way’ (36). [Marx, Karl. The German Ideology Including Theses on Feuerbach and Introduction to the Critique of Political Economy. With Friedrich Engels. Amherst, MA: Prometheus, 1998]. A few pages later, Marx explains ideology via the simile of a camera obscura:

If in all ideology men and their relations appear upside-down as in a camera obscura, this phenomenon arises just as much from their historical life-process as the inversion of objects on the retina does from their physical life-process… The phantoms formed in the brains of men are also, necessarily, sublimates of their material life-process, which is empirically verifiable and bound to material premises. (42).

10.

Coined by the philosophe Antoine Destutt de Tracy in 1796, ideology originally referred to an ostensibly ‘neutral’ science of ideas that sought to trace how ‘sensation’ became thought. Nevertheless, ideology’s conceptual pedigree begins much earlier than the Institut de France and, indeed, informs the classical split between idealism and materialism. In discussing his notion of Forms, Plato claims that material reality reflects a flawed version of the ideal. He suggests in his Republic (375?BC) that, for example, a craftsperson could never create a table – or even a drawing of a table – which fully captures the concept of the perfect (ideal) table. For Plato, ideas such as Truth, Beauty, and Justice preexist their representations, and these representations serve to distract humanity from transcending the material world. As Plato illustrates in his renowned simile of the cave, only the philosopher attempts to escape from the shadows and ‘empty nonsense’ of the material world and experience the glaring light of the ideal (318). [Plato. The Republic. 2nd rev. ed. Trans. Benjamin Tucker. New York: Penguin, 1987]… For Plato, philosophers may more freely distinguish between the material illusions that motivate most subjects and the underlying ideal upon which those distortions rest. While Plato, of course, never uses the word ideology, he does critique contemporary Grecian society by highlighting the process whereby rulers and their subjects derive their beliefs. By chasing after shadows, Plato contends, people ignore the ideal and act irrationally.

11-2.

Closely aligned with ideological notions of subjectivity is the concept of culture. In chapter 3, ‘Ideology and Institutional Authority,’ readers will continue to glean the interconnectedness of subjective and cultural desire. If one subscribes to theories such as Marx, Georg Lukács, Althusser, and Karl Mannheim, subjective desire mirrors cultural desire. In other words, the ‘needs’ of an institution (e.g., a religion, government, or family) manifest themselves via ideology and establish a milieu wherein a subject will ‘naturally’ desire what will benefit the larger institution. Ideas follow the requirements of history. According to this view, therefore, Gates’ drive to improve the technological situation of the average citizen finds its root in capitalism’s need to find new product outlets. As writers such as John B. Thompson, Marshall McLuhan, and Rosemary Hennessy argue, institutions – beyond their ostensible purpose – exist to perpetuate themselves and their inherent ideologies. Media outlets such as the Internet and television function not only as catalysts for subjective thought, but also shapers of thought. Media ‘culture’ helps create subjects who – in general – reinforce dominant ideas. The range of ideas, thus, falls within certain parameters. The rise of violence in American schools, for [12] example, might precipitate debate over the proper interpretation of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, but rarely do citizens challenge the validity of their version of democracy itself. Ideology, such thinkers would claim, embeds itself in various institutions so as to become – paradoxically – at once omnipresent and invisible.

12.

Once outside one’s own culture, however, ideology often makes itself almost comically obvious, and the external observer cannot but help to notice the ideological scaffolding supporting institutions such as schools, families, religions, and governments. Analyzed in such a naked way – and implicitly compared to competing ideologies – most ideologies will appear crude, overt, dogmatic. In many cases, onlookers will accuse the leaders of alien institutions of propagandizing, social engineering, or worse. Chapter 4, ‘Political Ideology,’ then, will examine those theorists who consider ideology as a form of direct social manipulation.

13.

As Eagleton observes in his Introduction to Literary Theory (1983), the very idea of ‘literature’ is ideological, but as he earlier asserts in Criticism and ideology (1978), ‘the literary text is not the ‘expression’ of ideology, nor is ideology the ‘expression’ of social class. The text, rather, is a certain production of ideology’ (64). [Terry Eagleton. Literary Theory: An Introduction. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1983]. According to Eagleton’s theory, students of literature should not consider the text as a transparent rendering of an author’s – or an institution’s – viewpoint, but should instead avoid simple dichotomies by examining a host of variables and exploring the ways in which text, author, history, and audience converge and contradict one another. Literary representations of history produce ideology as much in their lacunae as in their palpable selections, and the same text can produce quite different ideological effects in different audiences. Chapters 5 through 7 will engage a variety of texts in a series of ideology critiques that will attempt to heed Eagleton’s advice and steer clear of mistaking the reflection for the flesh. Hopefully, students will discover how ideology critiques allow readers to navigate between intention and contradiction.

13-4.

By now it should be fairly clear that ideology contains its own paradox: any attempt to describe ideology necessarily finds itself rooted in ideology. An individual’s own historical moment and position will blind her or him to ideology both within a given text and within a particular interpretation of a text. Such a phenomenon may potentially lead either to an endlessly refracting series of interpretive disclaimers or else to a faux (and dangerous) relativism that blithely asserts that Hitler and Tony Blair possess ideologies – or ‘grand narratives’ – that are no better, or no worse, than one anther… The question of positionality, then, becomes paramount here. How can one critique ideology from inside [14] ideology? Can one ever ‘escape’ from ideology and pursue a purely ‘scientific’ or ‘historical’ mode of analysis? In the face of the Holocaust, is it possible to claim that all ideologies are neutral? The final chapter, ‘The “Post-Ideological” Era?’ will focus on this hermeneutic bind and discuss how a variety of writers, including Raymond Williams, deal with it.

 Chapter 2

15

 Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am” represents the naive belief that ideas precede things, that subjectivity rises independently of material conditions. According to those who credit ideology with a major, even central, role in creating subjectivity, the proper statement should read “I am, therefore I think.’ One’s agency is contingent on the [16] convergence of a variety of material factors.

16

 Subjectivity does not arise merely from the physical ability to think; it grounds itself in the material.

 Francis Bacon’s concept of mental ‘idols’ seems a clear antecedent for the belief that ideology affects subjectivity.

 Bacon’s concept of idols of the mind, which in hindsight certainly qualify as a proto-ideology. Dividing the idols of the mind into four categories – Idols of the Tribe, Idols of the Cave, Idols of the Market-Place, and [17] Idols of the Theater – Bacon attempts to ‘forewarn’ scientists so that they may avoid false consciousness and seek the ‘truth’ inductively rather than deductively.

17

 Bacon proposes to correct this inversion by scientific investigations that establish only tentative theories based on the observation of data.

 The first rubric, Idols of the Tribe, concerns humanity’s predisposition to order the universe a ‘sort of vanity… rife not only in dogmas but also in simple notions.’ – By focusing on principles deduced from limited instances, human understanding falsely assumes itself capable of explaining every instance.

 Bacon observes that ‘all our perceptions, both our sense and our minds, are reflections of man, not of the universe, and the human understanding is like an uneven mirror that cannot reflect truly the rays from the objects, but distorts and corrupts the nature of things by mingling its own nature with it.’

 As with the camera obscura trope, Bacon’s figure of the uneven mirror centers on the ability of consciousness to depict a warped vision of ‘reality.’ The commingling of the ideal and the material suggests that subjects project their own biases on to the latter, thereby appropriating the physical realm to forward a variety of self-serving explanations. Rather than striving to observe material phenomena on their own terms, humans ‘prefer to believe what [they] want to be true.’ Subjects generally create, therefore, an ideology that foregrounds received experience and somewhat solipsistically [proving only the self exists] characterizes the natural realm. Such an ideology – built upon a foundation of distortion – prevents subjects from a scientific understanding of the universe.

 The second category, Idols of the Cave, refers to the specific prejudices resulting from individual psychology and experience.

18

 Using a trope similar to that Plato employs in his simile of the cave, Bacon argues that temperament, education, and habit all converge to establish a subject’s ‘own private cave or den, which breaks up  and falsifies the light of Nature.’ How subjects perceive or explain natural phenomena depends on their specific individual interests, which, in turn, find themselves shaped by acculturation. As Louis Althusser later observes, institutions such as families, schools, and governments tend to perpetuate the ideas that ensure their own survival, and Bacon appears to subscribe to the view that subjects take their cues from such institutions, although he does reserve a place for chance. – although Bacon cautions his readers about the distorting powers of such bias, he remains rather vague about how individual subjects may solve the conundrum.

 In his critique of the third type of idols, those of the market-place, Bacon combines his observations of consciousness with speculations about linguistics. – Inverting the accepted relation between ideas and words, which suggested that subjects regulate language, Bacon argues that language shapes subjective thought: ‘while men believe their reason governs words, in fact, words turn back and reflect their power on the understanding, and so render philosophy and science sophistical and inactive.’

19

 The Idols of the Theater, those stemming from philosophy, constitute Bacon’s final category. Bacon rejects philosophical argument en toto, contending that the entire method – rooted as it is in ‘fictitious tales’ – fails to explain natural phenomena in an adequate way because of an over-reliance on sophistry, insufficient physical data, and superstition. Chiding such luminaries as Aristotle and Plato, Bacon asserts that philosophy eschews experience in favor of preconceived systems into which philosophers manipulate their data. Bacon characterizes such systems as elaborate plays that dazzle their audiences but that nonetheless fail to codify reality. Delivery and rhetoric establish precedence over knowledge and truth. – Ultimately, Bacon implies, words – rather than thorough experimentation – dictate the results of philosophy.

 Bacon’s Idols of the Mind establish many precedents for future theories of ideology. Bacon problematizes the notion of a truly autonomous subject, for he depicts consciousness as contingent on received knowledge.

20

 John Locke – who would later have a profound influence on de Tracy – probes even deeper into the notion of subjectivity. Rejecting the notion of innate ideas much as Bacon does, Locke locates the source of moral principles firmly within the subject, as shaped by the environment: ‘external, material things, as the objects of sensation; and the operation of our own minds within, as the objects of reflection, are, to me, the only originals, from whence all our ideas take their beginning.’

 Locke’s famous tabula rasa formulaton, which he omitted from the final draft of the Essay, holds that the subject arises from an accumulation of [21] impressions, which the subject may then rearrange.

21

 If, to Locke, the (pre)subject constitutes a passive ‘white paper’ waiting to receive impressions, then clearly material reality – from genetic code to state-mandated pedagogy to television sit-coms – shapes ‘independent’ thoughts like so much malleable clay. – His empiricist approach suggests that those modes of thinking that most pervade a subject’s environment will thus play the greatest role in developing consciousness. By ‘reflecting’ on the ubiquitous ‘sensations’ that s/he receives, the subject may produce a ‘complex’ idea, but such knowledge would necessarily find itself contingent on the ideas of other institutions or people.

23

De Tracy sought to map the origins of human thought, and by implication, the source of humanity. As de Tracy viewed it, ideology would function as the basis for all future scientific study, for no field could transcend its reliance on ideas and sensation. Religion and other moral speculation, according to de Tracy, find their ‘authority’ not in a priori, absolute truth, but within the individual mind.

 Empirical analysis, de Tracy thought, could strip away millennia of socio-political policy clouded by superstition, prejudice, and metaphysical duplicity.

25

 Hegel attempted to combine de Tracy’s science of ideas with Kant’s belief in a priori knowledge. In so doing, Hegel traced the origin of human ideas to a universal ‘spirit’ or mind that fused both subject and object: ‘everything turns on grasping and expressing the True, not only as Substance, but equally as Subject.’

26

 Consciousness functions as the movement toward the Absolute and as such exists in a limited relation to the whole. By Hegel’s definition, then, all particular consciousness is false.

 As Eagleton suggests, Hegel explodes Locke’s notion of the tabula rasa by denying the autonomy of the individual consciousness. Each subject comprises only a minute component of the Subject wherein the Absolute paradoxically negates itself and moves forward through synthesis.

 Blind to the scope of the Absolute, those who purport to grasp the Truth simply cleave to but one of its myriad facets.

 The perception of Truth, therefore, tends toward the relative, for new material conditions constantly alter how the thinking ‘I’ comprehends itself in relation to the world.

 Moreover, Hegel describes how the ‘cunning of reason’ compels individual subjects to distort the material of history to serve the conditions of the present.

26-7

 One may readily observe that Hegel’s ‘cunning of reason’ prefigures Engels’ notion [27] of false consciousness, for it suggests that individuals fail to recognize the limits of their experience and the existence of an alternative ‘truth.’

27

Hegel’s notion that all subjective knowledge exists in a provisional relationship with the Absolute prompted the Young Hegelians to question received political ideas and replace them with a more radical formula.

27

 While Hegel holds to a rudimentary belief in religion as a figurative example of his fusion of the ideal and the material, Feuerbach, building on the earlier theories of Strauss, excoriates Christianity – and by extension, all religious systems - as ‘primitive self-consciousness.’

28

 In rejecting the Hegelian Absolute, Feuerbach announced his own project as an attempt to correct the inverted relationship between humanity and ideas: ‘The absolute to man is his own nature. The power of the object over him is therefore the power of his own nature.’

 Through speculative philosophy, individual subjects commit the crucial error of applying their own fathomable capabilities to the entire species, which Feuerbach sees as unlimited and ‘perfect’ in its essence: ‘he can become conscious of his limits, his finiteness, only because the perfection, the infinitude of his species, is perceived by him.’

 Hegel and his intellectual brethren, Feuerbach maintains, invert the subject-object relationship between the conscious ‘I’ and the idea and superimpose human qualities on to abstractions such as ‘God.’ Feuerbach thus argues that ‘the object to which a being is necessarily related is nothing other than its own revealed being.’

 In The Essence of Christianity, Feuerbach, employing a ‘materialist’ paradigm, traces the idea of God to its roots in human potential. – Drawing from Hegel’s Absolute, Feuerbach imbues Humanity with a collective subjectivity that allows him to apply the notion of eternity to the species rather than the individual. The traits of divinity, therefore, refer not to God, but to the human race: ‘Man was already in God, was already God himself, before God became man.’

 God and religion, then, represent a manifestation of the unquenched human desire for perfection. By fetishizing the moral qualities represented by Love, religious consciousness embodies God with a human form, Christ, and alienates the human subject from [29] Humanity itself.

29

 Feuerbach’s theories helped ignite the modern debate over ideology, for they spurred Marx and Engels, among others, to action. From the standpoint of ideology, Feuerbach represents an important transitional figure. A bridge between de Tracy’s ‘neutral’ notion of an ideological science and Marx’s conception of ideology as the ‘the phantoms formed in the brains of men,’ Feuerbach’s inversion of Hegel’s Absolute Spirit recognizes the limits of idealism and seeks to empower the subject. By exposing the falsity of religious consciousness, Feuerbach prefigures Marx and Engels’s camera obscura simile and suggests how institutions may perpetuate their power by blurring the material nature of their origins. He also suggests that ideology, rather than arising out of pure fantasy, possesses concrete (i.e., material) origins. Nevertheless, as Marx convincingly argues in The German Ideology, the materialism that Feuerbach attempts lacks a systematic historical basis and, therefore, shares many of the same problems as ‘pure’ idealism.

 Feuerbach’s emphasis on the rather abstract, reductive notion of ‘species’ undercut his efforts to establish the ‘philosophy of the future.’

31

 Marx, inverting most previous notions of subjectivity, challenges the pseudo-materialism of the Young Hegelians and the notion that changing ideas would lead to social revolution. – Far from producing historical circumstances, ideas stem from those conditions. For Marx, ideology represents the culmination of this confused outlook.

 The reality of subsistence precedes the formation of ideas. Subjectivity, therefore, depends on social determinism: ‘Men are the producers of their conceptions… as they are conditioned by a definite development of their productive forces and of the intercourse corresponding to these, up to its furthest form.’

 In treating consciousness as autonomous, the Young Hegelians create a fetish of subjectivity and wrest ideas from the very history that produced them. Such an a priori belief in the power of ideas inverts the relationship between social action and theory, a process that Marx and Engels liken to a camera obscura.

32

 Marx steadily develops a notion of subjectivity that inextricably links historical conditions to the products of consciousness (ideas).

35

 Marx refrains from assigning a mechanistic correspondence to the relationship between history and ideology, for the recognizes he reciprocity of the two concepts. While ideology may derive from the ‘false’ value tendered to ideas, few would argue that those ideas themselves have not produced tangible history.

 Nietzsche rejects the findings of the rationalists in favor of an emphasis on will, the overwhelming force that seeks self-preservation above all else. Distinct from reason or intellect, will proceeds instinctively to fulfill the requirements of physical life. Abstract endeavors, then, arise from basic biological motives. – Even consciousness – the essential building block of subjectivity – finds its roots in the need to maintain basic (or ‘animal’) functioning. For Nietzsche, the subject constitutes merely one extension of a grand network of delusions.

36

 According to Nietzsche, the pursuit of knowledge yields little of value, for the essential questions remain unasked, too close to recognize.

 Hans Barth writes Nietzsche’s theory that ‘every class subscribes to a morality appropriate to its interests and its particular will to power.’ Morality is thus contingent on self-preservation and self-justification.

37

 Nietzsche observes that the subservient classes developed their own etymology for good/evil. Nietzsche argues that the weak tend to rationalize their impotence: ‘the slave revolt in morals begins by rancor turning creative and giving birth to values.’ For Nietzsche, the powerful exercise their dominance unconsciously and naturally, and the weak must develop an illusion that justifies their lack of strength.

 The ideology of power, then, finds itself entrenched in a double falsehood. On the one hand, selfish motives recast themselves as selfless acts, while on the other hand, submission reinvents itself as piety. Both definitions prove dubious, for they involve a misrepresentation of tangible action.

 Subjectivity, then, finds no place in Nietzsche’s explanation, for it represents merely the vestiges of ‘animal’ function. Because no ‘truth’ – as formulated by philosophers – exists, the mind’s ‘products’ represent no more than an effort to quench particular biological desires. Even conscience, the ideal of personal morality, finds its [38] origins in the prosaic wish to avoid pain.

38

 The subject functions as no more than a conduit for the will to power.

 As Lichtheim glosses Nietzsche, ‘all thought is ideological; its unconscious function is to serve the life process.’

 Freud considers how humanity’s religious impulses emanate from a subjective position, the pleasure principle, and suggests that ‘every individual is virtually an enemy of culture.’

 For Freud, society’s most basic institutional enterprises – its churches, schools, governments – suppress individual desire in favor of the communal good.

41

 Quite apart from Freud’s dichotomy of self and culture, Slavoj ?i?ek’s theory posits that the subject, not the state, now serves as the locus of ideology. Similarly, in contrast to Marx’s camera obscura analogy, ?i?ek argues that ideology consists not of faulty perception, but of a deluded ontological frame of reference.

 For ?i?ek, the central question of ideology lies not in the content, but in the ‘“secret” of this form itself’ because the structure, not the substance, offers a clue as to the subjective conditioning that reinforces inequitable material reality. ?i?ek, therefore, wrests the responsibility for ideology from the culture itself and squarely places it within the subject, who unreflectively reproduces the ‘social symptom’ that results in a quite tangible reality: ‘“ideological” is a social reality whose very existence implies the non-knowledge of its participants as to its essence.’ The ideology lies so deeply encoded within the basic form of, for instance, capitalism, that the subject cannot even detect its ontological misapprehension. Even those subjects who cynically deride the schism between ideology and social reality reinforce – rather than subvert – the hegemony. – One may, for example, rhetorically denounce Bill Gates as a corrupt monopolist, but in doing so, one fails to question the motives underlying ‘legal’ capitalism and thus perpetuates the social symptom.

42

 ‘Belief supports the fantasy which regulates social reality.’ By acting in accordance with this fantasy [ideological fantasies], the subject transforms the raw material of ideology into the concrete transactions of everyday life. Subjectivity thus commodifies itself.

 ?i?ek thus brings us full circle. Whereas Descartes posits that the idea precedes the thing, ?i?ek argues that the idea is the thing, that the very form of the subject holds the kernels of ideology.

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