The elements of ideology
I was once a marxist. There I got interested in common features of ideologies which are used by organisations and which cosmetically appear diverse enough. I found some elements common to all ideologies that are used by organisations.
1. An enemy:-
For an organising ideology there must be an enemy. A figure, a situation, a religion, a class, a group of people, a ghost, an evil to be afraid of. This enemy should be identifiable and hence relatable.
2. A vision:-
This is a dream of a future which would come when the enemy would be defeated. This shhould not only be an enemy free future, it should be something more. It usually is a collection of many good things ppeople want. Like prosperity, development, peace, dignity, self growth and respect.
3. A conspiracy:-
Usually but not necessarily found in organising ideologies. The conspiracy sshould be of the enemy. The conspiracy should be non verifiable. There should not be any way of proving it wrong. It should appear true and should be such that it could easily explain various things. This can be a conspiracy of jews, muslims, upper castes, bourgeoise, protestants.
4. An appeal:-
This is an appeal to join others to the ideology. In the ideologies it is usually shown that the enemy can not be defeated without active participation of a large group of people and that the side of the ideologues would win as soon as sufficient numbers have joined or would not win unless sufficient numbers have joined it.
5. A fundamental belief:-
This fundamental belief consists of a core belief that forms the very logical and rational basis of the ideology. The beliefs can be more than one. It can be belief in class struggle, superiority of German race or Hindus, belief that the aryans were invaders. Organisations usually try to prove that their belief is scientifically establishe.
6. A negation of other ideologies:-
It consists of an outright denial of the truth of other ideologies. Ideologies insist on the fact that only what it says is truth and that there can be no other truth in any other ideology. The belief of the the ideology should be such that it is impossiblee to negate it but it is always possible to support it.
7. Insistence on monopoly of the interpretation of ideology:-
The organisations insist that the only true and correct interpretation of the ideology is the one coming from the seniors of the organisation. I suspect that all the ideologies are formed from the interplay of human fears, whatever those might be.
8. Emphasis on moral virtue rather than ideological rigour. In many cases to boost one’s theoretical and arguing position, the adherents of the ideology take a moral stand. The moral stand persuade the gullible. This is done to show that there is a difference between understanding and realising the ideology. Those who have moral stand claim to realise the ideology. This moral position has additional virtue of diverting attention of people from theoretical weakness. Moreover ideology is always presented by the organisations as a comprehensive all encompassing world view. Thus a moral stand becomes imperative to this claim.
Despite these apparent characteristics, ideologies have the potential of sweeping our world. They can, for better or worse, change our outlook for ever. They can cause revolutionary changes.
In my opinion, various factors cause our dependence on ideologies. One is our inability to see the world except as a model. To interpret the world and to understand its meaning, humans as intelligent and conscious observers of the world, continuously, consciously and subconsciously form models. They can not see the world except in terms of these models. When these models pertain to specific domains of knowledge, they are mostly academic. Weber’s bureaucratic model is an example. These models are generalizations and they seek to understand a particular phenomenon. This write up is itself a model. When the models are subjected to rigorous standards of observation, critical analysis and cross checking, the models are scientific. Newtons gravity, Einstein’s relativity, Darwin’s evolution are all examples of scientific models.
When the rigour of cross checking and observation is not strong enough and the model is essentially based on some a priori assumptions, the model is an ideology.
Moreover, we hardly know everything about the world. Understanding the true meaning of different phenomenon requires careful thinking and analysis. We are seldom equipped or ready to conduct such analysis. In such cases we use heuristics and biases to answer the complicated questions. We substitute the questions. What caused defeat of germany, the answer readily comes is the jew. The answer doesn’t require much thought. The question stands substituted in psyche as how much does one hates jews.
Thus formation of ideology necessary involves substitution of what we believe for what we ought to know. Hence, ideologies, especially the organisation forming ones involve heuristics and substitutions. In these ideologies social approval substitutes critical analysis. Thus the adherent is not only usually wrong, he never realises that he is wrong.
Given apparent shortcomings of the ideologies in knowing and understanding the world, it is clear that to remain a progressive force, the ideologies need to grow. Organisation acts as a supervening circumstance and creates huge inertia. Thus growth of an ideology in the sense of qualitative and revolutionary change is impossible. The ideologies grow with organisations only in breadth. With organisation growth, the leaders get little time to think and create new ideas. Hence, ideologies become regressive and stagnant. They get entrenched. Moored in societal customs of organisation. Same ideas get expressed again and again. At a later stage the very existence of top leadership depends on support of their ideas. They become even more reluctant to change the tenets.
The job of creation of new ideas is done by new factions which break away. It is also done by now disillusioned disgruntled followers. Hence, it is the break in organisational continuity that results in creation of new thought. However, since the new factions are also formed on the basis of earlier beliefs, they also contain same systematic weaknesses. Thus, entire vicious circle restarts as the seeds have been sown again.
We, therefore need a new kind of system and a new kind of organisation rather than the traditional top down.. We also need a new kind of ideology. What I mean by that, I would discuss in other write ups.