Monday, September 07, 2009

A Brief History of Ideology

A common theme in modern discourse is the rejection of ideology and the use of the term "ideologue" as an insult for the people that the elite dislike.

I find this propaganda technique irksome. An ideology, after all, is simply a collection of ideas. The ongoing attack on ideology diminishes our ability to talk about the influences of ideas on our society.

So, I thought I would type out a quick history of the term ideology and the source of the attack.

From the fall of the Roman Republic to the establishment of the American republic, the predominant idea was that society needed a strong leader and an entrenched hierarchical political structure.

The classical liberal tradition that led to the American Revolution brought forward the notion that a society could be founded on a set of principles. This idea is clearly seen in the Constitution of the United States with separations of powers and a limited government along with a defined Bill of Rights.

The term "ideology" was coined by a French philosopher named Destutt de Tracy (July 20, 1754 – March 9, 1836) who liked the ideas behind the American Republic. His works include Eléments d'idéologie.

Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826), who had served as a Minister to France, commissioned translations of Tracy's work. There was an interplay between the US and France during this period.

There are people who do not like the United States and reject the notion of a society built on principles to one with a strong leader.

The vilification of ideology began in Tracy's life time. I drew the following text from wikipedia on 9/6/2009:

Tracy rejected monarchism, favoring the American republican form of government. This republicanism, as well as his advocacy of reason in philosophy and laissez-faire for economic policy, lost him favor with Napoleon, who turned Tracy's coinage of "ideology" into a term of abuse; Karl Marx followed this vein of invective to refer to Tracy as a "fischblütige Bourgeoisdoktrinär"—a "fish-blooded bourgeois doctrinaire."

The timeline is important. This vilification of "ideology" started with the rise of emperor Napoleon and was incorporated into the works of Marx. It is a central component of the Marxist dialectic. The dialectics is not about bringing a new ideology into existence, it is about magnifying the divisions in society, so that the practitioners of the dialectics can rise to power.

The modern era has been an extraordinarily violent time. Many people claim that the violence is a result of ideologies. But when you look at the people who've been behind the violence, they are generally leaders who are using this dialectical method that operates by vilifying ideology and creating conflict.

The best demonstration of this is the works of Karl Marx. On reading the works one notices a strange gap. Marx does not tell us how communism will work. He simply sets up a conflict that leads to revolution. It is this system of conflicts set up by Hegel, Marx, Lenin, Moa, Tito, Hussein and other practitioners of the method that create the violence.

The vilification of ideology is not new. It has been a thread through the entire modern era. It has been practiced by the worst of modern dictators, and it continues to stifle our ability to talk about how ideas effect society.

The term "ideology" simply refers to a collection of ideas. It is ridiculous that so many people run around pretending that there are no ideas at the foundation of their thinking. A person who claims such is essentially saying to the world that they are as dumb as a stump.

If we were a wise society, we would be encouraging the discussion of ideas and the way that ideas affect society instead of this shrill diatribe that has tainted the modern era from the rise of Napoleon through Marx a long line of brutal dictators who use the vilification of ideology as a means to suppress the ideas of their opponents.

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