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Is ideology the bane of intellectual sophistication in the US?

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Is ideology the bane of intellectual sophistication in the US?


Marx is perhaps the first intellectual of great stature to coin the word “ideology” and to study its epistemological foundations. Marx makes it clear that ideology is an important aspect of all societies and especially for a society so dedicated to the cultivation of production and consumption as is capitalism.


A brief examination of culture in the United States and one will find that ideology, as framed by Marx, is a fundamental aspect of many of its social institutions; especially evident in religion, politics, and economics.


Ideology “is a systematically and socially biased body of thought”. It spans a broad spectrum of groups with their varying degree of bias and sophistication.


Despite the broad spectrum encompassed by this category of thought and practice “all ideologies share an identifiable logical structure objectively dictated by their ideological character”. Each ideology has a moral, i.e. prescriptive, dimension. Each ideology attempts to shape society to fit its particular world view. “Ideology turns what is a fact for one group into an “ought” or “ideal” for others…Marx argues that since an ideology generalizes a narrow point of view beyond the limits of its validity, it is compelled by its very logic to ‘moralize’ and ‘preach’.”


Ideology often becomes a hypocritical moral doctrine. Because it generalizes and remodels abstract ideas into an object, i.e. it objectifies, it reifies narrow abstract ideas beyond their true limits of validity it is compelled to propagandize and to “sell” its ideas. Ideology is constantly telling others how they should live.


Ideology has a complex character. It is normative; what are its ideas and experiences it attempts to present them as inherent in human nature and from this it “deduces appropriate moral recommendations”. It is biased toward a specific group; it is against other social groups, it treats these other groups as mere means. It universalizes a narrow and limited view and “sells”, perhaps evangelizes (militant and crusading zeal) might be an appropriate expression, this view to others.


An ideology can never adequately defend it self rationally because its assumptions have never been critically evaluated nor explicitly formulated. It is often rabidly critical of rival views. “Consequently it never states its first principles, or makes a perfunctory case for them, keeps reiterating and reformulating them, elaborates on them in the name of critically examining them, and so on.”


I think that ideology is the bane of American culture; it is solidly entrenched because ideology fits well within our religious, democratic, and economic heritage. The only antidote for this virus is a population well educated in the sophisticated thinking discipline and moral character traits of CT (Critical Thinking).


Do you think that CT might be my ideology? Can a teeny-tiny small group of individuals in a nation of 350 million form an ideology?


Quotes from Marx’s Theory of Ideology by Bhikhu Parekh

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I like to think that because a person, and then group of people don't NEED anything beyond food and a bare minimum of resources, of course you're going to end up with a spectrum of higher level rules to govern bigger groups of people. Cultures.


How they interact is just based on what needs they might have, or think they have within those higher level constructs. A society or nation has needs.. sure. They just don't always apply to smaller groups of people and so remain virtual needs that have to be met by an effort of many people working towards it.



The way I see it intellectual sophistication doesn't even apply unless there are very specific needs engendered among a big enough group of people to support it. You require higher level needs for people to actually care about building a casino, there has to be a casino culture. There has to be a church going culture willing to fight for their right to go to church which by no means fulfills any basic human needs. Yet those same church goers enjoy a higher level of intellectual sophistication because that church going group generates so much knowledge and practice that you do have to stop and think about how best to make that system better on an on going basis. Where non church goers can keep debating the pros and cons of church and they aren't even part of the system. They might still contribute to bettering that system they are not even part of.



Perhaps by specifying the US you're just trying to broaden the topic of the censorship and truly corrupt and fake ideologies that are based on denying free thought and free speech?


Since effort begins and ends with the unitary civilian, if he has been trained to listen.. that's actually good. Why is it so hard to force people to stop and think about right and wrong when there are so many shades of gray? Our cultures are very old and keep piling on knew knowlede that contradits everything else. It isn't hard to get people to live more simply, but you can't people to not learn about everything the world and our long history have to teach us. There's just too many ways to live that listening like a sheep is much easier than trying to choose from the stupendous amount of ideologies to choose from. Plus society simply doesn't like people who think anyway, they are dangerous individuals because they are just adding more food for thought when there's frankly more than enough for any single one of use to chew on.. and larger groups never tend to think quite clearly or rationally.

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All thought is saturated with egocentric and sociocentric presuppositions. That is, all thought contains highly motivating bias centered in the self or in ideologies such as political, religious, and economic theories. Some individuals are conscious of these internal forces but most people are not.


Those individuals who are conscious of these biases within their thinking can try to rid their judgments of that influence. Those who are not conscious, or little conscious of such bias, are bound to display a significant degree of irrational tendencies in their judgments.


“Can the intellectual, who is supposed to have a special and perhaps professional concern with truth, escape from or rise above the partiality and distortions of ideology?”


Our culture has tended to channel intellectuals, or perhaps more properly those who function as intellectuals, into academic professions. Gramsci makes the accurate distinction that all men and women “are intellectuals…but all do not have the function of intellectuals in society”.


An intellectual might be properly defined as those who are primarily or professionally concerned with matters of the mind and the imagination but who are socially non-attached. “The intellectual is thought of not as someone who displays great mental or imaginative ability but as someone who applies those abilities in more general areas such as religion, philosophy and social and political issues. It is the involvement in general and controversy outside of a specialization that is considered as the hallmark of an intellectual; it is a matter of choice of self definition, choice is supreme here.”


Even anti-ideological is ideological. If partisanship can be defended servility cannot; many have allowed themselves to become the tools of others.


We have moved into an age when the university is no longer an ivory tower and knowledge is king but knowledge has become a commodity and educators have become instruments of power; the university has become a privately owned think-tank.


“A profound change in the intellectual community itself is inherent in this development. The largely humanist-oriented, occasionally ideological minded intellectual dissenter , who saw his role largely in terms of proffering social critiques, is rapidly being displaced either by experts and specialist, who become involved in special government undertakings, or by generalist-integrators, who become house-ideologues for those in power, providing overall intellectual integration for disparate actions.”


The subordination to power is not just at the individual level but also at the institutional level. Government funds are made available to universities and colleges not for use as they deem fit but for specific government needs. Private industry plays even a larger role in providing funds for educational institutions to perform management and business study. Private industry is not inclined ‘to waste’ money on activities that do not contribute to the bottom line. ‘He who pays the piper calls the tune.’


Each intellectual is spouting a different ideology, how does the individual choose what ideology? Trotsky once said “only a participant can be a profound spectator”. Is detachment then a virtue? To suggest that intellectuals rise above ideology is impractical. Explicit commitment is preferable to bogus neutrality. But truth is an indispensable touchstone.


I think that the proper role for the intellectual is commitment plus detachment. Do you think many of our present day intellectuals qualify as committed and detached?


Quotes and ideas from “Knowledge and Belief in Politics” Bhikhu Parekh

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Well put.


You have to think for yourself, or be trained to think for yourself. A current problem does require acknowledging existing wisdom, but the most effective tactic is thinking about all the current aspects of a problem and not just trying to apply some blanket judgment/solution which might not fit this current problem.


Having said that isn't it more efficient to try to get a very large group of people behind an established method or solution to a problem, than to try to hash out a unique solution, explain it and sell it in a timely efficient manner?

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