Monday 22 February 2016

Ideology doesn't just float free of who we are and what we want...

There is a tendency for many of us, me included, to talk about ideology anywhere (but I'm talking about children's books here), as if it just exists for its own ends. A given ideology (racism, let's say) we might describe as 'doing' x or y. We might write in many ways as if 'ideology' operates by itself as if it has some kind of human power.

I may well done this myself when taking my eye off the ball. It's easily done.

It ultimately collapses as a way of talking or writing because a) ideology can't 'do' anything. People perceive the text that is 'ideologically' doing the work; they (we) read it, or hear it and in so doing go through the processes of trying to understand it, reflect on it, make it part of our thought - in other words we 'do' the ideology!  and b) ideology is not separate from those who express it. Ultimately ideologies are the viewpoint(s) of social groups, power groups, powerless groups, and classes in society.

The moment we accept this (b), we might then ask what kind of purpose or function then does this or that ideology appear to be serving in society? Unfortunately, it's quite easy to discuss an ideology as if it is separate from these questions of purpose and function. (Purpose and function may be separate from 'aim' in that what appears to be the 'aim' or a speaker or writer, may well not neatly overlap with what it's ultimate function is.)

This notion of ideology being connected to people was expressed in schematic form by Marx when he said that social consciousness is determined by social being. In other words our awareness, our ideas, our ideologies are born out of how we exist as social beings - how we derive a living, what our position is in the processes of deriving a living, the times we live in,  how we live with the people we choose to live with or have to live with, our social groups for leisure, our places of living and so on. Marx thought that the first three on this little list were the real fate-changers or 'determinants' and everything flowed from these.

Even if people don't accept the full Marxist package here, there is still the challenge of what any ideology (let's say expressed in a Beatrix Potter book, or a 'The Hunger Games') is for. Where does it come from, who is expressing it, why, and what purpose or function does it have?

As I said in the previous blog, this is complicated by the fact that any given ideological position or expression may be 'explicit', 'implied' or 'hidden' and many positions in between. And we as readers may well resist whatever appears to be being said to us...