Ideology is often a fetter of the mind. In fact, given its method of operation, it may be most appropriate to consider ideology within a similar vein to religion or any form of dogmatism, as both place parameters on thought and action.
It is important to note that ideas and ideology are not identical. An idea can be considered as the novel product of human cognition, that is thought, whereas ideology can be considered as a system of ideas. It is the organization of ideas for some specific end that demarcates ideas from ideology.
Here, what I am critiquing is the role of ideologies in constraining human thought, that is of binding ideation–the production of knowledge or ideas. It is not that ideology negates the possibility of ideation, rather that it enables or rather sanctions only narrow forms of ideation. For instance, I may conceive of a new method cooking a favorite dish, say black-eyed peas for instance. I may devise a new sequence of movements in a martial art. Again, such things are products of ideation. They are ideas manifest. However, ideology would instead insist that only black-eyed peas be eaten or that they only be prepared in a specific manner. It may mandate that only particular movements or sequences of movements are acceptable, that only certain martial arts are permissible. Such mandates may be offered without any grounding in any system of reason or critical analysis that is not bound within the circular logic of ideology–that is that the ideology is a basis of truth and that truth itself must be determined within the framework of the ideology. Thus, the only basis of legitimacy may be the consonance of a thing or practice with the ideology itself, not its utility for life itself.
It is the delinking of action from purpose and thought from reason that is the basis of ideology’s idiocy. One may discover that the constraints of ideology may create patterns of living that are in fact either impractical or untenable, but such limitations are never sufficient to warrant either the revision or rejection of the ideology, as it is (due to its religious inheritance) sacrosanct. Instead the very critique of or deviation from the tenets of ideological purity is taken as evidence of personal failings, rather than the structural flaws of the ideology itself.
Paradoxically, ideology, is often the idiom of discourses of freedom–both personal and collective, and it may indeed prove facilitative of this to a degree. However, freedom conceived solely on such a basis may prove fragmentary. Freeing one in some respects, while binding one in others.
What is the solution? What lies beyond the fetter of ideology? Perhaps little more than a commitment to human flourishing, a striving to practice a deep and abiding mindfulness, and a willingness to engage in critical investigation of thought and action. In one’s search for optimal ways to promote wellbeing, sustain deeper levels of self-awareness, and ways of interrogating the world one may find that the search necessarily leads to paths wider than those that the delimiting logics of ideology allows for.


On ideology

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