Harold Walsby: Conclusion to The Domain of Ideologies

The point has now been reached from which this book really sets out. That is to say, we have now reached, in our account, that stage in the intellectual development of the individual where his further progress depends on his recognition of an independent, self-determined ideological domain – i.e. as a domain, realm or class of phenomena which, because it exhibits, its own characteristic laws, processes, mechanisms, interrelations and interactions peculiar to itself, has therefore a large measure of independence (or, what is the same, internal dependence, or self-determinism); and which, because of its interaction with other classes of phenomena, partly determines and, at the same time, is partly determined by, these latter.

It entails his recognition of ideological form (as distinct from mere recognition of ideological content or subject-matter) and, also, an understanding of the various ideological forms as systematically and fundamentally related – as comprising, in fact: (a) a chronological succession of typical stages in the evolution of intellect and (b) a permanent hierarchic structure of coexistent, interacting and mutually-dependent levels of intellectual development.

Owing to the increasing frustration of his social or group aims (by the obstinate but inevitable persistence of the mass modes of thought, i.e. political collectivism) – owing, in other words, to the signal lack of success attending his efforts to universalise his own ideological form (that of political individualism) the intellectual is driven into ascribing an ever-increasing duration to the period between present society and the coming of the projected classless society. The self-determined, classless society, in short, recedes more and more into the remote and indefinite future – just as, in the earlier eido-static phase, the self-deterministic spirit world receded further into space, away from immediate reality, and became progressively more indefinite and indeterminate. Again, as was also the case with the earlier recession, the process eventually approaches a point beyond which the projection becomes so removed from immediate reality that it ceases to have any real value or practical significance. Accordingly, the intellectual’s strong emotional identification with the classless society and its underlying mass-rationality assumption becomes gradually weakened. His own emotional and irrational “faith” in the masses (i.e., in their development en masse towards political individualism) eventually becomes shaken and undermined. The intellectual is thus, by his growing scepticism, increasingly brought to the position of having to turn his attention to the ideological limitations of the mass group – to interest himself in ideological forms and the process of ideological development itself.

In so doing he comes to understand the ideological domain as no mere impotent by-product of the economic process and of other material processes, but as including these processes in qualitatively new interconnections, sequences and interactions – constituting a relatively new class of phenomena, a higher and more complex level of activities: exhibiting laws, processes etc. of its own and therefore possessing a great measure of real internal dependence and self-determinism.

Once this further development of his scientific attitude has really begun, the individual rapidly proceeds to rid himself, one after another, of many other unwarrantable prejudices and assumptions. For ideological science must be, above all, the rational, objective study of these prejudices and assumptions – its most distinctive feature being the recognition of the assumptive and identification processed as fundamental for comprehending the nature and growth of intellect. In proportion as his understanding of ideological phenomena develops, the intellectual no longer has the same need of illusory ideological projections of self-determinism beyond the world of reality, for he has at last found and recognised the self-deterministic principle operating in the immediately-present world within and around him.

No longer is his position that everything is merely, purely or absolutely determined – that is, determined exclusively and solely from without, by something else; his understanding, now, is that, besides being determined from without, all things – in so far as they possess structure, in so far as they are composed of interacting, mutually-dependent parts and process-levels – are also, to some extent, self-regulating, independent and self-determined; and that, the more the material parts and functions of structures – by virtue of their mutual determination and interdependence – are integrated into further groups of interacting parts and functions belonging to higher and more complex process-levels, the more are these structures actually, and in fact, self-determined.

Such, broadly speaking, are the main changes in the individual’s outlook (or, rather, in his cosmic situation) which arise from the study and understanding of the ideological domain.

Only when this study and understanding of the ideological nature of groups is accomplished by a sufficient number of the more scientifically-minded members of the community, will the scientific and – at the same time – democratic control of the group become possible as a really practicable proposition.

With the development of scientific knowledge of the various ideologies or ideological levels, and of the different orientations of their underlying structures of positive-negative assumptions and identifications, it becomes possible to apply this knowledge in the sphere of education, publicity, propaganda, and in social and political relations generally. Progressive and socially-useful policies, aims, ideas etc., of the broader, more inclusive kind, can henceforth be presented to an ideological group in terms of their particular structure of assumptions and identifications, with the practical certainty of acceptance and agreement by the majority within that group.

Human society, with the aid of science and the deterministic principle, has largely conquered the limitations and problems imposed upon it by material nature. But the large-scale application of science in industrial and economic life has served merely to bring to the fore-front the increasing ideological problems imposed by human nature. With the aid of science and the self-deterministic principle, these problems, too, may eventually be conquered. Human society would then be master, not only of inanimate nature, but of itself.

Continue reading The Domain of Ideologies by Harold Walsby (1947)
Part I Mass Groups and Intellectual Groups
Forward | The Paradox | The Political Groups | The Left Wing and IntellectualismThe Masses and Emotional Suggestibility | Fear of the Group | Political Collectivism | Political Individualism | The “Mass Rationality” Assumption
Part II Ideological Structure and Development
The Ideological FieldDefinition of Ideology | Cognitive Assumptions | The Process of Assumptions | The Absolute Assumption | Identification | Development and Repression | Conclusion | Bibliography | Index