George Walford: Meet Systematic Ideology

George Walford published (and often revised) this introduction to systematic ideology in each issue of Ideological Commentary from January 1985 to August 1994.  This revision of August 1993, published June 1994, is his final version. – Trevor Blake

Ideological Commentary announces itself as a journal of systematic ideology (s.i.), but it does not claim final knowledge of this theory; the formulation that looked like the ultimate last month needs alteration now, and the account given here undergoes continuing revision.

S.i. starts from observation of the limited success achieved by the reformers and revolutionaries (who themselves stress the failures of the traditionalists). After almost two centuries of struggle we still live under the familiar hierarchy and restraints; the conditions of life of the majority have not led them to support reform or revolution and do not seem likely to do so.

All political movements derive most of their support from those on the lower economic levels; only there do the necessary numbers appear. The significant difference between movements lies not in class position of the members but in their ideas, beliefs, values, assumptions. These tend to come in sets, and the sets of broad, general ideas etc. that appear in social life as the main political movements s.i. terms the major ideologies. The notes below list some of the features of these and indicate in outline some of the relations between them.

[An arrow pointing from the top of this list to the bottom indicates the] [d]irection of increasing complexity in societies and people. Of the people reaching each stage many remain there; numbers, and consequently the influence exercised by the successive ideologies, diminish along the series. As each ideology develops the previous one, although continuing to influence behaviour, comes to be repressed and disvalued.

EDIOSTATIC [includes Expediency, Domination, Precision]

EXPEDIENCY
The only universal ideology; provides a criterion for selection among morally indifferent actions. Thinking unsystematised, the spiritual world polymorphous and not firmly distinguished from the material. Nonpolitical. Only foraging communities operate entirely in this way.
DOMINATION
Establishment, principle, the state, conventionality, commitment, devotion, discipline, authoritarian relation, social production. Thinking achieves firm (though not sharp) dualistic classification: good/bad, subject/ruler, sacred/secular. Compliance with the rules gives predictable behaviour, enabling large societies to function. Conservative politics.
PRECISION
‘Hard’ science, logic and accountancy. Ethics predominate over conformity and compliance, in religion as elsewhere. Humanism, agnosticism and freethinking begin to appear, with multiplicity, the ‘billiard-ball’ universe. Liberal in politics, greenism as a practical necessity.

EDIODYNAMIC [includes Reform, Revolution, Repudiation]

REFORM
Profound but gradual change; evolutionary science and gradualist socialism. Increasingly independent thinking leads sometimes to atheism, sometimes to mysticism, inspirational or esoteric religion: Internal interrelatedness. Holism appears, and greenism as an expression of it.
REVOLUTION
Sets its own values aggressively against conventional ones. Assumes classes to be in a conflict resolvable only by revolution, violent if need be; these social relations override other influences. Religion and greenism condemned as bourgeois misdirection of the workers.
REPUDIATION
Condemns all that has gone before, demanding immediate elimination of government, classes, religion and private ownership of the means of production, resulting in free access to goods in place of the exchange of commodities. Anarchist and anarcho-socialist.
IDEOLOGY OF IDEOLOGY
Recognises and accepts all of the above; has for its task resolution of the problems arising from their interaction.

NOTE: These brief comments describe attitudes and activities displayed by purposeful social groups; in the behaviour of individual people psychological influences often predominate over ideological ones.

The Ideological Pyramid

The major ideologies, outlined [above], have developed through history. Each of them provides the conditions which permit the next one to emerge, and each of them has fewer people attached to it than the one before. The diagram below indicates the outcome, the ideological structure of contemporary society, but the model needs to be used with caution; it presents no more than a bare outline, showing none of the complex internal relationships. Also, a pyramid is notably static, the ideological system dynamic. Different parts of it change at different rates, and for most social purposes its overall form can be taken as stable, but no part of it is permanently fixed and neither is the whole.

This pyramid forms the tip of the greater one representing universal evolution; there, also, the outcome is the total system, not any one level.

These ideologies, with the groups attached to them, form a hierarchy, but one of development, not of value, validity or influence; the anarchists, although at the top of the pyramid, neither exercise social domination nor seek to do so. Power is possessed and exercised mainly by the big numbers toward the foot. The bulk shown for each level indicates the relative influence exercised by that ideology.

The ideology of ideologies seems not to appear, but in fact it does; with each step upwards the concern with ideology strengthens, and in moving beyond repudiation it becomes total; the ideology of ideologies identifies not with any one level but with the whole system.

The pyramid below is NOT TO SCALE; it seriously exaggerates the size and influence of the upper levels and understates the lower ones.

Ideological Pyramid by George Walford

Introducing the above figure, Walsby notes that a hyperbolic curve would be more accurate (Domain of Ideologies p. 27).

from Ideological Commentary 64, June 1994.

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