George Walford: Meet Systematic Ideology (58)

(Revision of September 1992)

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 alike by the reformers and the 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 the 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 development 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.

EIDOSTATIC [includes Expediency, Principle, 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.

PRINCIPLE: Establishment, domination, the state, conventionality, commitment, devotion, authoritarian religion and 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.

EIDODYNAMIC [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, and 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 or anarcho-socialist.

IDEOLOGY OF IDEOLOGIES: 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 mainly by purposive social groups; in the behaviour of individual people psychological influences tend to predominate over ideological ones.

from Ideological Commentary 58, November 1992.