George Walford: The Field of Ideology

The term “ideology,” like the term “psychology,” is used with three distinct meanings. It refers to that which is studied, to the activity of studying it, and to the theory resulting from that study. (Also, by analogy with “psychologist,” we shall refer to the student of ideology as an ideologist).

Ideology (that which is studied) cannot be directly observed; its presence is inferred from observation of behaviour. It is, of course, by this means that we arrive at all our knowledge of the various structures internal to the living human being. We observe that what appears to be soft flesh maintains its form under stress, and from this we infer the presence of a rigid skeleton. We see that the emotional responses of each person are not random, and are not entirely determined by the stimuli applied, and from this we infer the presence of an emotional structure. We observe that the volitional behaviour, the considered statements and the purposeful actions, of each person are relatively predictable and consistent, and from this we infer the presence of a structure of ideas (a phrase which we will accept, for the moment, as referring to an ideology). In each instance, in order to render the observed behaviour comprehensible, we are obliged to infer the presence of an internal structure which significantly influences an area or class of behaviour. This willingness to recognise that action is significantly affected by internal factors, their presence implied by observable behaviour, is one of the things that distinguishes Walsby’s approach from that of the behaviourists.

The behaviour which is influenced by ideology is volitional or intentional behaviour, the actions we perform upon consideration or with purpose. It is not necessary, for any action to be included in this field, that the consideration involved should be deep or prolonged, or the purpose a long-term one. If I move my lower leg as a reflex action after being struck below the knee that is not an item of volitional behaviour and is not influenced by my ideology. But if I perform exactly the same movement with the purpose of kicking a ball that is volitional behaviour and is influenced by my ideology. It is not necessary that the thought connected with the action should be valid. Men regulated their actions, over thousands of years, in accordance with theories which have since been proven false. Their actions rank, none the less, as intentional and purposive, their behaviour comes within the field of ideology.

See also Domain of Ideologies Part II Chapter 1.

Continue reading An Outline Sketch of Systematic Ideology (1977):
The Walsby Society | Introduction | Ideology and the Left | The Field of Ideology | Assumption and Identification | Definition of an Ideology | Ideological Groups | The Major Ideologies | Ideological Development | Intellect | The Group Situation | The Cosmic Situation | Political Individualism and Collectivism | Economic Individualism and Collectivism | Personal Ideological Structure | Social Ideological Structure | Conclusion | Papers on Systematic Ideology