George Walford: Creative Ideology

When thinking about ideology we tend to assume that the most it can do is to affect the way we think about, and respond to, existent things. But there is reason to believe that it does more than that, that according to whether we are identified with this or that ideology we act as if certain things do or do not exist. That is to say, so far as our behaviour is concerned these things do or do not exist according to whether we are identified with this or that ideology. Discussions relating to this (although they do not put it in quite these terms) will be found in Collingwood, The Idea of History; Szasz, The Manufacture of Madness; Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Those are mostly theory. Here is an example of the process at work:

… a referendum involving the entire membership [of the American Psychiatric. Association] was held to determine the issue of whether homosexuality is or is not a mental disorder. The psychiatrists voted for its removal from the classification and accordingly a disease ceased to be a disease, not because of some advance in scientific understanding but because of the equivalent of a show of hands. (Anthony Clare in TLS Feb 19 1982)

We may think of this as nothing more than the correction of an error. If so, then the disease of homosexuality had been formerly created by the beliefs of psychiatrists. And that disease was real enough to produce practical effect; many sufferers underwent treatment for it. And those words do not require inverted commas.

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“And Sigmund Freud wandered in like a bad dream.”

from Ideological Commentary 11, March 1982.