"The commodity can only
be understood in its undistorted essence when it becomes the universal category
of society as a whole. Only in this context does the reification produced
by commodity relations assume decisive importance both for the objective
evolution of society and for the stance adopted by men towards it.
Only then does the commodity become crucial for the subjugation of menís
consciousness to the forms in which this reification finds expression..."
--Lukacs, History and Class Consciousness
If one is to understand ideology, one must first
look out to those around him, and then return and look inwards. When
both of these views align and cross paths, that is where ideology lies.
It begins at the dinner table when one is a child and then extends through
out his life until he is at his deathbed, wishing for the light to arrive
to take one out of the misery that has become life.
How can one actually realize what one does is
actually the essence of a one's being? We wake up, put our shoes on
and return to "them," to bring about a production of the self through the
material resources that are available for one to do so. And in doing
so, are we actually creating our being? Are we deciding that what we
do is the essence of ourselves? Or are we receiving our relation to
ourselves through mediation? But not mediation through another, or
through ourselves, but through electronics, and through passive entertainment--Seinfeld,
Peter Jennings, Michael Jordan, and Ford. We arise every morning to
put Kenneth Cole shoes on, and drive our BMW to work, and to sit in front
of an IBM computer, and to drink Starbucks coffee, and to eat Burger King
hamburgers, and to loosen our Armani tie, and to listen to music on our Harmon-Karden
receiver, and to sleep in our Sealy Posterpedic bed in the evening.
But this is all spectacle, as
says. It begins in our minds or the minds of others, and it replaces
our thoughts. It is fluid and it transforms itself to include everyone
and to not discriminate, and to embrace "difference" and "otherness."
It is the all-encompassing blob that squeezes through the cracks because it
has no shape. It is formless, it is energy, it goes through wires,
it is implanted in to the greatest maker of ideology of all--the mind.
In ideology's shapelessness, we see language,
we see images, we see visions of our identity as someone else's dream or nightmare.
When we look in to a mirror, we see not only ourselves physically, but we
see the CEO of a large corporation, we see the office executive selling stocks,
we see the screenwriter, we see the horoscope columnist, we see the video
game creator, we see the Web page designer, we see the talk-show host, we
see Einstein, Gandhi, St. Augustine, Mohammed, Napolean,
, Hitler, Reagan, Pol Pot,
, and even
himself. These "points" are where ideology comes from, like domination
and alienation, and they return to them and us as we step away from the mirror
and proceed with the day.
But if ideology is so multifarious, duplicitous
and amorphous, maybe it is the truth? Just as there are six billion
people in the world, there are six billion minds being influenced by one
truth--the truth is that ideology works whether one wants to accept it or
not, whether one wants to buy it or not, whether one even sees it or not.
Ideology has risen with man, and it will continue with man until man is
nothing but the reproduction of ideology. Ideology par excellence.
The funny thing is no matter how many times one
refers to ideology or one refers to alienation, we continually project ourselves
in to it, through it and beyond it. Unconsciously, we might even believe
in ideology as the method by which we can achieve and can produce and integrate
ourselves within systems, whatever they may be. Let us take for example
the institutions of higher education, here in the United States in the late
Twentieth century. What we are bound to see is a diverse homogenization
of thought under rubric of specialization and utility. Learning history
is so we don't repeat it, understanding society so we can integrate and cure
its ills, learning psychology so we can understand our mental capacities
and functionings, learning writing so we can communicate. These various
disciplines exude pretension because they do not account for the fact that
they are led by a few who prescribe and indoctrinate what is considered ideologically
correct or right. The education system becomes an apparatus, and in
Althusserian terms, it becomes the method of reproducing ideology within
the structure of society. We are told that we must attain a certain
level of competency of knowledge so that we may become intregal producers
within the "global economy" as it is now called. But that is precisely
the dogma that drives ideology and is produced by it. I write this
paper for a philosophy class and then I turn around and wonder why I'm not
rich or I'm not famous and powerful, why I'm not a "world-historical figure."
That is the internal contradiction of ideology because it allows for one
to learn about it, despise it, and fight it, but in the end we end up just
reproducing the very urges and desires that are the motives for ideology.
The educational system is based upon the idea (or ideology) that teachers
must produce individuals that can go out in to the world and become comatose
like everyone else. And for those who do fight and do achieve some
level of autonomy away from ideology, they then become heretics, or weirdo's
or rebels without causes. And for those of us who do fall under the
gaze and mystery of ideology, we are considered "right" and "normal."
More and more the concept of realizing oneself,
one's true nature in society, or in the world, is being clouded by thickening
layers of materials, of structures that hold our system up with out any actual
relation to that system. As Niklas Luhmann remarks, "the important
question [of nineteenth century thinkers] then became how the individual
realizes within itself the universal, humanity, the world." Most
of them pointed to the 'other' or society for the answer. But as we
see beginning with
, this 'herd' mentality had its shortcomings because of its insistence upon
ideology as the main unifying idea that undercoated all of society.
Thus we get a movement away from true individualism, if that can even be
quantified, in to an understanding of oneself as necessary through the other.
There is no room for dissent. The majority and its images, ideas,
and commodities contains in it everything one would ever need for a self-realization.
Ideology becomes all of these attributes of self-realization through the
device and structure of language. For if there was no common method
of self-realization (language), there would be no ideology.
Language plays an important, if not the
most important, role in contributing to ideology's manifestation in and
through the life-world. Language allows one to hide, to forecast,
to recount, to recast, and to symbolically manipulate what one thinks and
what everyone thinks. Thus through language, "the senses and
minds of other men have become my own appropriation...in the form of society."
With language one can categorize, associate, contribute, produce, and become
self-realizing within the structure of society and its instruments.
Language becomes objectified, commodified by the very method that is its
very nature--to name. Reality then becomes objectified for man as its
realization of its own faculties, and as Marx comments, "all objects become
for him the objectification of himself. The objects constitute individuality
by allowing him to understand himself as being an object." I am Onur,
thus I am, according to language (ideology) , the objectification of myself
through myself (which is actually society, which is itself language).
It seems that the development of productive forces
has been the actual unconscious history of man which builds itself more
and more castles to live in and toys to play with. This unconscious
history is translated as ideology. It is unconscious for the very reasons
that ideology works unconsciously from the inside as well as the outside
simultaneously. It builds conscious reality as well as this unconscious
historical reality as a by-product of it telos of pure capital and reification,
which might not be for off in the future. Whether we allow it to do
so and let capitalism fall, as Marx suggested, that is still questionable.
But what is undeniable, to myself and to everyone (thus making it ideological)
is the parallel necessity to knowingly criticize and to knowingly conform,
unconsciously or consciously. Thus where productive forces and
capital coincide, we see the seizure of the life world by ideology.
The expansion of productive forces in the form of commodity, which allowed
human labor to become commodity-labor, wage-labor, led to the abundance of
the means necessary for primary survival. Ideology allowed these primary
necessities to become desires, to become more avenues for the selfish accumulation
of capital and commodity.
What are we left with now? Is reification
the telos of history? Is ideology the necessary route to some sort of
conclusion of humanity? Will history cease within ideology?
Or as Fukayama notes, will the capitalist forces of production push into a
time after history and ideology? Returning to Debord again, "materialized
ideology itself has no name, just as it has no expressible historical program
[consciously]. This is another way of saying that the history of ideologies
is over." I believe (and I want to subjectify this) that ideology
is perhaps a necessary route for some becoming or transformation that naturally
occurs within us (society). But whether its 'program' was meant to
be formed in this manner is the problem I see. But this problem is
much more than ideology. I think it has something unquantifiable
within human nature, a force that cannot be found or tested or understood.
That is the true nature of ideology.
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