George Walford: Ideology in Theory

WHEN people first hear it suggested that the more advanced (eidodynamic) political positions are reached by way of movement along a range of ideologies, they sometimes take this as a claim that every communist must have been a labour-socialist, every labour-socialist a liberal, and so on; seeing that this does not happen they reject the idea that the major ideologies form a significant series. Their reasoning is sound, but it starts from a false assumption. The theory posits a course of ideological development which does not have to appear as a series of overt political commitments.

Ideology operates mainly below the level of awareness. It is not the analytical operations knowingly performed by a person or a group that set the main outlines of their attitudes, but the deep assumptions they accept for the most part unawares, assumptions which when called to the forefront of consciousness appear as axiomatic: ‘But of course there is (is not) a God (an independent material world, a revolutionary working class, a suppressed demand for socialism…)’


QUESTIONERS sometimes suggest that, since each major ideology incorporates its predecessors, adherents of the later, eidodynamic, ideologies can perform all social functions. A viable society does not need the continuing presence of the large groups identified only with the eidostatic modes.

When thinking about this we do well to bear in mind that although earlier ideologies do persist within the mental structure of the person as the later ones develop, they do so under repression, the behaviour influenced by them being regarded as trivial, or at best subsidiary. This appears in the way eidodynamics disvalue the eidostatic activities, saying for example that the problem of production has been solved. In a sense it has, but the solution holds good only so long as necessary activities get performed, and the eidodynamics dismiss most of the work now required as boring and repetitive, not worth human attention. Eidodynamics tend to focus upon social affairs rather than upon production, and the task of modifying the natural, physical world to meet human requirements is not, and is not likely to become, so easy that it can be adequately performed in odd moments between more important affairs.

They also tend to reject the eidostatic attitudes towards people, condemning the tendency to gather in large assemblies, to support and applaud leaders, and to enjoy ‘mass’ entertainments. Yet these inclinations provide the ground of community. The critical intellectuality of the eidodynamics plays an essential part in maintaining the social flexibility needed for further development, but when left without a solid body for target, having nothing to work upon but itself, it produces the fragmentation characteristic of the groups at the eidodynamic extreme.

In any case, why should we want to do away with the eidostatic groups? By their own standards they are of higher value than the eidodynamics. There is no absolute criterion by which to judge between the two, and for the eidodynamics to impose their own standards universally, no matter how humane the means, would go against the commitment to freedom they profess.


STANDARD thinking assumes an intelligible world, real, self-subsistent, and independent of ideology. How do we get to know of it? Not by simple acceptance of sense-impressions, for the ear misreports the position of a fast-moving aircraft and the stars do not occupy their apparent positions; sound and light take time to reach us. The intelligible world, the world to which we respond when acting with purpose, is one we construct by thinking about our sense-impressions, and whenever we think we do so in one or another mode, in accordance with one or another of the major ideologies.

Far from being independent of ideology, the intelligible world is an ideological construct.


CONFIRMATION that the earlier ideologies persist in the mental structure of the person, even while the later ones emerge, comes from the continuing tendency to maintain membership of an equivalent of the family, so important in the life of young children: ‘we need to accept the fact that psychiatrically healthy persons depend for their health and for their personal fulfilment on loyalty to a defined area of society, perhaps the local bowls club.’ [1] That holds good all along the range. Anarchists tend to repudiate sports clubs and other popular social groupings, but few of them fail to establish identification with some particular, limited, section of the anarchist movement. [1]Winnicott D.D. 1971 Playing & Reality 141.


DEFINITION of ideology: ‘for me society and culture are not only the producers (as many social scientists would have it) but they are also the products, of human cognitive orientations and motivational dispositions… viewed in this manner, social and cultural systems represent (among other things) complex historical attempts to deal with these sets of cognitive and affective needs.’ [2]

A set of cognitive orientations and motivational dispositions, of cognitive and affective needs that both produces and is produced by society and culture. Although our author does not use the word, that deserves to rank high among first-approximation definitions of ideology. [2] Melford E.Spiro 1971. Buddhism and Society; a great tradition and its Burmese vicissitudes London: George Allen & Unwin 28)


EVEN now an aura of condemnation sometimes surrounds ideology. It arises from the belief that as a set of ideas an ideology imposes restrictions on arbitrary freedom. Clearer thinking shows such freedom to be illusory; in being exercised it disappears, for every action entails acceptance of limitations; by doing something I bar myself from not having done it. We do have freedom to choose between limitations, and by identifying with an ideology we go far towards ensuring that the choice shall be made in accordance with our own mental structure rather than under pressure from without.

This hardly applies to the ideology of Expediency, but the attitude that condemns ideology for imposing limitations seldom recognises expediency as being one, rather regarding it as the condition of freedom. Seen from the s.i. viewpoint, however, Expediency excludes its adherents from attachment to all other ideologies, the freedoms they bring and the limitations they entail.


LITERATURE offers wide scope for ideological study, and any approach to it will need to take account of existing literary criticism. Since the Second World War, with the virtually complete capture of this trade by the academics (it has been reported that 99 percent of the criticism published in America comes from this source), the activity has become highly theoretical. Alan G. Gross refuses to recognise this as a consequence of any eruption of knowledge; he ascribes it rather to an inherent expansiveness in theory, leading it to behave like a cuckoo taking over the nest. [3]

Like many another familiar term, ‘literary criticism’ covers a range of activities extending beyond any one ideology (T. S. Eliot, for example, wrote some eminently conservative essays), but most of its more theoretical material probably stands with that other notably critical activity, socialism, around the level of Reform. In advancing still farther along the range, through Revolution and Repudiation, theory reaches beyond the nest to take over the whole tree, and the ground it grows in too. [3] Gross A. G. 1990 The Rhetoric of Science Cambridge Mass: Harvard U.P.


DEFINITIONS of the state: 1) The complex of institutions by means of which the power of society is organised on a basis superior to kinship. [4] 2) A collection of specialised institutions and agencies, some formal and others informal, that maintains an order of stratification.1 And what definition does systematic ideology suggest? Well, how about this: 3) The institution through which the ideology of domination finds its primary political expression. [4] Fried, M. H. 1967 The Evolution of Political Society NY: Random House, 229, 235.


IC 60 included a note on the preponderance of hydrogen atoms as illustrating the rule that in any developmental system, the lower the level of organisation, the higher the number of units. The neutrino, a neutral and massless particle, possesses a level of organisation even lower than that of the hydrogen atom, and ‘Neutrinos are the commonest particles in nature. There are more of them than there are atoms in the universe and their total energy is much more than that of all the visible stars.’ C. Ramm, in Webber D. Ed. Modern Physics, Penguin 1971, 135. Sent in by Ike Benjamin.

(The point, for new readers, is that the reduction in numbers towards the more sophisticated and highly organised end of the ideological range is no oddity but one instance of a universal tendency).

The report cited in IC 60 credited hydrogen atoms with forming 99 per cent of the universe. It looks as though neutrinos do not rank as constituents of the universe. Can somebody clarify?


CONSERVATISM against the radicals: ‘It was a mistake to suppose that one could govern effectively on the basis of some abstract immutable principles which were universal in their scope. Governance was a matter that required an immersion in history, the history of those who were to be governed, for societies were not rationalist fictions controlled by prior textbook principles but rather organic entities that had a life of their own which had to be discovered by experience alone.’ [5]

Conservatives favour principles which are organic, living, and directly related to experience; only as development moves past conservatism do immutability and universality come to be highly valued. [5] Dhiren Bhagat, The Contemporary Conservative, selected writings of Dhiren Bhagat, ed. Salman Khurshid.


KENNETH Minogue urges us not to identify feminism with women, and the warning is justified. Like other reformist and revolutionary movements the one which regards women as oppressed, and seeks to establish them in parity with men, finds its roots not in gender (and not in class either) but in the eidodynamic ideologies. Later in the article Minogue abandons his own rule, speaking of women as the recruitment pool for feminists (and of workers serving the same function for Marxism).


FAVOURING cooperation against competition, the eidodynamics think well of the foraging communities for the sharing of food reported to occur among their members. But this remains occasional and incidental. It dwindles into insignificance beside the modern practice whereby large numbers devote the whole of their working lives to the production of food for others. Condemning division of labour the radicals fail to see its connection with the cooperation they value. In a society using this method the members, like it or not, have to cooperate, depending upon each other for their material needs in a way unknown to the foragers, among whom each family acted largely as an independent unit gathering its own supplies.


WHAT’S wrong with s.i.? The conception of human nature put forward. IC has been accepting (e.g. in Naughty Children in IC 44) that human nature found expression in the first forms of human behaviour, early childhood for the person, the foraging communities for society. In working out an answer to John Zerzan (Forward to Nature in IC 58) we came to see that although the foraging life he favoured was indeed in one sense natural, it was determined mainly by non-human nature. The people concerned had little choice in the matter; knowing nothing of agriculture they were bound to accept the foraging life, like it or not, if they wanted to survive. As for children, IC 59 pointed out that it is at least doubtful whether new babies can well be regarded as human at all. Not laughing, making war, walking erect, using tools or making love at all seasons, they satisfy none of the standard definitions; their behaviour hardly illustrates human nature.

Human nature appears most clearly in the modes of behaviour displayed when humans express themselves with the minimum of non-human interference, acting under social limitations rather than natural ones. What we do now shows the nature of human nature better than what the foragers did, and its principal feature is the almost unlimited range of variations it comprehends.


Few readers of Marxist theory will have failed to encounter ‘dialectical materialism,’ although Marx himself did not use the term, Plekhanov introducing it after his death. Noting that expositors commonly refuse to call it either a philosophy or a system (the one term too academic for them, the other too static), I shall none the less use these titles for lack of anything better. This philosophy, then, has won itself a reputation for extreme difficulty, and it certainly does display convoluted complications. These arise mainly from contortions performed in struggling to support the claim to materialism; taken as a movement of thought, without this imposition, the central movement of dialectic can be exhibited quite simply.

Form a conception, no matter of what. On examination this will prove to be distinct from all that it excludes – which we will call, without further specification, its background. The one becomes two – the conception, and its background. And this two becomes three – the conception, its background and the conjunction which together they constitute. Unity passes through dividedness to unification which (unless some effort of abandonment or arrest be made) moves into another division, and this takes place with no addition from without. All thinking, including that which attempts to refute dialectic, follows this pattern. Known to Hegel as the thing in itself, the thing for itself and the thing in and for itself, (he also used other expressions) in dialectical materialism the three moments become thesis, antithesis and synthesis.

In Hegel’s work the exposition of one moment becomes, even in the reading of it, an account of the next; before an idea can be grasped it has changed. With linguistic problems added (he discriminated with a subtlety the standard German vocabulary could not cover, obliging him to use words in unusual senses and making translation even harder than usual) a direct approach presents what have been well termed ‘mind-numbing’ difficulties. Dialectical materialism has the virtue, for the neophyte, of having broken the movement into static parts (providing justification for Popper’s phrase ‘the wooden triad of the dialectic’). It sets out the constituents, one might almost say, where they can be seen and handled; much can be learnt, and understanding greatly extended in this way. When tackling Hegel the feeling of confidence produced by a prior acquaintance with dialectical materialism may be unjustified, yet it can still help to carry one forward.


MANY who assert their independence will accept authority when justified by superior abilities. But if we do not understand the subject ourselves, how can we judge the validity of a claim to expertise?

Dr. Samuel Johnson dealt with the question in his own brusque and bullying manner, declaring himself, although unable to make a table, perfectly capable of judging one. We may suspect that he overestimated his abilities, that any carpenter worth his glue could construct a table to pass Samuel’s inspection and yet provide one or two nasty surprises after a little use. The ancient Egyptians were already making grave-furniture with joints faked up to look stronger than they were. [6]

However that may be most of us cannot tell, outside our own field, whether a piece of work has been well done and this means we cannot judge the worker’s competence. Certification by people who do understand the subject offers one solution. This arises as one function of authoritarian society, and for all the comments about ‘just a piece of paper’ it has value. As with many other things done by authority, unsatisfactory as it is we would probably be worse off without it. [6] Briggs M. S. 1925 A Short History of the Building Crafts. Oxford: Clarendon 146.


JOHN MILTON enjoys the reputation of a champion of free speech, especially in his Areopagitica. By the standards of his time this was doubtless justified; when we find him falling short of what ‘free speech’ often means today, it shows that things do change. Consider this passage (I retain the spelling):

this doubtles is more wholsome, more prudent and more Christian that many be tolerated, rather than all compell’d. I mean not tolerated Popery, and open superstition, which as it extirpats all religious and civill supremacies, so it self should be extirpat, provided that all charitable and compassionate means be used to win and regain the weak and the misled; that also which is impious or evil absolutely either against faith or maner no law can possibly permit. . .  (Areopagitica, Nonsuch 1948, 723).

from Ideological Commentary 61, August 1993.