PSI Circular Number Two (February 1979)
Two copies of this Circular are sent you; please pass one copy on.
PAY OF OR ELSE: Future issues of this Circular will be sent to all PSI Supporters. If you are not a Supporter and wish to receive it please send £1 for one year. Otherwise we may send it you or we may not.
NOW SHOWING: At the City University Peter Shepherd is running a Course on FUNDAMENTALS OF IDEOLOGICAL DIVISION; AN INTRODUCTION TO HAROLD WALSBY’S “THE DOMAIN OF IDEOLOGIES“. It is a series of ten weekly meetings. Wednesdays at 6.3O. The first meeting was on January 17. Fee for the course £3. Further information from City University, [address] or from Peter Shepherd, Dept. of Sociology, The University, [address].
MENSA THINK-IN: On Thursday 8 February George Walford will speak at a MENSA THINK-IN at the National Liberal Club, [address], at 8.OO pm on THE POWER OF IDEOLOGY. Admission to this is 40 pence. These meetings are usually for MENSA members only, but on this occasion it has been arranged that people not members of MENSA may attend. Date confirmed 8 Feb. is correct.
PSI OPEN EVENING: Several people who normally attend PSI Open Meetings will be going to the course at City University. PSI will therefore hold no formal meeting in February. Instead there will be an OPEN EVENING. No speaker, no agenda. People who would like to come along and chat about ideology will be welcome at [address] (near Highgate tube , phone [phone]) on Tuesday 6 Feb. 7.30 for 8.00.
PUBLICATIONS: Galley proofs have been received for the forthcoming book: SYSTEMATIC IDEOLOGY: A STUDY OF IDEOLOGIES AND THEIR FUNCTIONS The printers have promised delivery of the completed work by the end of April 1979. It will be a well-printed book, 52 x 83. inches, about 150 pages. The published price will be not less than £1.95 paperback, 3.95 in hard covers. To Supporters of PSI the price is £1.50 paperback, 3 hardback until further notice.
It is one thing to write a book and get it printed. To get it distributed, without a publisher’s organisation, is a bigger problem. YOU are asked to help. The first thing you are asked to do is to send in a list of journals to whom review copies should be sent. Please send your list in writing, with the address of each journal. Particularly needed are all the small journals, even the duplicated ones, issued by all the various reform groups. Please don’t think that everybody knows the ones you know. Send your list. With addresses.
Secondly, you are asked to send a list of journals in which the book can be advertised with reasonable hope of Some results. Again, with addresses please.
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SHOOT THEM DOWN: The ideologist is concerned with education. How people learn. What can and what cannot be taught. One way in which people learn is from television and the cinema, but there are complaints that what is learnt from these sources is not always desirables It is said that violence is presented on the screen in a way that encourages the spectator, especially the young spectators to behave violently himself.
Some people argue that violence out not to be presented at all, but that it is the attitude of the ostrich. There is violence in our society; to try and hide it is useless and may be harmful. What is hidden tends to be attractive. The problem is: How can we present violence and yet be sure we are not encouraging violence in the spectator? The solution is: Tell the whole truth.
At present violence on the screen is a matter of: “He hit me on the head and knocked me out; when I came round I got up and chased him.” Or: “I shot him and he fell down dead.” Violence is not like that. It is not so clean and simple. Insist that those who present violence show what it is really like. Make them show the wounds. Insist that if the victim is presented as surviving a realistic account of his suffering is given. And of the after-effects. Advertisements are now vetted for truthfulness; do the same with the scenes of violence. Not to ensure that they are “presentable” but to ensure that they do not suppress the truth, “presentable” or not.
If you want to read an example, get “The Shootist”, by Glendon Swarthout, 1975. It is a Western but an unorthodox one. It has the usual climax of a gunfight, but the victims are not treated in the orthodox way, as sawdust dolls. This book gives a realistic picture. It describes, at some length, the anatomical results when a revolver bullet enters the human body, strikes bone and begins to “tumble” as it penetrates further.
If you have any idea at all that gunfighting is a romantic business this book will put an end to it. If violence on television and the cinema were to be presented with equal realism there Would be no risk of the spectator being encouraged to engage in it. Should this not be done? Ought we not tell the full truth?
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SO WHY DO THEY DO IT? There has not been a new organisation founded for some weeks. But no need to worry; the supply has not dried up. Here is THE WORK AND LEISURE SOCIETY, founded by Kathleen J. Smith, journalist and former Assistant Governor of Holloway Prison. The address is: Felin Faesog, [address].
This is the core of their message: “If you average more than twenty hours a week in a job that bores or worries you, your health is suffering. Your abilities are deteriorating. You are aging faster than you should… The right to work is not enough. The right to the right work is the basic human right. Together with the right to leisure.”
Doubtless true. But The Work and Leisure Society are not the First to say it. It is now ninety-five years since Paul Lafargue published THE RIGHT TO BE LAZY and with all respect to The Work and Leisure Society his version is more entertaining than theirs. It begins like this:
“A strange allusion possesses the working classes of the nation where capitalist civilization holds sway. The delusion drags in its train the individual and social woes which for two centuries have tortured sad humanity. This delusion is the love of work, the furious passion for work, pushed even to the exhaustion of the vital force of the individual and progeny. Instead of opposing this mental aberration, the priests, the economists and the moralists have cast a sacred halo over work. Blind and finite men, they have wished to be wiser than their God; weak and contemptible men, they have presumed to rehabilitate what their God had cursed.”
But neither Lafargue nor the Work and Leisure Society succeed in explaining this passion for work. They both blame the capitalists and their desire for riches. But why do capitalists want to be rich? And why do most (but not all) the workers accept that some people should and others not? And why do most people (but not all of them) go on working after they have secured their bodily comfort? These are not questions that need answering.
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HAS IT OCCURRED TO YOU that eidodynamics go to meetings the way eidostatics go to parties?
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PARTS AND WHOLES: “I think we should all remember that we are a part of a great whole, which for convenience we call nature.” (Kenneth Clark, “Civilisation”, quotation sent in by M. Chisman). Kenneth Clark is aware that he is a part of this great whole which he calls nature. It he then correct in describing himself as a part of it, or does his awareness of being a part make him more than a part?
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IN RUSSIA ONE WALL IS ENOUGH: When, in discussing the epidynamic ideology, one mentions that it is identified with political struggle and conflict with the right of the person or political group to maintain their own ideas against the state and the collectivity, this seldom provokes opposition. The listener has probably never heard of the epidynamic ideology before and he is willing to be told what its features are. But when one adds that this ideology appears in party politics as the Communist movement then the protests begin. How can you possibly associate Communism with political freedom when in Russia, the oldest Communist country, political freedom is still almost non-existent?
Once more it has to be explained that calling Russia Communist is no more justified than the practice, common until a few decades ago, of calling Britain a Christian country. The repetition grows wearisome, but perhaps the message is now getting across. Since the Revolution the Socialist Party of Great Britain have been demonstrating, with evidence, that the Russian system was very different from Communism as it was understood by the founders of the movement – and even by the pre-revolutionary Bolsheviks. Russia does not operate on the epidynamic ideology. In recent years this understanding (although not expressed in the terminology of systematic ideology) has been spreadings Reviewing a history of the SPGB Bernard Levin expressed his agreement with them on this, and his admiration of them for having got it right from the start. In 1978 Philip Hanson, senior lecturer at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Birmingham had this to say in our dear departed “Times” of 3 August:
“One could go on for a long time enumerating the conservative features of Soviet society. Here, briefly, are three more. Composers are required to write melodies; sex and violence are kept in their proper place; confined to life and kept out of art. Sexual stereotyping flourishes. True, most Soviet women of working age earn their own living. But very few earn more than their husbands or brothers, and the household chores are usually assumed to be theirs, despite their being employed.”
We don’t, thank Heaven, hear as much as we used to do about the Russian Constitution. It is certainly a wonderful document, but a remark made in a different connection applies: “A Constitution guaranteeing citizens the remedy of the Habeas Corpus is of little use if all you can do with it is to paper the walls of Your cell.” (Quotations sent in by M. Chisman).
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ECOLOGICAL IDEOLOGY: On January 12 Colin Fry, Co-Ordinator of the Ecological Information Group, addressed a PSI Open Meeting. His subject was AN APPROACH TO THE SYSTEMATIC ANALYSIS OE ECOLOGICAL IDEOLOGY. Mr. Fry is a vigorous speaker. He hits hard. A lively time was had by all.
In the December 78 / January 79 issue of ENVIRONMENT INFORMATION GROUP BULLETIN appears a notice by Colin Fry of two WS / PSI publications. (Mr. Fry supplied us with a limited number of copies of this Bulletin without charge – its bookshop price is 15p – and these are sent with this Circular so far as supplies will stretch, PSI Supporters having priority). The two publications reviewed are “The Ideology of Ecology” and “An Outline Sketch of Systematic Ideology.” I will say nothing about the first one since PSI is at present engaged on a study of the ecological movement (“The Ideology of Ecology” was concerned only with the Ecology Party), results to be issued shortly – write PSI if you are not a Supporter and want to be kept informed.
In his notice of the “Outline Sketch” Colin Fry speaks of “the Walsbeians’ concentration on ideology as an essentially psychological phenomenon.” In the very broad sense, in which “psychological” equals “mental,” this is so; ideology is a mental activity. But one result of ideological study is to show that there is a distinction between psychological and ideological behaviour. One way of specifying the distinction (a rough and inaccurate way but a quick one) is to say that ideology is concerned with those parts of behaviour which the actor, if questioned, will attempt to justify. Psychology, on the other hand, is mainly concerned with those parts of behaviour that are outside the scope of argument and theoretical justification instinctual drives and personal relations for example, our wants, our likes and dislikes – the Latin tag that applies is: “De gustibus non est disputandum.” Personality is one psychological feature, and the attempts sometimes made to explain ideological behaviour in terms of personality-types. The attempt does not succeed, if only because ideologies are often changed literally overnight (“conversion” to or from Communism, for example) while large changes in personality rarely occur in this sudden way.
Colin Fry objects to our using what he calls “a hard a fast classification system.” I need only point out that the phrase “hard and fast” is heavily “loaded.” The same features with equal justification could be described as “firm and clean.” He also refers to “insistence on relating these attitudes it” (i. the major ideologies) “to supposedly objective political phenomena.” (emphasis added) Some of the political phenomena referred to in the pamphlet are Nazism, Communism, Anarchism, the totalitarian state, reform and revolution. Are these not “objective political phenomena?” And is an attempt to account for then not worth making? Admittedly the pamphlet is largely restricted to party-political matters but what does Colin Fry expect for ten pence – the Secret of Hegel? It does, however, include references to the importance of systematic ideology for the understanding of human behaviour outside politics. This side of the study is more fully treaded in the forthcoming SYSTEMATIC IDEOLOGY: A STUDY OF IDEOLOGIES AND THEIR FUNCTION. A copy will be sent to Colin Fry, and it is hoped he will review that also.
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UP WITH VANDALISM: Supporters of PSI are concerned to understand ideology. Their own ideology as well as that of other people. Ideology is largely a matter of assumptions: to understand our own ideology is to become aware of our own assumptions, to become able to criticise ideas we had been taken for granted. One idea most of us consider beyond criticism is that crime, drugs, drunkenness and vandalism are wholly bad and it would be better if they did not happen. Is this assumption valid?
Consider: These things are done mainly by the young. They are dangerous, exciting things which their elders disapprove. When young people stop doing dangerous, exciting things of which their elders disapprove then the human race will be in real trouble. Comments?
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THE PERSONAL AND THE PUBLIC: This is from “Language Made Plain” by Anthony Burgess, the Fontana edition of 1975, page 125. He is speaking of Ferdinand de Saussure, “father of modern linguistics”
“Another distinction Saussure made which has become basic to Linguistic thinking is that between “parole” and “langue,” aspects of the totality known as “language (translation of the terms is awkward, also unnecessary) “Parole” is language as the individual speaker uses it – the physical actuality that is never identical between any two speakers of the language. “Langue” is not spoken by anyone; it is the sum total of all the “paroles” spoken by individuals, but it remains abstract, generalised, a social phenomenon, an institution only minimally changeable by the individual speaker or writer.”
That relationship is worth thinking about, substituting “personal ideology” for “parole” and “major ideology” for “langue.” And just how does “parole” relate to “personal ideology” and “langue” to “major ideology?”
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KNOWLEDGE IS BETTER THAN IGNORANCE IS IT? To say “Knowledge is better than ignorance” is like saying “Griffons are better than unicorns.” “Knowledge,” and ignorance, as they appear in this statement, as detached, isolated entities, are fictions. Whenever we accept either of them we always have to accept other things with it. With knowledge we have to accept expenditure of time, certainly the time spent acquiring the knowledge, often the time spent working it out for ourselves. And there are many occasions when knowledge-with-expenditure-of-time is a lot worse than ignorance-with-instant-response. Next time you are crossing the road, and a car comes, you don’t stop to acquire knowledge of the driver’s parentage. Accept your ignorance, and JUMP.
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REMEMBER: PSI OPEN EVENING Tuesday 6 Feb. Come for a gossip. REMEMBER: If you are not a PSI Supporter you have to send £1 to be sure of getting future issues of this fascinating Circular – and to become a Supporter only costs £2. REMEMBER: we have a book coming out – the first since Walsby’s “Domain of Ideologies” in 1947. What can YOU do to help get it circulated?
PROJECT FOR SYSTEMATIC IDEOLOGY, [address]