Ideology - Ashton Southard

Ideology - Ashton Southard

IDEOLOGY Chapter 8 Ideology In the chapters we have covered this semester we have discussed research and theory in social psychology concerned with How people perceive and understand their social world and how the forms of social life we live in create opportunities and constraints on the performance of various kinds of social actions We have also discussed social representations theory, which moves away from the individualistic mainstream social cognition theories We have emphasized that there are important aspects of social life that cannot be accounted for solely by reference to thoughts, feelings and actions of individual members to a society But, rather, that certain systems of belief and ways of approaching the world have a life of their own

Ideology These forms of shared social beliefs are not, however, independent of the kinds of phenomena they attempt to explain And differences between groups in their ability to shape the form and content of these representations means that we must pay attention to the way that these representations serve the interests of particular groups in a society at the expense of others Consideration of the ways in which the ability to promote certain forms of social understanding of social life is bound up with the economic, social, and institutional power of some groups over others brings us directly to the territory of ideology Ideology Thus far, we havent really said much about the role ideology plays in constructing social reality for individuals and groups We have, however, talked a lot about the constitutive nature of

social representations So it may be helpful to briefly distinguish between social representations and ideology Van Dijk suggests ideology is the interface between social structure and social cognition ideologies may be very succinctly defined as the basis of the social representations shared by members of a group This definition highlights the cognitive and social aspects of ideology Presents ideology as the socially shared (but individually held) beliefs that manifest is social representations and social discourse Ideology In a similar vein, Stuart Hall (1996) describes ideology as being grounded in social cognition, while emphasizing the social function of

ideology as a means by which different social groups account for their and others positions in social structures [B]y ideology, I mean the mental frameworks the languages, the concepts, categories, imagery of thought, and they systems of representation which different classes and social groups deploy in order to make sense of, figure out and render intelligible the way society works. Ideology Although there are different opinions of what ideology is and how we consider it between different approaches to its study We can none the less start our discussion from the position that: When we talk about ideology, we are referring to the beliefs, opinions and social practices that support certain representations and constructions of the world, which, in turn, serve to rationalize, legitimate, maintain and (re)produce particular institutional arrangements, and economic, social and power

relations within society Ideology It should not be surprising to hear that ideology has been described by many as the most contested and elusive concept within the social sciences Authors have warned that all attempts to define ideology are ideological in themselves Which will become apparent throughout this chapter as we consider various ways in which ideology has been conceptualized, theorized, and empirically investigated It is important to point out that some of the research we will discuss has rarely been viewed are research in ideology It will be argued that research in certain areas of social psychology has unwittingly uncovered ideological elements in everyday thinking Social Cognition and

Ideology The role of ideology in social life has been long debated and argued within political and social theory But has largely been ignored by social psychologists Rare exceptions include: Michael Billig: described the relationship between ideology and social psychological theory, but also written extensively about the role of ideology in the everyday life of the ordinary person John Jost: more recently, has written explicitly about the role of ideology in system-justifying social beliefs and practices Although this perspective has yet to be widely taken up by other researchers However, even while staying clear of the debates about the nature and function of ideology in other disciplines

Social psychologists have studied a range of phenomena closely associated with ideology But under a range of different labels: Political belief systems; values; and stereotypes Social Cognition: Ideology as Political Belief Systems The dominant approach to ideology in the social sciences has been to view ideology as a coherent set of political beliefs and values, such as those embraced by formal political parties The empirical tradition linked with this conceptualization of ideology has involved large-scale surveys aimed at examining the political, economic and social attitudes of the mass public The primary aim has been to determine the underlying structure of these beliefs in terms of liberal-conservative (or sometimes left-wing/right-wing) political framework

This tradition of research culminated in Converses (1964) work, which concluded that the American public displayed little internal consistency in their political attitudes Peoples views on a specific issue do not always predict their views on other related issues Similarly, McClosky (1964) found that although the American public generally endorsed the principles of freedom and democracy in their abstract form, they were inconsistent in their application of these principles to specific instances Thus, it was argued that there existed little ideological coherence amongst the American electorate, whose knowledge and understanding of politics was, at best, rudimentary Social Cognition: Ideology as Political Belief Systems Instead of an over-arching belief system that organized large amounts of information It was argued, therefore, that the public, unlike the political elite, did not think ideologically

The public was found to have clusters of simple concrete and personally relevant ideas which displayed little consistency The public displayed confusion over the meaning of conservative as opposed to liberal ideological dimensions And did not share with political elites a conservative versus liberal conceptual frame of reference by which to structure and organize their political knowledge Indeed, some surveys found that a substantial number of people were unable to place themselves along a liberal-conservative attitudinal continuum because they hadnt given the matter much thought Thus, it was concluded that the American public was largely innocentof ideology Social Cognition: Ideology as Political Belief Systems The notion that the public is politically uninformed and ideologically inconsistent has formed the core of the American political science paradigm for the last three decades

Critics of this research, however, have argued that simply because the public does not structure political beliefs in the same manner as do the political elite, it does not necessarily mean that the content of these beliefs has no ideology The presence or absence of a logical cognitive structure, it was argued, is not necessarily synonymous with the presences or absence of ideology In an effort to salvage the notion that peoples political orientations do possess some degree of organization and coherence, Sniderman and Tetlock (1986) proposed that people organize and structure their attitudes according to a likeability heuristic meaning, by their pattern of likes and dislikes: Affective processes play an especially crucial role in giving mass beliefs what structure they do possess. The building blocks of political coherence, we shall propose, are personal likes and dislikes of politically strategic small groups. Even citizens who know little about political ideas or the political process can put together a consistent political outlook, provided they at least know whom they like and, perhaps more important, whom they dislike. http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-march-29-2012/march-29--2012---pt--1 Social Cognition: Ideology as Political Belief Systems

The use of a rule of thumb, a determining affective principle, is consistent with the cognitive miser view dominant in social cognition research Here we are reminded yet again that in understanding the social world people in general unmotivated to think too deeply about issues As Sniderman and Tetlock put it, the resultant ideological understanding of mass publics may be a crude and simplified one; but so are most effective ways of understanding a complex world This view of the person as a limited thinker will be contrasted with Michael Billigs portrayal of the person as an ideological dilemmatician later in the chapter Social Cognition: Ideology as Political Belief Systems A more substantial criticism of this research concerns the manner in which the concept of ideology has been defined

Others believe that this particular conception neglects the link between ideology and everyday life: Equating ideology with political identifications such as liberal or conservative in North America, Labour or Tory in Britain, and Labor or Liberal in Australia restricts the concept of ideology to formal political belief systems The role ideology plays in representing everyday social reality outside the domain of formal political issues and debates Further, simply equating ideology with political identifications also strips the concept of its critical component In this perspective, ideology is primarily used as a descriptive and neutral concept that refers to any formal belief systems This has also been the predominant use of the concept of ideology by psychologists, particularly political psychologists While there is nothing inherently wrong with defining ideology in this way

Restricting the definition of ideology to a coherent system of political beliefs as embodied within the rhetoric of western democratic political parties, focuses only on party political issues and the formal processes of political decision-making Social Cognition: Ideology as Political Belief Systems Another common usage of the concept of ideology is to equate ideology with political extremism and rigidity It is common, for example, for political commentators to distinguish between politicians and policy makers who are ideological as opposed to those who are pragmatic Ex. The decline of Nazism and Stalinism after WWII led to many American political scientists declaring the end of ideology Indeed, the recent decline of Soviet and east European communism has led to proclamations that capitalism has been vindicated as a rational, value-free and objective way of organizing society

A social and economic system free of ideology The cessation of the Cold War has also been characterized as ending one of the most significant ideological battles in history It is arguable, however, that this recent historical event signals the end of ideology in the way in which people construct and understand their everyday lives But, to argue this is to ignore or downplay the inherent ideological currents within liberal democratic societies themselves and within everyday life outside of formal politics Social Cognition: Ideology as Consciousness Traditionally, ideology has been treated as a cognitive construct which permeates human consciousness From this perspective ideology is to be found in the values, beliefs, attitudes, and opinions people hold As Gaskell and Fraser (1990) suggest, one of the functions of widespread beliefs and values is that they provide legitimacy to the socio-political structure

of a society Others argue that, to the extent to which they do so, such cognitions can be considered to be ideological in nature Ex. Individualist values of achievement and competition contribute significantly to the support of a capitalist sociocultural system Social Cognition: Ideology as Consciousness Studies have found that as children grow older they are more likely to regard inequalities of wealth and income as inevitable and legitimate They are also more likely to embrace equity principles of economic distribution rather than principles of equality That is, children learn to accept over time that resources in society are (and should be) distributed according to individual inputs (effort, abilities, and stills) As Sampson (1975) argues, equity values encourage and

legitimate individual competition and personal advancement at the expense of cooperation, communion and equality Indeed, Sampson suggests that the forms of relations which dominate in the economic sphere tend to be adopted in other areas of human conduct Social Cognition: Ideology as Consciousness Perhaps a classic example of ideological thinking that social psychologists unknowingly discovered is the fundamental attribution error or bias In contrast to the cognitive explanation that mainstream psychology has argued for this bias, it has been argued throughout this semester that this bias reflects the dominance of dispositional explanations over situational explanations in western culture Increasingly, it has been recognized that this attributional phenomenon is not a universal cognitive bias, but is culture-specific

Reflecting an underlying ideological representation of the person as the center of all action and process Social Cognition: False Consciousness and System-Justification So far we have described the dominant ways in which ideology has been defined by mainstream social science In this view, ideology is a tool of the powerful individuals in a society that is used to preserve and promote their own interests by supporting existing social relations In the past decade, however, social psychologists have increasingly adopted an approach that views ideology as the means by which relations of power, control, and dominance are maintained and preserved within any society These ideological tools are viewed as the means by which power and control within western liberal democracies have come to be wielded increasingly by covert and subtle means and less by the use of overt force Specifically, social psychologists have begun to consider the ways in which certain attitudes and beliefs (such as social stereotypes and beliefs in

meritocracy) can be understood in terms of the system-justifying functions they serve Jost (1995), for example, has suggested that much of what passes as social cognition the errors, biases and distortions found in human thinking is essentially the social-psychological study of false consciousness Such views have emerged largely from Marxist accounts of ideology Social Cognition: False Consciousness and SystemJustification, Marx & Ideology Marxist-influenced accounts of ideology are particularly relevant because they have systematically attempted to explain the role of ideology in contemporary liberal democracies Marxs early writings emphasized the illusory role that ideology plays in portraying society as cohesive and harmonious Whereas his later writings emphasized the role ideology plays in making sense of peoples everyday social interactions within a capitalist society

According to Marx, ideology functions to conceal social conflicts by embodying ideas, values and language which justify existing social and economic inequalities The ideology of freedom and equality within capitalist society is reinforced by the individuals apparent experience of free exchange in the market-place Marx viewed ideology as concealing the real relations of dominance and inequality that exist in capitalist societies Social Cognition: False Consciousness and System-Justification, Marx & Ideology Central to an analysis of the ways in which ideologies produce system-justifying effects is the Marxist notion of false consciousness When people in general come to view the existing social and power relations as natural and inevitable, when stereotypes mystify and legitimate the real relations of dominance and exploitation within a society, then we have what Marx referred to as false consciousness

False consciousness is often represented as a cognitive or psychological state of mind Such psychological accounts of false consciousness locate distortions, false beliefs, biases, etc. within the perceptual and cognitive domain of the individual subject The individual is seen as failing to perceive reality accurately and thus to recognize his/her true self and group-based interests Social Cognition: False Consciousness and System-Justification, Marx & Ideology Although the notion of false consciousness has been central to understanding many of the system-serving practices of people whose own personal and social interests are clearly not served by the system Labeling this as false consciousness is, however, epistemologically problematic The Marxist concept of false consciousness is often paired with the assumption that it is possible to arrive at a true or veridical version of reality As we have seen, this assumption is considered highly problematic from a social

constructionist perspective i.e. if we all have different views of what reality is, is there really one true reality? It is conceptually unnecessary to say that beliefs and opinions that are systems serving are false There is little to be gained and little hope of resolution of claims and counter-claims about the falseness of the beliefs held by individual members of particular social groups, by treating some people and groups as having privileged access to an unmediated reality For this reason, ideology is no longer equated with false consciousness, with mystifying, distorting, or false beliefs Rather, ideology refers to any beliefs, representations, discourses, and practices that serve to legitimate and sustain existing social and power relations, irrespective of their truth status Social Cognition: Social Dominance Theory and System Justification

Social dominance theory explicitly addresses beliefs that justify the social system According to Sidanius and Pratto, ideologies provide various legitimizing myths which serve as resources to support these social hierarchies However, in addition to the hierarchy-enhancing legitimizing myths that reinforce existing relations of power and dominance Competing ideologies can provide hierarchy-attenuating legitimizing myths which promote egalitarian, rather than dominating, relations between groups The use of hierarchy-enhancing vs. hierarchy-attenuating ideologies is considered to result from individual differences in levels of social dominance orientation (SDO): Centers on the claim that all social systems will converge toward the establishment of stable, group-based social hierarchies The effects of the dominant social ideology are ultimately filtered through the personal ideology of each individual

What is perhaps the most problematic aspect of SDO is the claim that system justification is biologically driven through the operation of distant evolutionary forces An assumption that has been strenuously critiqued by SIT and SCT theorists Social Identity and Ideology Marx argued that the economic relations of a society, its dominant mode of production and defining social relations, form the base for a societys ideological superstructure Not only were the superstructural elements of a society the expression of the dominant material relations, but they were also an outgrowth of class domination Ideology was inextricably linked with intergroup (specifically interclass) relations In The German Ideology, Marx argued that: The ideas of the ruling class are, in every age, the ruling ideas: i.e.,

the class which is the dominant material force in society is at the same time its dominant intellectual force The dominant ideas are nothing more that the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships. Social Identity and Ideology This is one of the most well-known and most criticized notions within Marxist social theory Criticized for being too economically determinist and reductionist, Marxist theory has subsequently emphasized the need to articulate more complex interrelations between economic and non-economic influences, which together shape a societys ideological form The work of Foucault, for example, has emphasized that modern power is not always economic in nature, nor is it simply embodied and exercised by the economically dominant classes and the institutions of the capitalist state For Foucault, modern power is diffused and dispersed throughout all layers of society and is largely exercised through discursive and behavioral rituals which become internalized norms by which people live out their everyday lives Well

come back to Foucaults ideas on power later, for now well focus on how social psychology has incorporated the fundamental notion that ideologies are about managing the relations between social groups differing in status and (economic and other forms of) power Social Identity and Ideology Several social psychological theories offer accounts of intergroup relations that draw more or less heavily on notions of ideology to explain certain features if intergroup behavior System-justification theory and social identity/selfcategorization theory are the most prominent of these The ways in which ideology is used in these theories to account for the actions and experiences of group members gives insight into how ideology is conceptualized in each of these theories Social Identity: SystemJustification Theory, Stereotypes as Ideological Representations Earlier in this century, the pervasive and resilient nature of social

stereotypes were emphasized Stereotypes were viewed as largely cognitive constructs that are used to justify prejudicial attitudes and discriminatory behavior However, increasingly stereotypes and the process of stereotyping have taken on a more benign status Stereotypes are now seen to be an inevitable product of the need to categorize and simplify a complex social world In this way, stereotyping is losing its negative connotations and is being viewed as servicing the cognitive needs of individuals As we discussed in the last chapter, stereotypes can be seen to be first and foremost ideological representations which serve to justify and legitimize existing social and power relations within a society It could be argued that much of the research on stereotypes and stereotyping is largely a social psychological study of the role of ideology and power in everyday human thinking

Social Identity: System-Justification Theory, Stereotypes as Ideological Representations Jost and Banaji (1994) have argued that, while social psychological theories have emphasized the egoand group-justification functions of stereotypes Very little has been written about the role of stereotypes in system-justification They define system-justification as the psychological process by which existing social arrangements are legitimized, even at the expense of personal and group interests They draw on a number of empirical findings in the stereotype literature that an ego- and group-justification approach is significantly difficult to explain Social Identity: System-Justification Theory, Stereotypes as Ideological Representations Foremost is the often found tendency for members of marginalized groups to apply and internalize negative stereotypes to themselves and to their group as a whole

Negative self-stereotyping is certainly not self-serving, nor does it sit very well with social identity theorys central maxim that groups will strive to maintain a positive ingroup identity or at least some degree of positive distinctiveness from outgroups The favoritism towards dominant outgroups that is sometimes associated with low-status groups is difficult to reconcile with the group-protecting and enhancing principles of SIT For these reasons Jost and Banaji (1994) suggest that stereotypes serve important ideological functions: that they, in effect, support, rationalize and legitimate the status quo Stereotypes serve ideological functions, in particular that they justify the exploitation of certain groups over others, and that they explain the poverty or powerlessness of some groups and the success of others in ways that makes these differences seem legitimate and even natural Based on theories of and data on self-perception, attribution, cognitive conservatism, the division of social roles, behavioral confirmation, and the belief in a just world, we stipulate a process whereby stereotypes are used to explain the existing social system and the positions and actions of self and others. Social Identity: System-Justification Theory, Stereotypes as Ideological Representations

Contrary to the view that stereotyping is fundamentally a product of individual motivational requirements (and, perhaps, cognitive requirements) Thus, the process of stereotyping is not simply an individual or intergroup cognitive process Jost and Banaji argue that the process of stereotyping is linked to the information-processing needs of an ideological environment Stereotyping becomes a collective and ideological process linked to the power and social relations of a particular society within a particular historical context Drawing from research on the automatic activation of stereotypes, Jost and Banaji suggest that the ideological environment is pervasive and insidious So much so that stereotypes can emerge spontaneously and unconsciously, even among people who consciously embrace egalitarian values and beliefs

Social Identity: System-Justification Theory, Stereotypes as Ideological Representations However, Jost and Banaji go further than to argue for the ideological, legitimating functions of stereotypes As discussed earlier, labeling certain beliefs as false necessarily invites arguments about what is true or real Substantiating the truth or falsity of the content of stereotypes, however, is far from being simply an empirical issue Indeed, in accounting for why stereotypes are so pervasive and resistant to change, several social psychologists have suggested the insidious kernel of truth preposition regarding stereotypes Because of their commitment to a realist epistemology, Jost and Banaji are forced to consider the relationship between stereotypes and social reality

They also argue that stereotypes reflect false consciousness Given Jost and Banajis critical Marxist approach, and their commitment to an objective scientific truth about stereotypes, it is not surprising that they argue against the notion that stereotypes are based on veridical perception Implicitly, this invites others to empirically confirm or challenge their views of stereotypes as false representations Social Identity: System-Justification Theory, Stereotypes as Ideological Representations Social psychologists who have attempted to empirically evaluate the truth or falsity of stereotypes have faced considerable conceptual problems in doing so Ex. How does one establish in an objective, disinterested way whether African Americans are essentially more aggressive than white Americans Or whether women are really more nurturing than men

Such empirical concerns seem futile and simply lead to scientific claims and counter-claims Addressing the kernel of truth argument at this level of analysis whether the content of stereotypes reflects the actual characteristics of members of a particular group is pointless for there is not disinterested and objective way of measuring the accuracy of stereotype content Social Identity: System-Justification Theory, Stereotypes as Ideological Representations The most cautious realist argument that has been advanced is that of Oakes Argues that stereotypes are veridical to the extent that they reflect the nature of social intergroup relations within a society at a particular point in time All perception is influenced and shaped by the needs, goals, interests, and motivations of the perceiver

Emphasizing the relative and self-interested nature of social perception which necessarily produces different world-views and perspectives Self-interested perception or perceiver-readiness ensures that perception is psychologically veridical, practical and helps orient people to their social-relational position in society Thus, according to this view, stereotypes do not reflect the internal characteristics of the individual members of a group, but the emergent properties of the social category as a whole Social Identity: System-Justification Theory, Stereotypes as Ideological Representations Overall, then, system-justification theory takes a (neo) Marxist view of ideology as the beliefs, values, and social practices that rationalize, legitimate and naturalize the privileged position enjoyed by high-status groups over low-status groups Ideological beliefs are simply those that serve to reproduce extant economic and social relations between groups Crucially, in this view, system-justifying actions are produced because the ideology of dominant groups (the ideology that supports the system) is accepted by members of lower-status groups

This brings us to a consideration of what social identity theory has had to say about group-specific interests and ideology Social Identity: Social Identity Theory and Ideology Van Dijk (1998) explicitly rejects the conceptualization of ideology as singular and (solely) reflective of interests of social groups He argues instead that intergroup relations within a society are typically characterized by competing ideologies: ideologies of dominance and ideologies of resistance [I]deologies positively serve to empower dominated groups, to create solidarity, to organize struggle and to sustain opposition ideologies serve to protect interests and resources, whether these are unjust privileges, or minimal conditions of existence. More neutrally and more generally, then, ideologies simply serve groups and their members in the organization and management of their goals, social practices, and their whole daily social life. Rather than ideologies being properties of societies and serving to order and reify intergroup relations within that society

This view presents ideologies as properties of groups which serve to organize (potentially) contested relations, conflicts, and power struggles between those groups Social Identity: Social Identity Theory and Ideology SIT and SCT also consider ideologies to be fundamentally rooted in intergroup relations However, the relationship between group boundaries and ideological positions is not simple or obvious, and achieving ideological hegemony is a major ground on which intergroup contests are played out SIT stresses the important role of the perceived legitimacy and stability of status differences between groups to the way in which group identity is experienced Ideological domination is one of the means by which status relations between groups are legitimized and preserved, but the achievement of ideological supremacy is never final

Social Identity: Social Identity Theory and Ideology Issues concerning ideology come most sharply into focus in SIT when considering the phenomenon of outgroup bias SIT argues that this apparently paradoxical outgroup bias is most likely to occur when the higher status of the outgroup is considered to be legitimate Although the theory is better known for highlighting the ways in which people are usually biased in favor of their ingroups, there are also circumstances in which people (usually members of low-status groups) show biases against their own groups in favor of (usually higher-status) outgroups Further, several social identity researchers have argued that members of high-status groups are also motivated to see their status advantage as legitimate in order to avoid feelings of guilt Legitimacy is thus a core dimension of intergroup relations, as we have already seen, establishing the legitimacy of status relations between groups is the core business of ideology

Spears, Jetten, & Doosje (2002): legitimacy arguably forms a crucial link between the social and the psychological wings of the theory, forming a bridge between social structure and social reality on the one hand, and the motivational impetus to seek or maintain a positive social identity on the other People have to identify with the categories but they also have to feel that the social structure or social reality warrants the social claims implied in discrimination, ingroup bias, and other attempts to assert group identity. Social Identity: Social Identity Theory and Ideology Although there are clearly circumstances in which outgroup favoritism occurs, Spears et al. (2002) warn that we should not always take apparent displays of outgroup favoritism at face value They argue that sometimes displays of outgroup favoritism may be more the product of strategic considerations than internalized inferiority Further, the things that one can say, and the actions that one can take, about ones own or other groups are limited by the social realities of the context in which they take place Spears et al. argue that there are more social reality constraints on the

expression of positive attributes of low-status groups than high-status groups, which limit the ability of low-status group members to credibly engage in ingroup favoritism Ex. It is hard to make an argument that ones own group is more intelligent than an outgroup if educational and employment outcomes clearly favor the outgroup However, ingroup favoritism may be more likely to occur in intragroup contexts, and may form an important basis for the development of the ideologies of resistance emphasized by Van Dijk (1998) Social Identity: Social Identity Theory and Ideology Social identity theory thus holds out hope that dominated and low-status groups can develop ideologies that will contest their domination and that may motivate efforts towards social change However, it is strongly alert to the ways in which the ability of groups to develop and express such ideologies is constrained by the social reality in which they exist

Social Representations and Ideology Given the scope of Moscovicis theory of social representations it is a theoretical approach highly conducive to the study of ideology Which makes it somewhat surprising that few social representations researchers have been concerned with the contents and functions of ideological representations This is surprising given the European origins of the theory: European social psychologists have not been as reluctant to move into explicitly political territory as North American psychologists Social Representations and Ideology: Ideological Hegemony Thus far we have used a definition of ideology that focuses on individual and group-based cognitions (such as values, beliefs, and representations) that serve to maintain and legitimate the status quo

But system-serving beliefs and representations can have this effect only if they are widely shared and accepted within and between different groups in society This brings up Antonio Gramscis writings on ideological hegemony and their application to contemporary discussions about the social cohesiveness of western liberal democracies Gramscis concept of hegemony has been used to understand the widespread perceived legitimacy and support western societies receive from the majority of their citizens Hegemony refers to the ways in which: A certain way of life and thought is dominant, in which one concept of reality is diffused throughout society in all its institutional and private manifestations, informing with its spirit all taste, morality, customs, religious and political principles, and all social relations, particularly in their intellectual and moral connotation. Social Representations and Ideology: Ideological Hegemony

Although Gramscis notion of hegemony is linked to that of ideology, Gramsci himself did not use the term ideology to refer to a hegemonic outlook Consistent with the Marxist definition of ideology at the time, ideology referred to distorted perceptions, mystification or false beliefs However, if we define ideology as beliefs, representations, discourse, etc. which function to legitimate the existing social, political, and economic relations of the dominance within a society, irrespective of their truth status Then Gramscis notion of hegemony can be viewed as referring to a dominant and pervasive ideological outlook within a society Indeed, many cultural analysts have used the Gramscian notion of hegemony in this way to understand the continual system support which characterizes contemporary western societies Social Representations and Ideology: Ideological Hegemony

Within any society at any given time various conceptions of the world exist which are not structurally or culturally unified The hegemonic process can be described as the way in which a particular world-view or moral philosophical outlook diffuses throughout society, forming the basis of what is described as common-sense knowledge or objective truth Many factors influence what world-view becomes widely shared and dominant, one important factor being the ability of a philosophical outlook to make sense of the structural organization of the society: The dominant social, political and economic relations Social Representations and Ideology: Ideological Hegemony Gramsci, however, was highly critical of simple economistic accounts of the development of a societys moral, political, and cultural outlook It is important to make clear, however, that Gramsci did not view

hegemony as being imposed by force by the dominant classes For Gramsci, hegemony is not achieved through coercion, but, rather, is freely consented to by the people It is a philosophical and moral outlook that has won the hearts and minds of the people Gramsci emphasized the common-sense nature of a hegemonic worldview He emphasized the need to analyze all levels of society, in particular civil society where religious, moral, and social patterns of perception emerged and proliferated Endowing it with an almost folklore quality Such an outlook becomes powerful and pervasive because it is able to make sense of peoples everyday lived experience and is intimately linked to the practices of everyday life Social Representations and Ideology: Ideological Hegemony

For Gramsci, common sense, the primary resource of human thought, is imbued with philosophy all people are philosophers: It is essential to destroy the widespread prejudice that philosophy is a strange and difficult thing just because it is the specific intellectual activity of a particular category of specialists or of professional and systematic philosophers. It must first be shown that all men [and women] are philosophers, by defining the limits and characteristics of the spontaneous philosophy which is proper to everybody. This philosophy is contained in: 1. language itself, which is a totality of determined notions and concepts and not just of words grammatically devoid of content 2. Common sense and good sense

3. Popular religion and, therefore, also in the entire system of beliefs, superstition, opinions, ways of seeing things and acting, which are collectively bundled together under the name of folklore. Social Representations and Ideology: Ideological Hegemony There are certain elements in Gramscis writings on hegemony that have interesting parallels to Moscovicis theory of social representations Both emphasize the centrality of common sense in everyday thinking and in the understanding of social reality Unlike theories within social cognition which stress distortion, biases, and errors in lay thinking, common sense is not viewed as an impoverished source of knowledge and ideas It is imbued with moral, philosophical, cultural, and political traces Common sense in both theories is socially and historically contingent, subject to change given political and historical transformations Social Representations and Ideology: Ideological Hegemony

Furthermore, both Gramsci and Moscovici write about the dissemination of ideas and knowledge from the intellectual realm to the rest of society Gramsci suggests philosophical ideas articulated by intellectuals trickle their way down into the consciousness of the people Referred to intellectual ideas and scientific knowledge, which becomes a part of everyday common sense as organic According to Gramsci, ideas and beliefs are organic in so far as they inform the practical consciousness of everyday life Moscovici suggest scientific concepts which originate in the reified universe of science diffuse throughout the rest of society, contributing to the stock of common-sense knowledge that people draw upon to make sense of their social world Social Representations and Ideology: Ideological Hegemony Discussions of ideological hegemony are also related to debates over the existence of a cohesive and totalizing dominant ideology

A crude version of hegemony has been used to explain almost anything, from the failure of Marxist predictions about the inevitable demise of capitalism, to the acceptance by the masses of capitalist relations of production The working classes were seen to have failed to recognize their true economic and political interests Worse still, they had internalized the emerging values of their oppressors Indeed, German critical theorists such as Adorno described the acquiescence of the working classes to capitalism as false consciousness More recently, cultural and social theorists emphasize the extent to which contemporary western life is characterized by the consumption of goods bought for their symbolic value This preoccupation has been argued to undermine the development of critical political awareness Social Representations and Ideology: Ideological Hegemony There is little doubt that some analyses of ideological hegemony are overly simplistic and deterministic

While Moscovici has referred to hegemonic representations, he rejects the view that everyone is always under the sway of a dominant ideology Human activity and autonomy disappear and consciousness is determined and directed by powerful structural forces This crude version fails to acknowledge the constructionist and reflexive capacities of people Billig has also argued against this version of ideological domination which treats people as passive and gullible pawns, duped by an array of ideological managers and institutions which serve the interests of the dominant classes Social Representations and Ideology: Ideological Hegemony Indeed Abercrombie et al. (1990) argue that there is little empirical evidence to suggest the existence of an uncritical acceptance of dominant ideal, values and representations

among dominated groups Rather it is the ideological cohesion within dominant high-status groups and ideological disunity and fragmentation within subordinate groups which helps maintain the stability within liberal democracies The cohesiveness of liberal democracy is due not to the internalization of legitimating societal values and beliefs among dominated groups But to the everyday economic need of these groups to participate in the wage labor system central to capitalist economies It is the behavioral compliance to the reality of capitalism to what Marx referred to as the dull compulsion of the economic which sustains and preserves the system Social Representations and Ideology: Ideological Hegemony Notions of singular dominant ideologies are also criticized on the grounds that they grossly oversimplify the

complexity and multidimensionality of the status relations between the multiple groups in a society (which are themselves fluid and contextual) While rejecting a complete reduction of social processes to economic factors Hall retains a Marxist emphasis on the crucial role of economic relations in the production of social relations Arguing that changing economic practices and conditions (such as the decreasing demand for traditional blue-collar workers; the rise of the information economy; the increasing casualization of labor) have produced new social and sub-cultural allegiances As a consequence, traditional ideas about the relations within and between traditional class-based or ethnicity-based groups are no longer important Social Representations and Ideology: Ideological Hegemony Halls discussion of the failure of traditional accounts of ideology to deal with the New Times produced by the changing socio-economic conditions in western liberal democracies, echoes one of the central themes emphasized by postmodernist commentators in the last two decades:

The increasing fragmentation and diversification of modern societies The pluralism embodied in postmodernism renders the notion of a unified and coherent dominant ideology as unrepresentative of contemporary culture Similarly, Moscovici has argued that hegemonic representations are more difficult to locate in modern capitalist societies, and are more characteristic of small traditional societies Social Representations and Ideology: Ideological Hegemony Although postmodern accounts of western society have provided interesting and stimulating commentaries, emphasizing the increasing diversity and plurality of contemporary life One could argue that many of these analyses underestimate the unifying and legitimating features

of certain representations and discourses While ideology may be less important in contributing to the cohesiveness of liberal democracy than some have assumed, is it the case that it has no role to play at all? Social Representations and Ideology: Individualism and Liberalism as Social Representations While few empirical studies have found evidence of a dominant ideology in modern democracies, there is considerable evidence of the recurring prevalence of certain ways of making sense of the world The liberal individualist conception of the person as the center of cognition, action, and process is one of these sense-making practices As we discussed in chapters 5 & 6, this conception of the person has been described as a pervasively shared representation which permeates all aspects of social life within western liberal democracies Linked to this conception of the person are individualist values of the achievement and preference for personal and individualistic explanations for achievement and social mobility over situational and contextual explanations

The development of a cultural emphasis on individual achievement has been referred to by some theorists as possessive individualism Individualism has been described as the most pervasive ethos characterizing liberal democracies because it has the ability to make sense of the social conditions of a capitalist society Individual merit and success are largely rewarded in such societies, and competition, which forms the cornerstone of economic relations, is regarded as the most effective and efficient means by which to motivate people in most spheres of social life Social Representations and Ideology: Individualism and Liberalism as Social Representations As a dominant value orientation, individualism is an inherent feature of liberalism, the political creed around which most western capitalist democracies are structured Stuart Hall (1986) documents the historically dynamic development of liberalism within England since the 17th century

Liberalism was so responsive to the changing historical and social circumstances in England that a number of variants of liberalism developed, ranging from the conservative to more progressive and reformist versions Throughout the 20th century recurring experiences of economic crises seriously challenged the classic liberalist emphasis on laissez-faire capitalism Liberalism embraced the necessity for social change by attempting to humanize capitalism This culminated in increased state intervention in the market economy and the development of the modern capitalist welfare state Social Representations and Ideology: Individualism and Liberalism as Social Representations Hall argues that liberalism managed to maintain its hegemony because of its ability to accommodate a range of political inflections While social democratic parties have embraced the more reformist and progressive versions of liberalism which emphasized the need to redistribute wealth and protect the casualties of the system Conservative liberalism has continued to stress the

importance of free competition and market economics in combination with the rhetoric of tradition and authority Liberalisms remarkable flexibility has enabled it to become adopted by different political positions and to serve the interests of different groups Social Representations and Ideology: Individualism and Liberalism as Social Representations Despite the differences and contradictions between social democratic and conservative variants of liberalism The two strands share a number of core concepts which are fundamental in identifying them as part of a particular ideological discourse The liberalist conception of the world is premised on the sovereign individual

Liberalism abstracts the individual from society All individuals possess a certain inalienable rights which are viewed to be consonant with the essential character of human nature The freedom of individuals to maximize self-interest and to take part in social, political, and religious activities of their own choosing is regarded as most important The competition and struggle for material resources is viewed as an expression of a natural human drive An open meritocracy in which individuals are free to compete and maximize self-interest is regarded as a natural society A market economy which allows all individuals to compete, sell and buy, accumulate wealth and improve their position in society is regarded as a natural economy Society and economy organized around market principles are seen to be consistent with the fundamentals of human nature The proposition that the market is in human nature has solidified and reified the market economy as an essentialist category Social Representations and Ideology: Individualism and Liberalism as Social Representations Liberalism has been able to maintain its hegemony not only because it forms the basis of philosophical reasoning for many of

major political parties in liberal democracies But also because it forms the basis of spontaneous everyday thinking of ordinary people Hall documents the way in which components of philosophical liberalism have become widely diffused throughout English society, informing practical consciousness and becoming an important component of English common sense: So much so that, to many of those who constantly think within its limits, it does not appear to be an ideology at all, but simply an obvious way of making sense of things what everybody knows. However, this obviousness is itself a sign that the ideas do belong to a particular ideological configuration they are obvious only because their historical and philosophical roots and conditions have somehow been forgotten or suppressed. Social Representations and Ideology: Individualism and Liberalism as Social Representations While many social theories emphasize the way in which individuals are

primarily social beings, and in some way constituted by society Liberalism thus played a role in constructing our prevailing common sense or spontaneous awareness of ourselves today as separate, isolable and selfsufficient beings This is best captured by Margaret Thatchers infamous claim in the 1980s that there is no such thing as society Social Representations and Ideology: Individualism and Liberalism as Social Representations Thus far in this section, we have attempted to demonstrate the ways in which liberalism and individualism, as particular constructions of reality, have become diffused throughout society and contributed to the stock of commonsense knowledge and truth which people draw upon to make sense of the world This is not to suggest that liberalism as an ideological outlook is embraced and articulated as a coherent belief system But

Indeed, it is suggested that many of the system-justifying and legitimating social psychological constructions that Jost and Banaji identify, such as stereotypes and just world beliefs, are underpinned by this moralphilosophical outlook that salient and central components become expressed in fragmentary ways Such cognitive constructs and their system-rationalizing effects emerge from historically specific ideological currents currents which make sense of and justify the existing patterns of social relations Ideology is not a system of falsehoods and illusions promoted by dominant groups, but is firmly grounded in the forms of our social life and thus has a material reality Social Representations and Ideology: Individualism and Liberalism as Social Representations Billig has argued that it is an oversimplification to characterize modern liberal democracies as individualistic, pointing out that both individualist and collectivist values coexist within contemporary capitalism Hall has also pointed this out in his historical accounts

Likewise, in the last chapter we discussed the research of Katz and Hass (1988) in the U.S. Demonstrated the coexistence of two largely independent value systems among the American public: Humanitarianism-egalitarianism: emphasizes the importance of political equality and social justice between individuals and groups The Protestant work ethic: stresses the importance of hard work, individual achievement, self-reliance and discipline In practice, these two core values often lead to feelings of ambivalence towards marginalized groups such as African Americans and the poor Concern for the welfare and justice of these groups is tempered by beliefs that individuals in such groups transgress cherished values such as hard work and self-reliance This is based on the assumption that another persons lower social status within a society is a result of their own personal shortcomings and failures Social Representations and Ideology: Individualism and Liberalism as Social Representations

Despite the fragmentation rhetoric of postmodernism, it is suggested that liberal individualism continues to exercise ideological constraints on the way people think, live, and behave in contemporary societies Postmodernists may have exaggerated the decline of liberalism as a grand narrative within contemporary western society A postmodernists focus on the increasing plurality of discourses and fragmentation of consciousness fails to acknowledge the resurgent influence of New Right liberalism, or neo-liberalism Neo-liberalism has been endorsed not only by the conservative Liberal-Coalition government in Australia since it came into power in 1996, but also by Tony Blairs New Labor government in Britain It has been argued that economic debates and policies within western democracies are still largely being shaped within the liberal continuum that Hall describes Social Representations and Ideology: Individualism and Liberalism as Social Representations

Grand meta-narratives like liberalism continue to have influence not only in political economy, but also in other domains Patriarchy, positivist science, and the domination of nature by technological progress are ideological discourses that also have a contemporary relevance There is no doubt that perspectives that challenge and undermine these do exist The feminist critique of contemporary society has clearly had a discernible impact at all levels of society, from the structural to the personal Nevertheless, despite changes, women are still underrepresented at the highest levels of employment and are still dong the bulk of housework and parenting despite working full time Although patriarchy has been significantly challenged, it remains largely intact Moreover, while liberal feminism has successfully managed to gain a voice within some contemporary political debates, more radical feminist perspectives have been largely ignored and/or marginalized

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