A Structuralist Critique of Idpol and Ideology
Made by Patrick
(@deprivedofsubstance) — TikTok
To start, we must first understand what concept is. Well, we realize for a concept to exist in the manner of let’s say, a thought, for example, we must conceptualize it. To conceptualize is to admit there is the substance of which can be conceptualized and pieced together by the conscious performer. I would argue all of which is conceptualized is derived from reality. You can conceptualize a dragon by making it a conglomerate entity by taking characteristics of scales seen on lizards, wings seen on birds, and the idea of fire to make this concept. One cannot conceptualize nothing. However if they say they can, they are adding substance to nothing, henceforth, it is now something. The only way to conceptualize nothing is to not conceptualize at all.
Now once said concept has been brought into creation it can act as a signifier. Not just of external forces and objects, but of subjects (Subjects being conscious performers.) What I mean by this is that if we have the concept of selfishness, it acts to categorize actions that are committed by the subject, but can be extended to categorize the subject themselves if they are perceived in this manner, most likely after repeating the same “selfish” action a repetitive number of times. However, concepts such as beauty can categorize not actions, but the individual. This can be done involuntarily as the concept of race puts the individual into an in-voluntary collective. They cannot choose whether or not they are classified and categorized by society as x race, they simply are. However, concepts which can be applied to the subject can be voluntary, chosen by the subject to represent them as they now want their actions to be categorized and further signify the concept that they agree to. This is ideology.
Ideology can restrain and alienate the individual as a subject if they treat it and hold it above themselves. For example, when the Moralist Marxist Leninist refuses to buy from large corporations of course this can be seen as means of praxis but also, they are simultaneously giving up the easier and better opportunity to buy from large corporations as they hold their ideology above themselves which is not only acting as an abstraction but also restricts their physical activity. The same way the state holds physical means of power (this being of weapons that cause physical harm,) they hold immaterial power as well. Nothing stops the individual from not showing up to court for a court case if they can leave the country and possibly be assured to not get caught, but they do so anyway as they see the state’s immaterial power as valid. In the same way, nothing holds the Moralist Marxist Leninist from buying at this large corporation which not only benefits them in a better manner in terms of what they want to buy, they choose to do so anyway as they have now let ideology control and restrain them. This action of holding ideology above the individual can end up controlling them so much in fact that if they go against their ideologies “rules” ie, the Moralist Marxist Leninist buying from a big corporation, they end up going through mental strain/cognitive harm because they view this action in a manner so reprehensible, their mind now sees it as a rule of some sort they must follow. Now of course ideology in and of itself is voluntary when we speak of it in regards to the subject wanting to label themself, but is it voluntary in all cases? The answer is no, and here is where the dilution of the subject and the concept begins.
Say we have two subjects. Subject A has the interpretation for the concept of a Trump supporter being one who holds conservative economic stances, possibly traditionalist, and likes America. Now if we were to look at some of Trump’s real stances, these would fit. The reason they fit so well is because subject A is a Trump supporter. Now enters in subject B. Subject B has the interpretation that a liberal is someone who holds values such as multiparty democracy, civil liberties, progressivism, internationalism, and a market-based economy. When looking at writings from individuals who work in the study of these subjects we see this definition would make sense. Here however is where things go bad. The Trump supporter defines the liberal as an individual who is dumb, loud, a “snowflake,” and is progressive. The liberal sees the trump supporter as someone who is racist, transphobic, sexist, xenophobic, and likes America. Notice in both cases that both subjects only fit 1 trait that is true to the ideology the other defines themself as. This is not to say qualities an ideology holds can’t change and aren’t arbitrary, however, we see that these extra qualities were never inherent to either ideology. Looking further at these extra qualities, for the trump supporter, racism, sexism, and transphobia were never inherent nor qualities all trump supporters share/part of the trumpism ideology. Same in regard to liberalism not holding values of being loud, dumb, or “a snowflake.” Now we could ask why each subject gave the other negative qualities in relation to their ideology, but why? Well, there are many different ways as to how this could come to be but the largest one I would posit is due to misinformation passed due to disagreement. The lack of consensus among individuals can easily form the causal relationship that leads to each side putting a negative light on the other in hopes to gain support for their own ideology and distaste for the other. But why does this matter?
When the trump supporter engages contact with the liberal and seeks to find a way to categorize and organize this individual into a grouping that they hold within their mind, they look at qualities the subject holds. Once the liberal says that they are progressive, the one quality the trump supporter gets right, they categorize them as a liberal but, they give them every other quality too. They now say this liberal individual holds the essence of being dumb and is loud even if this individual never once held this quality. The same goes for when the liberal sees the trump supporter, all they need is the one quality of liking America for this example and then they categorize this trump supporter as a trump supporter but claims they hold the essences of being racist, sexist, transphobic, and more even if the trump supporter never held these qualities ever, you could try and synthesize this with Baudrillard’s description of simulacra. This is the process where the subject is no longer seen as a subject, rather the physical manifestation of ideology. Well, of course, you could be the subject while being the physical manifestation of ideology but in this case, the conceptualization of these ideologies is false and both subjects only seek to categorize the individual into an ideology rather than see them as a true subject independent of ideology.
Now, where does Idpol come into this? Well, we see the dilution of concepts and ideology that can come through the incentive of putting derogatory notes on the opposing ideology, we can assume society would place positive notes on what we want to be furthered. However, the same way the trump supporter and liberal act in a manner to degrade and dilute each others stance, society as a whole can also dilute the true form of an ideology through means of placing positive notes on it or putting how individuals subscribed to this ideology promote good intentions and are being put down by the opposition. Henceforth furthering good notes for ideology x and putting down ideology y. This all plays into idpol as we see today with certain stances such as being pro-BLM or pro-abortion on the federal level in the U.S. is looked at as something placed on a higher pedestal. So individuals who align with these ideologies should be placed on a higher social pedestal as well. Especially ones who have gone through the experience with either one which can be seen as a negative if they could not have gone through it. This leads however to the furthering of capitalism. How? The commodification of physical manifestations of qualities tied to this positively seen ideology. Take for example BLM commodifying their statement. Now individuals are drawn to buy this commodity as it puts them in this light of being seen holding this place on the pedestal. But also we see with things like BLM, individuals who are placed into the involuntary collective of race (specifically those who are black) now are automatically held on this higher pedestal unless they disagree with their placement. This placement is done in hopes of many to help fight against ideals of racism that live within society by their interpretation of x society. But the action of holding one on a pedestal until they disagree with a said stance would lead to the individual possibly showing hostile behavior towards this post-pedestal individual. “How could one be against such a great movement?” screams the pedestal placer, “You shouldn’t even be considered a part of this!” This action is now revealing to all observing this process of action that this was simply the process of one wanting to fit in within the collective mainstream, henceforth could lead to others disengaging with this movement which would be bad in their terms. This is done due to the fact that since society wants this change of course they’d want to commit an action which they feel would help accelerate this change, one could argue part of this is simply due to seeing the individual as an extension and physical manifestation of ideology which is told to be moral and good to follow. Following however with the furthering of capitalism, society doesn’t even have to push this value as a good one. Take the Moralist Marxist Leninist, they buy their figures to further show their wanting to be recognized and signified by society as a Moralist Marxist Leninist. But we see recently in our current day and age, teens in the U.S. are growing faster with the thoughts and ideas of Marx that we see the further commodification of large figures such as Che Guevara or Lenin himself. This only reinforces the processes of capitalism they seek to deconstruct and abolish. But keep in mind during this process of hoping to be signified as the ideology they wish to be seen as, they most likely are just going to be called “idiots” next to the phrase “better dead than red” which will only further their wanting to be recognized as the follower of said ideology. When in reality, they have been now trapped in wanting to be recognized as an ideology and may succumb to society’s definition of what they are by means of defeat. You could possibly synthesize this in with Baudrillard's sign value but I won’t bother going over that, cope. Note though that the action of trying to act as though one is beyond ideology in a post-modern society is the most ideological thing one can do. Žižek says this in his book The Žižek Reader on page 60 where he states, “The paradox in all these cases is that the stepping out of (what we experience as) ideology is the very form of our enslavement to it.” Another example could be how for Althusser, there is no human essence beyond the grasp of ideology. Althusser’s theory of ideology posits the human subject is constructed or interpellated by ideological mechanisms.
Althusser inverts the paradigm in which the subject constitutes ideology by saying in “Lenin and Philosophy” and Other Essays Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation), “the category of the subject is only constitutive of all ideology insofar as all ideology has the function (which defines it) of ‘constituting’ concrete individuals as subjects.” Ideological structures, or what Althusser calls ‘ideological State apparatuses (ISA’s)’ produce the subject through the misrecognition and distortion that is at the heart of social reproduction. There is no ‘false consciousness’ in this account. The subject is not deceived as to his true, essential interests, because these interests do not exist, or rather they are constructed by these ideological apparatuses. This again can possibly be synthesized with Baudrillard’s description of simulacra. There can be no essential, rational point of departure beyond ideology — ideology is all around us, existing as the very basis of social existence. Essentially, ideology is eternal for Althusser — there is no going beyond this ideological interpellation. As for Žižek, the attempt to act as one outside of ideology only demonstrates our enslavement to it.
Summarizing this up, the furthering of ideology and identity politics in a society where not everyone holds the power of being all-knowing of true concepts and ideas, wherein the marketplace of ideas anything goes, we will lose of truth behind concepts until the only truth it holds is behind the mask of ideology which bears no truth at all. It only creates a positive feedback loop that accelerates us to points where we may never be able to recognize the subject as such but rather only of falsified concepts behind ideology which the subject themself may hear so much, they will try to replicate them in their actions to become what they have been told they are, rather than what the true concept their ideology holds them to follow.
Žižek, Slavoj. The Žižek Reader. Page 60. https://www.google.com/books/edition/_/oXBcLDDnhlMC?hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjxsMHZtPnwAhUJVN8KHck7C1MQ7_IDMBR6BAgFEAI
Althusser, Louis. “Lenin and Philosophy” and Other Essays Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation) http://www.csun.edu/~snk1966/Lous%20Althusser%20Ideology%20and%20Ideological%20State%20Apparatuses.pdf