The importance of Ideology

PART 1 of Constructing a Party

As part of a larger writing project about building a political organization from the ground up, one thing I’ve been working on is conveying the importance of ideology.

Too often, either policies are substituted for an ideology or the ideological pronouncements reflect the personal beliefs of technocrats in the upper echelons of the Party.

In the scenario I have in mind, I am positioning ideology in this context:

  • A mass organization that campaigns in the public sphere (e.g. a political party) needs to reflect the zeitgeist (or shape it).
  • Without this, those it seeks to attract to its cause will not share in its objectives or world view.

Three views of ideology have helped me build a framework:

Ideology is a ‘Representation’ of the Imaginary Relationship of Individuals to their Real Conditions of Existence.

Louis Althusser

Ideologies are thus political discourses whose primary function is not to make correct theoretical statements about political reality (as Marx’s “false consciousness” model implies), but to orient subjects’ lived relations to and within this reality

Zizek

Ideology is a system of concepts and views which serves to make sense of the world while obscuring the social interests that are expressed therein, and by its completeness and relative internal consistency tends to form a closed system and maintain itself in the face of contradictory or inconsistent experience.

Terry Eagleton

Ignoring the “imaginary” and “obscuring” qualifiers for now, it is important to stress that an ideology must have a relationship to the lived experiences of those it seeks to attract.

The question a nascent party must ask itself is,

Do we have an easily understood and robust world view that our potential voters can relate to and that explains to them the material circumstances of their lives?

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