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Thread: Economic Crisis: The Double Fallacy

  1. #1 Economic Crisis: The Double Fallacy 
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    Economic Crisis: The Double Fallacy

    1) The ideologist “reduces the social relations to personal qualities, and then uses the latter to justify the former.”
    2) The ideologist “mistakes the appearance for reality. He so analyses the social relations that the rich and poor appear vastly unequal in their ‘endowments’, and on this flimsy basis he asserts that they are unequal.”

    A responder to my thread “Ideology: Humanity’s Weakest Link” wrote the following:
    “Capitalism is natural law. It should be the dominant ideology. Just like evolution is a dominant ideology, also because it's natural law. The free-market is to possessions as free-thought is to discussion. Would that we lived in a world where our minds were as free as our markets!”

    Ideology seems to be a domain of knowledge little discussed in today’s world. Anytime I place the word “ideology” in the title of an OP the viewership seems to drop off rather dramatically.

    What are the forms of thinking that are characteristic of ideologists? What are the most critical techniques and fallacies involved in the construction of an ideological, i.e. apologetic, body of thought?

    I have turned to Bhikhu Parekh, a political theorist and Centennial Professor at the Centre for the Study of Global Governance at the London School of Economics for assistance in trying to answer these questions. Parekh has studied the work of Carl Marx and authored the book “Mark’s Theory of Ideology” from which the quotes in this post are taken.

    To understand ideology one need understand the sense of infallibility of apologetics. The apologist provides a systematic argumentative discourse in defense of doctrine; the apologist provides a systematic attempt to justify the certainty with which s/he holds the views of the particular set of ideas in question.

    First, the ideologist removes from historical context the ideas and forms of thought of her ideology and seeks to universalize them. S/he generalizes a set of concepts thereby conferring universality on the underlying social relations and experiences. Such universalization is evident in the comment of the responder’s view that “capitalism is natural law”. Such views are seen when we hear that capitalism and democracy are the most rational means for organizing society and thus represent “the end of history”, i.e. the end of further critical thought in such matters.

    Secondly, the ideologist seeks to equate these ideological concepts as “just doing what comes naturally”. Such ideological views, practices, and social order are natural, or normal, or reasonable, or necessary and sufficient to human type creatures. All of which is intended to discourage any form of discussion or critical thinking.

    Examples of such practices might be the effort to say that a woman’s place is in the home, scarcity is a natural human predicament, we shall always have the poor in our midst, overpopulation is an act of nature, aggression is a part of the natural order, inequalities among a population is the will of God, societies are naturally hierarchal, intellectual skills are more valuable than manual. As Marx frequently puts it “the ideologists ‘eternalizes’, or ‘deifies’ a given social practice or order, and eliminates history.”

    Thirdly, the ideologist “constantly conflates the distinction between form and content.” In a production oriented society there are production relations and productive forces, the former representing the form of production while the latter represents the content. The ideologist’s primary concern is to legitimize the social form by presenting it in an appealing light whereas s/he attributes its evils to technology along with its evils.

    “The social relations of capitalism create alienation, unemployment and acute division of labor dehumanizes the worker, cripples his personality, etc. The ideologist explains all these in terms of the machines, and deflates the attack on the capitalist social structure to its technology. While producing the social evils, technology also eliminates poverty and disease, conquers nature, creates material abundance, and so on. The ideologist ascribes these benefits to the capitalist social relations.”

    Fourth and finally, the ideologist constantly reduces a relation to a quality. Also the ideologist prefers “quality-signifying to a relation-signifying vocabulary”. For example: the rich are rich because they are thrifty and disciplined, the poor are extravagant, undisciplined, and lazy.

    Capitalism has met its enemy and it is ideological laissez-faire capitalism. Can capitalism throw off this heavy hand of laissez-faire ideology?

    Quotes from “Marx’s Theory of Ideology” by Bhikhu Parekh.


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