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Ideology as a Cultural System

Clifford Geertz


It is one of the minor ironies of modern intellectual history that the term «ideology» has itself become thoroughly ideologized. A concept that once meant but a collection of political proposals, perhaps somewhat intellectualistic and impractical but at any rate idealistic —“social romances” as someone, perhaps Napoleon, called them— has now become, to quote Webster’s, “the integrated assertions, theories, and aims constituting a politico-social program, often with an implication of factitious propagandizing; as, Fascism was altered in Germany to fit the Nazi ideology” — a much more formidable proposition. Even in works that, in the name of science, profess to be using a neutral sense of the term, the effect of its employment tends nonetheless to be distinctly polemical in Sutton, Harris, Kaysen, and Tobin’s in many ways excellent The American Business Creed, for example, an assurance that “one has no more cause to feel dismayed or aggrieved by having his own views described as ‘ideology’ than had Moliere’s famous character by the discovery that all his life he had been talking prose,”[1] is followed immediately by the listing of the main characteristics of ideology as bias, oversimplification, emotive language, and adaption to public prejudice No one, at least outside the Communist bloc, where a somewhat distinctive conception of the role of thought in society is institutionalized, would call himself an ideologue or consent unprotestingly to be called one by others. Almost universally now the familiar parodic paradigm applies: “I have a social philosophy; you have political opinions; he has an ideology.”

The historical process by which the concept of ideology came to be itself a part of the very subject matter to which it referred has been traced by Mannheim; the realization (or perhaps it was only an admission) that sociopolitical thought does not grow out of disembodied reflection but “is always bound up with the existing life situation of the thinker” seemed to taint such thought with the vulgar struggle for advantage it had professed to rise above.[2] But what is of even more immediate importance is the question of whether or not this absorption into its own referent has destroyed its scientific utility altogether, whether or not having become an accusation, it can remain an analytic concept. In Mannheim’s case, this problem was the animus of his entire work — the construction, as he put it, of a “nonevaluative conception of ideology.” But the more he grappled with it the more deeply he became engulfed in its ambiguities until, driven by the logic of his initial assumptions to submit even his own point of view to sociological analysis, he ended, as is well known, in an ethical and epistemological relativism that he himself found uncomfortable. And so far as later work in this area has been more than tendentious or mindlessly empirical, it has involved the employment of a series of more or less ingenious methodological devices to escape from what may be called (because, like the puzzle of Achilles and the tortoise, it struck at the very foundations of rational knowledge) Mannheim’s Paradox.

As Zeno’s Paradox raised (or, at least, articulated) unsettling questions about the validity of mathematical reasoning, so Mannheim’s Paradox raised them with respect to the objectivity of sociological analysis. Where, if anywhere, ideology leaves off and science begins has been the Sphinx's Riddle of much of modern sociological thought and the rustless weapon of its enemies. Claims to impartiality have been advanced in the name of disciplined adherence to impersonal research procedures of the academic man’s institutional insulation from the immediate concerns of the day and his vocational commitment to neutrality, and of deliberately cultivated awareness of and correction for one’s own biases and interests. They have been met with denial of the impersonality (and the effectiveness) of the procedures, of the solidity of the insulation, and of the depth and genuineness of the self-awareness. “I am aware,” a recent analyst of ideological preoccupations among American intellectuals concludes, somewhat nervously, “that many readers will claim that my position is itself ideological.”[3] Whatever the fate of his other predictions, the validity of this one is certain. Although the arrival of a scientific sociology has been repeatedly proclaimed, the acknowledgment of its existence is far from universal even among social scientists themselves; and nowhere is resistance to claims to objectivity greater than in the study of ideology.

A number of sources for this resistance have been cited repeatedly in the apologetic literature of the social sciences. The value-laden nature of the subject matter is perhaps most frequently invoked: men do not care to have beliefs to which they attach great moral significance examined dispassionately, no matter for how pure a purpose; and if they are themselves highly ideologized, they may find it simply impossible to believe that a disinterested approach to critical matters of social and political conviction can be other than a scholastic sham. The inherent elusiveness of ideological thought, expressed as it is in intricate symbolic webs as vaguely defined as they are emotionally charged; the admitted fact that ideological special pleading has, from Marx forward, so often been clothed in the guise of “scientific sociology”; and the defensiveness of established intellectual classes who see scientific probing into the social roots of ideas as threatening to their status, are also often mentioned. And, when all else fails, it is always possible to point out once more that sociology is a young science, that it has been so recently founded that it has not had time to reach the levels of institutional solidity necessary to sustain its claims to investigatory freedom in sensitive areas. All these arguments have, doubtless, a certain validity. But what —by a curious selective omission the unkind might well indict as ideological— is not so often considered is the possibility that a great part of the problem lies in the lack of conceptual sophistication within social science itself, that the resistance of ideology to sociological analysis is so great because such analyses are in fact fundamentally inadequate; the theoretical framework they employ is conspicuously incomplete.

I shall try in this essay to show that such is indeed the case: that the social sciences have not yet developed a genuinely nonevaluative conception of ideology; that this failure stems less from methodological indiscipline than from theoretical clumsiness; that this clumsiness manifests itself mainly in the handling of ideology as an entity in itself — as an ordered system of cultural symbols rather than in the discrimination of its social and psychological contexts (with respect to which our analytical machinery is very much more refined); and that the escape from Mannheim’s Paradox lies, therefore, in the perfection of a conceptual apparatus capable of dealing more adroitly with meaning. Bluntly, we need a more exact apprehension of our object of study, lest we find ourselves in the position of the Javanese folk-tale figure, “Stupid Boy”, who, having been counseled by his mother to seek a quiet wife, returned with a corpse.


That the conception of ideology now regnant in the social sciences is a thoroughly evaluative (that is, pejorative) one is readily enough demonstrated. “[The study of ideology] deals with a mode of thinking which is thrown off its proper course,” Werner Stark informs us; “ideological thought is … something shady, something that ought to be overcome and banished from our mind.” It is not (quite) the same as lying, for, where the liar at least attains to cynicism, the ideologue remains merely a fool: “Both are concerned with untruth, but whereas the liar tries to falsify the thought of others while his own private thought is correct, while he himself knows well what the truth is, a person who falls for an ideology is himself deluded in his private thought, and if he misleads others, does so unwillingly and unwittingly.”[4] A follower of Mannheim, Stark holds that all forms of thought are socially conditioned in the very nature of things, but that ideology has in addition the unfortunate quality of being psychologically “deformed” (“warped”, “contaminated”, “falsified”, “distorted”, “clouded”) by the pressure of personal emotions like hate, desire, anxiety, or fear. The sociology of knowledge deals with the social element in the pursuit and perception of truth, its inevitable confinement to one or another existential perspective. But the study of ideology —an entirely different enterprise— deals with the causes of intellectual error:

Ideas and beliefs, we have tried to explain. can be related to reality in a double way: either to the facts of reality, or to the strivings to which this reality, or rather the reaction to this reality, gives rise. Where the former connection exists, we find thought which is, in principle, truthful; where the latter relation obtains, we are faced with ideas which can be true only by accident, and which are likely to be vitiated by bias. the word taken in the widest possible sense. The former type of thought deserves to be called theoretical; the latter must be characterized as paratheoretical. Perhaps one might also describe the former as rational, the latter as emotionally tinged — the former as purely cognitive, the latter as evaluative. To borrow Theodor Geiger’s simile … thought determined by social fact is like a pure stream, crystal-clear, transparent; ideological ideas like a dirty river, muddied and polluted by the impurities that have flooded into it. From the one it is healthy to drink; the other is poison to be avoided.[5]

This is primitive, but the same confinement of the referent of the term «ideology» to a form of radical intellectual depravity also appears in contexts where the political and scientific arguments are both far more sophisticated and infinitely more penetrating. In his seminal essay on Ideology and Civility, for example, Edward Shils sketches a portrait of “the ideological outlook”, which is, if anything, even grimmer than Stark’s.[6] Appearing “in a variety of forms, each alleging itself to be unique” —Italian Fascism, German National Socialism, Russian Bolshevism, French and Italian Communism, the Action Française, the British Union of Fascists, “and their fledgling American kinsman, ‘McCarthyism’, which died in infancy”— this outlook “encircled and invaded public life in the Western countries during the 19th century and in the 20th century … threatened to achieve universal domination.” It consists, most centrally, of “the assumption that politics should be conducted from the standpoint of a coherent, comprehensive set of beliefs which must override every other consideration.” Like the politics it supports, it is dualistic, opposing the pure “we” to the evil “they”, proclaiming that he who is not with me is against me. It is alienative in that it distrusts, attacks, and works to undermine established political institutions. It is doctrinaire in that it claims complete and exclusive possession of political truth and abhors compromise. It is totalistic in that it aims to order the whole of social and cultural life in the image of its Ideals, futuristic in that it works toward a utopian culmination of history in which such an ordering will be realized. It is, in short, not the sort of prose any good bourgeois gentleman (or even any good democrat) is likely to admit to speaking.

Even on more abstract and theoretical levels, where the concern is more purely conceptual, the notion that the term «ideology» properly applies to the views of those “stiff in opinions, and always in the wrong” does not disappear. In Talcott Parsons’s most recent contemplation of Mannheim’s Paradox, for example, “deviations from social scientific objectivity” emerge as the “essential criteria of an ideology”: “The problem of ideology arises where there is a discrepancy between what is believed and what can be [established as] scientifically correct.”[7] The “deviations” and “discrepancies“ involved are of two general sorts. First, where social science, shaped as is all thought by the overall values of the society within which it is contained, is selective in the sort of questions it asks, the particular problems it chooses to tackle, and so forth, ideologies are subject to a further, cognitively more pernicious “secondary” selectivity, in that they emphasize some aspects of social reality —that reality, for example, as revealed by current social scientific knowledge— and neglect or even suppress other aspects. “Thus the business ideology, for instance, substantially exaggerates the contribution of businessmen to the national welfare and underplays the contribution of scientists and professional men. And in the current ideology of the ‘intellectual’, the importance of social pressures to conformity' is exaggerated and institutional factors in the freedom of the individual are ignored or played down.” Second, ideological thought, not content with mere overselectivity, positively distorts even those aspects of social reality it recognizes, distortion that becomes apparent only when the assertions involved are placed against the background of the authoritative findings of social science. “The criterion of distortion is that statements are made about society which by social-scientific methods can be shown to be positively in error, whereas selectivity is; involved where the statements are, at the proper level, ‘true’, but do not constitute a balanced account of the available truth.” That in the eyes of the world there is much to choose between being positively in error and rendering an unbalanced account of the available truth seems, however, rather unlikely. Here, too, ideology is a pretty dirty river.

Examples need not be multiplied, although they easily could be. More important is the question of what such an egregiously loaded concept is doing among the analytic tools of a social science that, on the basis of a claim to cold-blooded objectivity, advances its theoretical interpretations as “undistorted” and therefore normative visions of social reality. If the critical power of the social sciences stems from their disinterestedness, is not this power compromised when the analysis of political thought is governed by such a concept, much as the analysis of religious thought would be (and, on occasion, has been) compromised when cast in terms of the study of “superstition”?

The analogy is not farfetched. In Raymond Aron’s The Opium of the Intellectuals, for example, not only the title —ironically echoic of Marx’s bitter iconoclasm— but the entire rhetoric of the argument (“political myths”, “the idolatry of history”, “churchmen and faithful”, “secular clericalism”, and so forth)[8] reminds one of nothing so much as the literature of militant atheist Shils’s tack of invoking the extreme pathologies of ideological thought —Nazism, Bolshevism, or whatever— as its paradigmatic forms is reminiscent of the tradition in which the Inquisition, the personal depravity of Renaissance popes, the savagery of Reformation wars, or the primitiveness of Bible belt fundamentalism Is offered as an archetype of religious belief and behavior. And Parsons’s view that ideology is defined by its cognitive insufficiencies vis-a-vis science is perhaps not so distant as it might appear from the Comtean view that religion is characterized by an uncritically figurative conception of reality, which a sober sociology, purged of metaphor, win soon render obsolete: We may wait as long for the “end of ideology” as the positivists have waited for the end of religion. Perhaps it is even not too much to suggest that, as the militant atheism of the Enlightenment and after was a response to the quite genuine horrors of a spectacular outburst of religious bigotry, persecution, and strife (and to a broadened knowledge of the natural world), so the militantly hostile approach to ideology is a similar response to the political holocausts of the past half-century (and to a broadened knowledge of the social world). And, if this suggestion is valid, the fate of ideology may also turn out to be similar — isolation from the mainstream of social thought.[9]

Nor can the issue be dismissed as merely a semantic one. One is, naturally, free to confine the referent of the term «ideology» to “something shady” if one wishes; and some sort of historical case for doing so can perhaps be made. But if one does so limit it, one cannot then write works on the ideologies of American businessmen, New York “literary” intellectuals, members of the British Medical Association, industrial labor-union leaders, or famous economists and expect either the subjects or interested bystanders to credit them as neutral.[10] Discussions of sociopolitical ideas that indict them ab initio, in terms of the very words used to name them, as deformed or worse, merely beg the questions they pretend to raise. It is also possible, of course, that the term «ideology» should simply be dropped from scientific discourse altogether and left to its polemical fate —as “superstition” in fact has been. But, as there seems to be nothing at the moment with which to replace it and as it is at least partially established in the technical lexicon of the social sciences, it seems more advisable to proceed with the effort to defuse it.[11]


As the flaws hidden in a tool show up when it is used, so the intrinsic weaknesses of the evaluative concept of ideology reveal themselves when it is used. In particular, they are exposed in the studies of the social sources and consequences of ideology, for in such studies this concept is coupled to a highly developed engine of social- and personality-system analysis whose very power only serves to emphasize the lack of a similar power on the cultural (that is, the symbol-system) side. In investigations of the social and psychological contexts of ideological thought (or at least the “good” ones), the subtlety with which the contexts are handled points up the awkwardness with which the thought is handled, and a shadow of imprecision is cast over the whole discussion, a shadow that even the most rigorous methodological austerity cannot dispel.

There are currently two main approaches to the study of the social determinants of ideology: the interest theory and the strain theory.[12] For the first, ideology is a mask and a weapon; for the second, a symptom and a remedy. In the interest theory, ideological pronouncements are seen against the background of a universal struggle for advantage; in the strain theory, against the background of a chronic effort to correct sociopsychological disequilibrium. In the one, men pursue power; in the other, they flee anxiety. As they may, of course, do both at the same time —and even one by means of the other— the two theories are not necessarily contradictory; but the strain theory (which arose in response to the empirical difficulties encountered by the interest theory), being less simplistic, is more penetrating, less concrete, more comprehensive.

The fundamentals of the interest theory are too well known to need review; developed to perfection of a sort by the Marxist tradition, they are now standard intellectual equipment of the man-in-the-street, who is only too aware that in political argumentation it all comes down to whose ox is gored. The great advantage of the interest theory was and is its rooting of cultural idea-systems in the solid ground of social structure, through emphasis on the motivations of those who profess such systems and on the dependence of those motivations in turn upon social position, most especially social class. Further, the interest theory welded political speculation to political combat by pointing out that ideas are weapons and that an excellent way to institutionalize a particular view of reality —that of one’s group, class, or party— is to capture political power and enforce it. These contributions are permanent; and if interest theory has not now the hegemony it once had, it is not so much because it has been proved wrong as because its theoretical apparatus turned out to be too rudimentary to cope with the complexity of the interaction among social, psychological, and cultural factors it itself uncovered. Rather like Newtonian mechanics, it has not been so much displaced by subsequent developments as absorbed into them.

The main defects of the interest theory are that its psychology is too anemic and its sociology too muscular. Lacking a developed analysis of motivation, it has been constantly forced to oscillate between a narrow and superficial utilitarianism that sees men as impelled by rational calculation of their consciously recognized personal advantage and a broader, but no less superficial, historicism that speaks with a studied vagueness of men's ideas as somehow “reflecting”, “expressing”, “corresponding to”, “emerging from”, or “conditioned by” their social commitments. Within such a framework, the analyst is faced with the choice of either revealing the thinness of his psychology by being so specific as to be thoroughly implausible or concealing the fact that he does not have any psychological theory at all by being so general as to be truistic. An argument that for professional soldiers “domestic [governmental] policies are important mainly as ways of retaining and enlarging the military establishment [because] that is their business; that is what they are trained for” seems to do scant justice to even so uncomplicated a mind as the military mind is reputed to be; while an argument that American oil men “cannot very well be pure-and-simple oil men” because “their interests are such” that “they are also political men” is as enlightening as the theory (also from the fertile mind of M. Jourdain) that the reason opium puts you to sleep is that it has dormitive powers.[13]

On the other hand, the view that social action is fundamentally an unending struggle for power leads to an unduly Machiavellian view of ideology as a form of higher cunning and, consequently, to a neglect of its broader, less dramatic social functions. The battlefield image of society as a clash of interests thinly disguised as a clash of principles turns attention away from the role that ideologies play in defining (or obscuring) social categories, stabilizing (or upsetting) social expectations. maintaining (or undermining) social norms, strengthening (or weakening) social consensus, relieving (or exacerbating) social tensions. Reducing ideology to a weapon in a guerre de plume gives to its analysis a warming air of militancy, but it also means reducing the intellectual compass within which such analysis may be conducted to the constricted realism of tactics and strategy. The intensity of interest theory is —to adapt a figure from Whitehead— but the reward of its narrowness.

As “interest”, whatever its ambiguities, is at one and the same time a psychological and sociological concept —referring both to a felt advantage of an individual or group of individuals and to the objective structure of opportunity within which an individual or group moves— so also is strain, for it refers both to a state of personal tension and to a condition of societal dislocation. The difference is that with “strain” both the motivational background and the social structural context are more systematically portrayed, as are their relations with one another. It is, in fact, the addition of a developed conception of personality systems (basically Freudian), on the one hand, and of social systems (basically Durkheimian) on the other, and of their modes of interpenetration —the Parsonian addition— that transforms interest theory into strain theory.[14]

The clear and distinct idea from which strain theory departs is the chronic malintegration of society. No social arrangement is or can be completely successful in coping with the functional problems it inevitably faces. All are riddled with insoluble antinomies: between liberty and political order, stability and change, efficiency and humanity, precision and flexibility, and so forth. There are discontinuities between norms in different sectors of the society — the economy, the polity, the family, and so on. There are discrepancies between goals within the different sectors — between the emphases on profit and productivity in business firms or between extending knowledge and disseminating it in universities, for example. And there are the contradictory role expectations of which so much has been made in recent American sociological literature on the foreman, the working wife, the artist, and the politician. Social friction is as pervasive as is mechanical friction — and as irremovable.

Further, this friction or social strain appears on the level of the individual personality —itself an inevitably malintegrated system of conflicting desires, archaic sentiments, and improvised defenses— as psychological strain. What is viewed collectively as structural inconsistency is felt individually as personal insecurity, for it is in the experience of the social actor that the imperfections of society and contradictions of character meet and exacerbate one another. But at the same time, the fact that both society and personality are, whatever their shortcomings, organized systems, rather than mere congeries of institutions or clusters of motives, means that the sociopsychological tensions they induce are also systematic, that the anxieties derived from social interaction have a form and order of their own. In the modern world at least, most men live lives of patterned desperation.

Ideological thought is, then, regarded as (one sort of) response to this desperation: “Ideology is a patterned reaction to the patterned strains of a social role.”[15] It provides a “symbolic outlet” for emotional disturbances generated by social disequilibrium. And as one can assume that such disturbances are, at least in a general way, common to all or most occupants of a given role or social position, so ideological reactions to the disturbances will tend to be similar, a similarity only reinforced by the presumed commonalities in “basic personality structure” among members of a particular culture, class, or occupational category. The model here is not military but medical: An ideology is a malady (Sutton, et al., mention nail-chewing, alcoholism, psychosomatic disorders and “crotchets” among the alternatives to it) and demands a diagnosis. “The concept of strain is not in itself an explanation of ideological patterns but a generalized label for the kinds of factors to look for in working out an explanation.”[16]

But there is more to diagnosis, either medical or sociological, than the identification of pertinent strains; one understands symptoms not merely etiologically but teleologically — in terms of the ways in which they act as mechanisms, however unavailing, for dealing with the disturbances that have generated them. Four main classes of explanation have been most frequently employed: the cathartic, the morale, the solidarity, and the advocatory. By the “cathartic explanation” is meant the venerable safety-valve or scapegoat theory. Emotional tension is drained off by being displaced onto symbolic enemies (“The Jews”, “Big Business” “The Reds”, and so forth). The explanation is as simpleminded as the device; but that, by providing legitimate objects of hostility (or, for that matter, of love), ideology may ease somewhat the pain of being a petty bureaucrat, a day laborer, or a small-town storekeeper is undeniable. By the “morale explanation” is meant the ability of an ideology to sustain individuals (or groups) in the face of chronic strain, either by denying it outright or by legitimizing it in terms of higher values. Both the struggling small businessman rehearsing his boundless confidence in the inevitable justness of the American system and the neglected artist attributing his failure to his maintenance of decent standards in a Philistine world are able, by such means, to get on with their work. Ideology bridges the emotional gap between things as they are and as one would have them be, thus insuring the performance of roles that might otherwise be abandoned in despair or apathy. By the “solidarity explanation” is meant the power of ideology to knit a social group or class together. To the extent that it exists, the unity of the labor movement, the business community, or the medical profession obviously rests to a significant degree on common ideological orientation; and the South would not be The South without the existence of popular symbols charged with the emotions of a pervasive social predicament. Finally, by the “advocatory explanation” is meant the action of ideologies (and ideologists) in articulating, however partially and indistinctly, the strains that impel them, thus forcing them into the public notice. “Ideologists state the problems for the larger society, take sides on the issues involved and ‘present them in the court’ of the ideological market place.”[17] Although ideological advocates (not altogether unlike their legal counterparts) tend as much to obscure as to clarify the true nature of the problems involved, they at least call attention to their existence and, by polarizing issues, make continued neglect more difficult. Without Marxist attack, there would have been no labor reform; without Black Nationalists, no deliberate speed.

It is here, however, in the investigation of the social and psychological roles of ideology, as distinct from its determinants, that strain theory itself begins to creak and its superior incisiveness, in comparison with interest theory, to evaporate. The increased precision in the location of the springs of ideological concern does not, somehow, carry over into the discrimination of its consequences, where the analysis becomes, on the contrary, slack and ambiguous. The consequences envisaged, no doubt genuine enough in themselves, seem almost adventitious, the accidental by-products of an essentially nonrational, nearly automatic expressive process initially pointed in another direction — as when a man stubbing his toe cries an involuntary “ouch!” and incidentally vents his anger, signals his distress, and consoles himself with the sound of his own voice; or as when, caught in a subway crush, he issues a spontaneous “damn!” of frustration and, hearing similar oaths from others. gains a certain perverse sense of kinship with fellow sufferers.

This defect, of course, can be found in much of the functional analysis in the social sciences: a pattern of behavior shaped by a certain set of forces turns out, by a plausible but nevertheless mysterious coincidence, to serve ends but tenuously related to those forces. A group of primitives sets out, in all honesty, to pray for rain and ends by strengthening its social solidarity; a ward politician sets out to get or remain near the trough and ends by mediating between unassimilated immigrant groups and an impersonal governmental bureaucracy; an ideologist sets out to air his grievances and finds himself contributing, through the diversionary power of his illusions, to the continued viability of the very system that grieves him.

The concept of latent function is usually invoked to paper over this anomalous state of affairs, but it rather names the phenomenon (whose reality is not in question) than explains it; and the net result is that functional analyses —and not only those of ideology— remain hopelessly equivocal. The petty bureaucrat’s anti-Semitism may indeed give him something to do with the bottled anger generated in him by constant toadying to those he considers his intellectual inferiors and so drain some of it away; but it may also simply increase his anger by providing him with something else about which to be impotently bitter. The neglected artist may better bear his popular failure by invoking the classical canons of his art; but such an invocation may so dramatize for him the gap between the possibilities of his environment and the demands of his vision as to make the game seem unworth the candle. Commonality of ideological perception may link men together, but it may also provide them, as the history of Marxian sectarianism demonstrates, with a vocabulary by means of which to explore more exquisitely the differences among them. The clash of ideologists may bring a social problem to public attention, but it may also charge it with such passion that any possibility of dealing with it rationally is precluded. Of all these possibilities, strain theorists are, of course, very well aware. Indeed they tend to stress negative outcomes and possibilities rather more than the positive, and they but rarely think of ideology as more than a faute de mieux stopgap — like nail-chewing. But the main point is that, for all its subtlety in ferreting out the motives of ideological concern, strain theory’s analysis of the consequences of such concern remains crude, vacillatory, and evasive. Diagnostically it is convincing; functionally it is not.

The reason for this weakness is the virtual absence in strain theory (or in interest theory either) of anything more than the most rudimentary conception of the processes of symbolic formulation. There is a good deal of talk about emotions “finding a symbolic outlet” or “becoming attached to appropriate symbols” — but very little idea of how the trick is really done. The link between the causes of ideology and its effects seems adventitious because the connecting element —the autonomous process of symbolic formulation— is passed over in virtual silence. Both interest theory and strain theory go directly from source analysis to consequence analysis without ever seriously examining ideologies as systems of interacting symbols, as patterns of interworking meanings. Themes are outlined, of course; among the content analysts, they are even counted. But they are referred for elucidation, not to other themes nor to any sort of semantic theory, but either backward to the effect they presumably mirror or forward to the social reality they presumably distort. The problem of how, after all, ideologies transform sentiment into significance and so make it socially available is short-circuited by the crude device of placing particular symbols and particular strains (or interests) side by side in such a way that the fact that the first are derivatives of the second seems mere common sense — or at least post-Freudian, post-Marxian common sense. And so, if the analyst be deft enough, it does.[18] The connection is not thereby explained but merely educed. The nature of the relationship between the sociopsychological stresses that incite ideological attitudes and the elaborate symbolic structures through which those attitudes are given a public existence is much too complicated to be comprehended in terms of a vague and unexamined notion of emotive resonance.


It is of singular interest in this connection that, although the general stream of social scientific theory has been deeply influenced by almost every major intellectual movement of the last century and a half —Marxism, Darwinism, Utilitarianism, Idealism, Freudianism, Behaviorism, Positivism, Operationalism— and has attempted to capitalize on virtually every important field of methodological innovation from ecology, ethology, and comparative psychology to game theory, cybernetics, and statistics, it has, with very few exceptions, been virtually untouched by one of the most important trends in recent thought: the effort to construct an independent science of what Kenneth Burke has called “symbolic action.” [19] Neither the work of such philosophers as Peirce, Wittgenstein, Cassirer, Langer, Ryle, or Morris nor of such literary critics as Coleridge, Eliot, Burke, Empson, Blackmur, Brooks, or Auerbach seems to have had any appreciable impact on the general pattern of social scientific analysis.[20] Aside from a few more venturesome (and largely programmatic) linguists —a Whorf or a Sapir— the question of how symbols symbolize, how they function to mediate meanings has simply been bypassed. “The embarrassing fact”, the physician cum novelist Walker Percy has written, “is that there does not exist today a natural empirical science of symbolic behavior as such … Sapir’s gentle chiding about the lack of a science of symbolic behavior and the need of such a science is more conspicuously true today than it was thirty-five years ago.”[21]

It is the absence of such a theory and in particular the absence of any analytical framework within which to deal with figurative language that have reduced sociologists to viewing ideologies as elaborate cries of pain. With no notion of how metaphor, analogy, irony, ambiguity, pun, paradox, hyperbole, rhythm, and all the other elements of what we tamely call “style” operate —even, in a majority— of cases, with no recognition that these devices are of any importance in casting personal attitudes into public form, sociologists lack the symbolic resources out of which to construct a more incisive formulation. At the same time that the arts have been establishing the cognitive power of “distortion” and philosophy has been undermining the adequacy of an emotivist theory of meaning, social scientists have been rejecting the first and embracing the second. It is not therefore surprising that they evade the problem of construing the import of ideological assertions by simply failing to recognize it as a problem.[22]

In order to make explicit what I mean, let me take an example that is, I hope, so thoroughly trivial in itself as both to still any suspicions that I have a hidden concern with the substance of the political issue involved and, more important, to bring home the point that concepts developed for the analysis of the more elevated aspects of culture —poetry, for example— are applicable to the more lowly ones without in any way blurring the enormous qualitative distinctions between the two. In discussing the cognitive inadequacies by which ideology is defined for them, Sutton et al. use as an example of the ideologist’s tendency to “oversimplify” the denomination by organized labor of the Taft-Hartley Act as a “slave labor law”:

Ideology tends to be simple and clear-cut. even where its simplicity and clarity do less than justice to the subject under discussion. The ideological picture uses sharp lines and contrasting blacks and whites. The ideologist exaggerates and caricatures in the fashion of the cartoonist. In contrast, a scientific description of social phenomena is likely to be fuzzy and indistinct. In recent labor ideology the Taft-Hartley Act has been a “slave labor act.” By no dispassionate examination does the Act merit this label. Any detached assessment of the Act would have to consider its many provisions individually. On any set of values, even those of trade unions themselves, such an assessment would yield a mixed verdict. But mixed verdicts are not the stuff of ideology. They are too complicated, too fuzzy. Ideology must categorize the Act as a whole with a symbol to rally workers, voters and legislators to action.[23]

Leaving aside the merely empirical question of whether or not it is in fact true that ideological formulations of a given set of social phenomena are inevitably “simpler” than scientific formulations of the same phenomena, there is in this argument a curiously depreciatory —one might even say “oversimple”— view of the thought processes of labor-union leaders on the one hand and “workers, voters and legislators” on the other. It is rather hard to believe that either those who coined and disseminated the slogan themselves believed or expected anyone else to believe that the law would actually reduce (or was intended to reduce) the American worker to the status of a slave or that the segment of the public for whom the slogan had meaning perceived it in any such terms. Yet it is precisely this flattened view of other people’s mentalities that leaves the sociologist with only two interpretations, both inadequate, of whatever effectiveness the symbol has: either it deceives the uninformed (according to interest theory), or it excites the unreflective (according to strain theory). That it might in fact draw its power from its capacity to grasp, formulate, and communicate social realities that elude the tempered language of science, that it may mediate more complex meanings than its literal reading suggests, is not even considered. “Slave labor act” may be, after all, not a label but a trope.

More exactly, it appears to be a metaphor or at least an attempted metaphor. Although very few social scientists seem to have read much of it, the literature on metaphor —“the power whereby language, even with a small vocabulary, manages to embrace a multimillion things”— is vast and by now in reasonable agreements.[24] In metaphor one has, of course, a stratification of meaning, in which an incongruity of sense on one level produces an influx of significance on another. As Percy has pointed out, the feature of metaphor that has most troubled philosophers (and, he might have added, scientists) is that it is “wrong”: “It asserts of one thing that it is something else.” And, worse yet, it tends to be most effective when most "wrong.”[25] The power of a metaphor derives precisely from the interplay between the discordant meanings it symbolically coerces into a unitary conceptual framework and from the degree to which that coercion is successful in overcoming the psychic resistance such semantic tension inevitably generates in anyone in a position to perceive it. When it works, a metaphor transforms a false identification (for example, of the labor policies of the Republican Party and of those of the Bolsheviks) into an apt analogy; when it misfires, it is a mere extravagance.

That for most people the “slave labor law” figure was, in fact, pretty: much a misfire (and therefore never served with any effectiveness as “a symbol to rally workers, voters and legislators to action”) seems evident enough, and it is this failure, rather than its supposed clear-cut simplicity, that makes it seem no more than a cartoon. The semantic tension between the image of a conservative Congress outlawing the closed shop and of the prison camps of Siberia was —apparently— too great to be resolved into a single conception, at least by means of so rudimentary a stylistic device as the slogan. Except (perhaps) for a few enthusiasts, the analogy did not appear; the false identification remained false. But failure is not inevitable, even on such an elementary level. Although, a most unmixed verdict, Sherman’s “War is hell” is no social-science proposition, even Sutton and his associates would probably not regard it as either an exaggeration or a caricature.

More important, however, than any assessment of the adequacy of the two tropes as such is the fact that, as the meanings they attempt to spark against one another are after all socially rooted, the success or failure of the attempt is relative not only to the power of the stylistic mechanisms employed but also to precisely those sorts of factors upon which strain theory concentrates its attention. The tensions of the Cold War, the fears of a labor movement only recently emerged from a bitter struggle for existence, and the threatened eclipse of New Deal liberalism after two decades of dominance set the sociopsychological stage both for the appearance of the “slave labor” figure and —when it proved unable to work them into a cogent analogy— for its miscarriage The militarists of 1934 Japan who opened their pamphlet on Basic Theory Or National Defense and Suggestions for Its Strengthening with the resounding familial metaphor, “War is the father of creation and the mother of culture”, would no doubt have found Sherman’s maxim as unconvincing as he would have found theirs.26 They were energetically preparing for an imperialist war in an ancient nation seeking its footing in the modern world; he was wearily pursuing a civil war in an unrealized nation torn by domestic hatreds. It is thus not truth that varies with social, psychological, and cultural contexts but the symbols we construct in our unequally effective attempts to grasp it. War is hell and not the mother of culture, as the Japanese eventually discovered — although no doubt they express the fact in a grander idiom.

The sociology of knowledge ought to be called the sociology of meaning, for what is socially determined is not the nature of conception but the vehicles of conception. In a community that drinks its coffee blacks Henle remarks, to praise a girl with “You’re the cream in my coffee” would give entirely the wrong impression; and, if omnivorousness were regarded as a more significant characteristic of bears than their clumsy roughness, to call a man “an old bear” might mean not that he was crude, but that he had catholic tastes.[27] Or, to take an example from Burke, since in Japan people smile on mentioning the death of a dose friend, the semantic equivalent (behaviorally as well as verbally) into American English is not “He smiled”, but “His face fell”; for, with such a rendering, we are “translating the accepted social usage of Japan into the corresponding accepted social usage of the West.”[28] And closer to the ideological realm, Sapir has pointed out that the chairmanship of a committee has the figurative force we give it only because we hold that “administrative functions somehow stamp a person as superior to those who are being directed”; “should people come to feel that administrative functions are little more than symbolic automatism, the chairmanship of a committee would be recognized as little more than a petrified symbol and the particular value that is now felt to inhere in it would tend to disappear.”[29] The case is no different for “slave labor law”. If forced labor camps come, for whatever reasons, to play a less prominent role in the American image of the Soviet Union, it will not be the symbol’s veracity that has dissolved but its very meaning, its capacity to be either true or false. One must simply frame the argument —that the Taft-Hartley Act is a mortal threat to organized labor— in some other way.

In short, between an ideological figure like “slave labor act” and the social realities of American life in the midst of which it appears, there exists a subtlety of interplay, which concepts like “distortion”, “selectivity”, or “oversimplification” are simply incompetent to formulated. Not only is the semantic structure of the figure a good deal more complex than it appears on the surface, but an analysis of that structure forces one into tracing a multiplicity of referential connections between it and social reality, so that the final picture is one of a configuration of dissimilar meanings out of whose interworking both the expressive power and the rhetorical force of the final symbol derive. This interworking is itself a social process, an occurrence not “in the head”; but in that public world where “people talk together, name things, make assertions, and to a degree understand each other.”[31] The study of symbolic action is no less a sociological discipline than the study of small groups, bureaucracies, or the changing role of the American woman; it is only a good deal less developed.


Asking the question that most students of ideology fail to ask —what, precisely, do we mean when we assert that sociopsychological strains are "expressed" in symbolic forms?— gets one, therefore, very quickly into quite deep water indeed; into, in fact, a somewhat untraditional and apparently paradoxical theory of the nature of human thought as a public and not, or at least not fundamentally, a private activity.[32] The details of such a theory cannot be pursued any distance here, nor can any significant amount of evidence be marshaled to support it. But at least its general outlines must be sketched if we are to find our way back from the elusive world of symbols and semantic process to the (apparently) more solid one of sentiments and institutions, if we are to trace with some circumstantiality the modes of interpenetration of culture, personality, and social system.

The defining proposition of this sort of approach to thought en plein air —what, following Galanter and Gerstenhaber, we may call “the extrinsic theory”— is that thought consists of the construction and manipulation of symbol systems, which are employed as models of other systems, physical, organic, social, psychological, and so forth, in such a way that the structure of these other systems —and, in the favorable ease, how they may therefore be expected to behave— is, as we say “understood.”[33] Thinking, conceptualization, formulation, comprehension, understanding, or what-have-you, consists not of ghostly happenings in the head but of a matching of the states and processes of symbolic models against the states and processes of the wider world:

Imaginal thinking is neither more nor less than constructing an image of the environment, running the model faster than the environment, and predicting that the environment will behave as the model does… The first step ill the solution of a problem consists in the construction of a model or image of the “relevant features“ of the [environment]. These models can be constructed from many things including parts of the organic tissue of the body and, by man, paper and pencil or actual artifacts. Once a model has been constructed it can be manipulated under various hypothetical conditions and constraints. The organism is then able to “observe” the outcome of these manipulations, and to project them onto the environment so that prediction is possible. According to this view, an aeronautical engineer is thinking when he manipulates a model of a new airplane in a wind tunnel. The motorlst is thinking when he runs his finger over a line on a map, the finger serving as a model of the relevant aspects of the automobile, the map as a model of the road. External models of this kind are often used in thinking about complex [environments]. Images used in covert thinking depend upon the availability of the physico-chemical events of the organism which must be used to form models.[34]

This view does not, of course, deny consciousness: it defines it. Every conscious perception is, as Percy has argued, an act of recognition, a pairing in which an object (or an event, an act, an emotion) is identified by placing it against the background of an appropriate symbol:

It is not enough to say that one is conscious of something; one is also conscious of something being something. There is a difference between the apprehension of a gestalt (a chicken perceived the Jastrow effect as well as a human) and the grasping of it under its symbolic vehicle. As I gaze about the room. I am aware of a series of almost effortless acts of matching: seeing an object and knowing what it is. If my eye falls upon an unfamiliar something. I am immediately aware that one term of the match is missing, I ask what the objects is — an exceedingly mysterious question.[35]

What is missing and what is being asked for are an applicable symbolic model under which to subsume the “unfamiliar something” and so render it familiar:

If I see all object at some distance and do not quite recognize it, I may see it, actually see it, as a succession of different things, each rejected by the criterion of fit as I come closer. until one is positively certified. A patch of sunlight in a field I may actually see as a rabbit — a seeing which goes much further than the guess that it may be a rabbit; no, the perceptual gestalt is so construed. Actually stamped by the essence of rabbitness: I could have sworn it was a rabbit. On coming closer. The sunlight pattern changes enough so that the rabbit-cast is disallowed. The rabbit vanishes and I make another cast: it is a paper bag, and so on. But most significant of all, even the last, the “correct” recognition is quite as mediate an apprehension as the incorrect ones; it is also a cast, a pairing, an approximation. And let us note in passing that even though it is correct. even though it is borne out by all indices. It may operate quite as effectively to conceal as to discover. When I recognize a strange bird as a sparrow. I tend to dispose of the bird under its appropriate formulation: it is only a sparrow.[36]

Despite the somewhat intellectualist tone of these various examples, the extrinsic theory of thought is extendable to the affective side of human mentality as well.[37] As a road map transforms mere physical locations into “places”, connected by numbered routes and separated by measured distances, and so enables us to find our way from where we are to where we want to go, so a poem like, for example, Hopkins’s “Felix Randal” provides, through the evocative power of its charged language, a symbolic model of the emotional impact of premature death, which, if we are as impressed with its penetration as with the road map’s, transforms physical sensations into sentiments and attitudes and enables us to react to such a tragedy not “blindly” but “intelligently.” The central rituals of religion —a mass, a pilgrimage, a corroboree— are symbolic models (here more in the form of activities than of words) of a particular sense of the divine, a certain sort of devotional mood, which their continual re-enactment tends to produce in their participants. Of course, as most acts of what is usually called “cognition” are more on the level of identifying a rabbit than operating a wind tunnel, so most of what is usually called “expression” (the dichotomy is often overdrawn and almost universally misconstrued) is mediated more by models drawn from popular culture than from high art and formal religious ritual. But the point is that the development, maintenance, and dissolution of “moods”, “attitudes”, “sentiments”, and so forth are no more “a ghostly process occurring in streams of consciousness we are debarred from visiting” than is the discrimination of objects, events, structures, processes, and so forth in our environment. Here, too, “we are describing the ways in which … people conduct parts of their predominantly public behavior.”[38]

Whatever their other differences, both so-called cognitive and so-called expressive symbols or symbol-systems have, then, at least one thing in common: they are extrinsic sources of information in terms of which human life can be patterned — extrapersonal mechanisms for the perception, understanding, judgment, and manipulation of the world. Culture patterns —religious, philosophical, aesthetic, scientific, ideological— are “programs”; they provide a template or blueprint for the organization of social and psychological processes, much as genetic systems provide such a template for the organization of organic processes:

These considerations define the terms in which we approach the problem of “reductionism” in psychology and social science. The levels we have tentatively discriminated [organism, personality, social system, culture] … are … levels of organization and control. The lower levels “condition”, and thus in a sense “determine” the structures into which they enter, in the same sense that the stability of a building depends on the properties of the materials out of which it is constructed. But the physical properties of the materials do not determine the plan of the building; this is a factor of another order, one of organization. And the organization controls the relations of the materials to each other, the ways in which they are utilized in the building by virtue of which it constitutes an ordered system of a particular type — looking “downward” in the series, we can always investigate and discover sets of “conditions” in which the function of a higher order of organization is dependent. There is, thus, an immensely complicated set of physiological conditions on which psychological functioning is dependent, etc. Properly understood and evaluated, these conditions are always authentic determinants of process in the organized systems at the next higher levels. We may, however also look “upward” in the series. In this direction we see “structures”, organization patterns, patterns of meaning, “programs”, etc., which are the focus of the organization of the system at the level on which we have concentrated our attention.[39]

The reason such symbolic templates are necessary is that, as has been often remarked, human behavior is inherently extremely plastic. Not strictly but only very broadly controlled by genetic programs or models — intrinsic sources of information— such behavior must, if it is to have any effective form at all, be controlled to a significant extent by extrinsic ones. Birds learn how to fly without wind tunnels, and whatever reactions lower animals have to death are in great part innate, physiologically preformed.[40] The extreme generality, diffuseness, and variability of man’s innate response capacities mean that the particular pattern his behavior takes is guided predominantly by cultural rather than genetic templates, the latter setting the overall psychophysical context within which precise activity sequences are organized by the former. The toolmaking, laughing, or lying animal, man, is also the incomplete —or, more accurately, self-completing— animal. The agent of his own realization, he creates out of his general capacity for the construction of symbolic models the specific capabilities that define him. Or —to return at last to our subject— it is through the construction of ideologies, schematic images of social order, that man makes himself for better worse a political animal.

Further, as the various sorts of cultural symbol-systems are extrinsic sources of information, templates for the organization of social and psychological processes, they come most crucially into play in situations where the particular kind of information they contain is lacking, where institutionalized guides for behavior, thought, or feeling are weak or absent. It is in country unfamiliar emotionally or topographically that one needs poems and road maps.

So too with ideology. In polities firmly embedded in Edmund Burke’s golden assemblage of “ancient opinions and rules of life”, the role of ideology, in any explicit sense, is marginal. In such truly traditional political systems the participants act as (to use another Burkean phrase) men of untaught feelings; they are guided both emotionally and intellectually in their judgments and activities by unexamined prejudices, which do not leave them “hesitating in the moment of decision, sceptical, puzzled and unresolved.” But when, as in the revolutionary France Burke was indicting and in fact in the shaken England from which, as perhaps his nation's greatest ideologue, he was indicting it, those hallowed opinions and rules of life come into question, the search for systematic ideological formulations, either to reinforce them or to replace them, flourishes. The function of ideology is to make an autonomous politics possible by providing the authoritative concepts that render it meaningful, the suasive images by means of which it can be sensibly grasped.[41] It is, in fact, precisely at the point at which a political system begins to free itself from the immediate governance of received tradition, from the direct and detailed guidance of religious or philosophical canons on the one hand and from the unreflective precepts of conventional moralism on the other, that formal ideologies tend first to emerge and take hold.[42] The differentiation of an autonomous polity implies the differentiation, too, of a separate and distinct cultural model of political action, for the older, unspecialized models are either too comprehensive or too concrete to provide the sort of guidance such a political system demands. Either they trammel political behavior by encumbering it with transcendental significance, or they stifle political imagination by binding it to the blank realism of habitual judgment. It is when neither a society's most general cultural orientations nor its most down-to-earth, “pragmatic” ones suffice any longer to provide an adequate image of political process that ideologies begin to become crucial as sources of sociopolitical meanings and attitudes.

In one sense, this statement is but another way of saying that ideology is a response to strain. But now we are including cultural as well as social and psychological strain. It is a loss of orientation that most directly gives rise to ideological activity, an inability, for lack of usable models, to comprehend the universe of civic rights and responsibilities in which one finds oneself located. The development of a differentiated polity (or of greater internal differentiation within such a polity) may and commonly does bring with it severe social dislocation and psychological tension. But it also brings with it conceptual confusion, as the established images of political order fade into irrelevance or are driven into disrepute. The reason why the French Revolution was, at least up to its time, the greatest incubator of extremist ideologies, “progressive” and “reactionary“ alike, in human history was not that either personal insecurity or social disequilibrium were deeper and more pervasive than at many earlier periods —though they were deep and pervasive enough— but because the central organizing principle of political life, the divine right of kings, was destroyed.[43] It is a confluence of sociopsychological strain and an absence of cultural resources by means of which to make sense of the strain, each exacerbating the other, that sets the stage for the rise of systematic (political, moral, or economic) ideologies.

And it is, in turn, the attempt of ideologies to render otherwise incomprehensible social situations meaningful, to so construe them as to make it possible to act purposefully within them, that accounts both for the ideologies’ highly figurative nature and for the intensity with which, once accepted, they are held. As metaphor extends language by broadening its semantic range, enabling it to express meanings it cannot or at least cannot yet express literally, so the head-on clash of literal meanings in ideology —the irony, the hyperbole, the overdrawn antithesis— provides novel symbolic frames against which to match the myriad “unfamiliar somethings” that, like a journey to a strange country, are produced by a transformation in political life. Whatever else ideologies may be —projections of unacknowledged fears, disguises for ulterior motives, phatic expressions of group solidarity— they are, most distinctively, maps of problematic social reality and matrices for the creation of collective conscience. Whether, in any particular case, the map is accurate or the conscience creditable is a separate question to which one can hardly give the same answer for Nazism and Zionism, for the nationalisms of McCarthy and of Churchill, for the defenders of segregation and its opponents.


Though ideological ferment is, of course, widespread in modern society, perhaps its most prominent locus at the moment lies in the new (or renewed) states of Asia, Africa, and some parts of Latin America, for it is in these states, Communist or not, that the initial steps away from a traditional politics of piety and proverb are just now being taken. The attainment of independence, the overthrow of established ruling classes, the popularization of legitimacy, the rationalization of public administration, the rise of modern elites, the spread of literacy and mass communications, and the propulsion willy-nilly of inexperienced governments into the midst of a precarious international order that even its older participants do not very well understand all make for a pervasive sense of disorientation, a disorientation in whose face received images of authority, responsibility, and civic purpose seem radically inadequate. The search for a new symbolic framework in terms of which to formulate, think about, and react to political problems, whether in the form of nationalism, Marxism, liberalism, populism, racism, Caesarism, ecclesiasticism, or some variety of reconstructed traditionalism (or, most commonly, a confused melange of several of these) is therefore tremendously intense.

Intense — but indeterminate. For the most part, the new states are still groping for usable political concepts, not yet grasping them; and the outcome in almost every case, at least in every non-communist case, is uncertain not merely in the sense that the outcome of any historical process is uncertain but in the sense that even a broad and general assessment of overall direction is extremely difficult to make. Intellectually, everything is in motion, and the words of that extravagant poet in politics, Lamartine, written of nineteenth century France, apply to the new states with perhaps even greater appropriateness than they did to the dying July Monarchy:

These times are times of chaos; opinions are a scramble; parties are a jumble; the language of new ideas has not been created; nothing is more difficult than to give a good definition of oneself in religion, in philosophy, in politics. One feels, one knows, one lives, and at need. one dies for one’s cause, but one cannot name it. It is the problem of this time to classify things and men…. The world has jumbled its catalog.[44]

This observation is no truer anywhere in the world right now [1964] than it is in Indonesia, where the whole political process is mired in a slough of ideological symbols, each attempting and so far each failing to unjumble the Republic’s catalogue, to name its cause, and to give point and purpose to its polity. It is a country of false starts and frantic revisions, of a desperate search for a political order whose image, like a mirage, recedes more rapidly the more eagerly it is approached The salving slogan amid all this frustration is, “The Revolution Is Unfinished!” And so, indeed, it is. But only because no one knows, not even those who cry most loudly that they do, precisely how to go about the job of finishing it.[45]

The most highly developed concepts of government in traditional Indonesia were those upon which the classic Hinduized states of the fourth to fifteenth centuries were built, concepts that persisted in somewhat revised and weakened form even after these states were first Islamicized and then largely replaced or overlaid by the Dutch colonial regime. And of these concepts the most important was what might be called the theory of the exemplary center, the notion that the capital city (or more accurately the king’s palace) was at once a microcosm of the supernatural order —“an image of … the universe on a smaller scale”— and the material embodiment of political order.46 The capital was not merely the nucleus, the engine, or the pivot of the state; it was the state.

In the Hindu period, the king’s castle comprehended virtually the entire town. A squared-off "heavenly city" constructed according to the ideas of Indic metaphysics, it was more than a locus of power; it was a synoptic paradigm of the ontological shape of existence. At its center was the divine king (an incarnation of an Indian deity), his throne symbolizing Mount Meru, seat of the gods; the buildings, roads, city walls, and even, ceremonially, his wives and personal staff were deployed quadrangularly around him according to the directions of the four sacred winds. Not only the king himself but his ritual, his regalia, his court, and his castle were shot through with charismatic significance. The castle and the life of the castle were the quiddity of the kingdom, and he who (often after meditating in the wilderness to attain the appropriate spiritual status) captured the castle captured the whole empire, grasped the charisma of office, and displaced the no-longer-sacred king.47

The early polities were thus not so much solidary territorial units as loose congeries of villages oriented toward a common urban center, each such center competing with others for ascendency. Whatever degree of regional or, at moments, interregional hegemony prevailed depended, not on the systematic administrative organization of extensive territory under a single king, but on the varying abilities of kings to mobilize and apply effective striking forces with which to sack rival capitals, abilities that were believed to rest on essentially religious —that is, mystical— grounds. So far as the pattern was territorial at all, it consisted of a series of concentric circles of religio-military power spreading out around the various city-state capitals, as radio waves spread from a transmitter. The closer a village to a town, the greater the impact, economically and culturally, of the court on that village. And, conversely, the greater the development of the court —priests, artisans, nobles, and king— the greater its authenticity as an epitome of cosmic order, its military strength, and the effective range of its circles of outward-spreading power. Spiritual excellence and political eminence were fused. Magical power and executive influence flowed in a single stream outward and downward from the king through the descending ranks of his staff and whatever lesser courts were subordinate to him, draining out finally into the spiritually and politically residual peasant mass. Theirs was a facsimile concept of political organization, one in which the reflection of the supernatural order microscopically mirrored in the life of the capital was in turn further and more faintly reflected in the countryside as a whole, producing a hierarchy of less and less faithful copies of an eternal, transcendent realm. In such a system, the administrative, military, and ceremonial organization of the court orders the world around it iconically by providing it with a tangible paragon.48

When Islam came, the Hindu political tradition was to some extent l weakened, especially in the coastal trade kingdoms surrounding the Java Sea. The court culture nevertheless persisted, although it was overlaid and interfused with Islamic symbols and ideas and set among an ethnically more differentiated urban mass, which looked with less awe on the classical order. The steady growth —especially on Java— of Dutch administrative control in the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries constricted the tradition still further. But, since the lower levels of the bureaucracy continued to be manned almost entirely by Indonesians of the old upper classes, the tradition remained, even then, the matrix of supravillage political order. The Regency or the District Office remained not merely the axis of the polity but the embodiment of it. a polity with respect to which most villagers were not so much actors as audience.

It was this tradition with which the new elite of republican Indonesia was left after the revolution. That is not to say that the theory of the exemplary center persisted unchanged, drifting like some Platonic archetype through the eternity of Indonesian history, for (like the society as a whole) it evolved and developed, becoming ultimately perhaps more conventional and less religious in general temper. Nor does it mean that foreign ideas, from European parliamentarianism, from Marxism, from Islamic moralism, and so forth did not come to play an essential role in Indonesian political thought, for modern Indonesian nationalism is very far from being merely old wine in a new bottle. It is simply that, as yet, the conceptual transition from the classic image of a polity as a concentrated center of pomp and power, alternately providing a cynosure for popular awe and lashing out militarily at competing centers, to one of a polity as a systematically organized national community has, for all these changes and influences, still not been completed. Indeed, it has been arrested and to some extent reversed.

This cultural failure is apparent from the growing, seemingly unquenchable ideological din that has engulfed Indonesian politics since the revolution. The most prominent attempt to construct, by means of a figurative extension of the classic tradition, an essentially metaphoric reworking of it, a new symbolic framework within which to give form and meaning to the emerging republican polity, was President Sukarno’s famous Pantjasila concept, first set forth in a public speech toward the end of the Japanese occupation.[49] Drawing on the Indic tradition of fixed sets of numbered precepts —the three jewels, the four sublime moods, the eightfold path, the twenty conditions of successful rule, and so forth— it consisted of five (pantja) principles (sila) that were intended to form the “sacred” ideological foundations of an independent Indonesia. Like all good constitutions, the Pantjasila was short, ambiguous, and impeccably high-minded, the five points being “nationalism”, “humanitarianism”, “democracy”, “social welfare”, and (pluralistic) “monotheism”. Finally, these modern concepts, set so nonchalantly in a medieval frame, were explicitly identified with an indigenous peasant concept, gotong rojong (literally, “the collective bearing of burdens”; figuratively, “the piety of all for the interests of all”), thus drawing together the “great tradition” of the exemplary state, the doctrines of contemporary nationalism, and the “little traditions” of the villages into one luminous image.[50]

The reasons why this ingenious device failed are many and complex, and only a few of them —like the strength in certain sectors of the population of Islamic concepts of political order, which are difficult to reconcile with Sukarno’s secularism— are themselves cultural. The Pantjasila, playing upon the microcosm-macrocosm conceit and upon the [traditional syncretism of Indonesian thought, was intended to contain within it the political interests of the Islamic and Christian, gentry and peasantry, nationalist and communist, commercial and agrarian, Javanese and “Outer Island” groups in Indonesia — to rework the old facsimile pattern into a modern constitutional structure in which these various tendencies would, each emphasizing one or another aspect of the doctrine, find a modus vivendi at each level of administration and party struggle. The attempt was not so totally ineffective or so intellectually fatuous as it has sometimes been painted. The cult of the Pantjasila (for that is what it literally became, complete with rites and commentaries) did provide for a while a flexible ideological context within which parliamentary institutions and democratic sentiments were being soundly, if gradually, forged at both local and national levels. But the combination of a deteriorating economic situation, a hopelessly pathological relationship with the former metropole, the rapid growth of a subversive (in principle) totalitarian party, a renascence of Islamic fundamentalism the inability (or unwillingness) of leaders with developed intellectual and technical skills to court mass support, and the economic illiteracy administrative incapacity, and personal failings of those who were able (and only too willing) to court such support soon brought the clash of factions to such a pitch that the whole pattern dissolved. By the time of the Constitutional Convention of 1957, the Pantjasila had changed from a language of consensus to a vocabulary of abuse, as each faction used it more to express its irreconcilable opposition to other factions than its underlying rules-of-the-game agreement with them, and the Convention ideological pluralism, and constitutional democracy collapsed in a single heap.51

What has replaced them is something very much like the old exemplary center pattern, only now on a self-consciously doctrinaire rather than an instinctive religion-and-convention basis and cast more in the idiom of egalitarianism and social progress than in that of hierarchy and patrician grandeur. On the one hand, there has been, under President Sukarno’s famous theory of “guided democracy” and his call for the reintroduction of the revolutionary (that is, authoritarian) constitution of 1945, both an ideological homogenization (in which discordant streams of thought- —notably those of Moslem modernism and democratic socialism— have simply been suppressed as illegitimate) and an accelerated pace of flamboyant symbol-mongering, as though, the effort to make an unfamiliar form of government work having misfired, a desperate attempt to breathe new life into a familiar one was being launched. On the other hand, the growth of the political role of the army, not so much as an executive or administrative body as a backstop enforcement agency with veto power over the whole range of politically relevant institutions, from the presidency and the civil service to the parties and the press, has provided the other —the minatory— half of the traditional picture.

Like the Pantjasila before it, the revised (or revivified) approach was introduced by Sukarno in a major speech —“The Rediscovery of Our Revolution”— given on Independence Day (August 17) in 1959 a speech that he later decreed, along with the expository notes on it prepared by a body of personal attendants known as The Supreme Advisory Council, to be the “Political Manifesto of the Republic”:

There thus came into existence a catechism on the basis, aims and duties of the Indonesian revolution; the social forces of the Indonesian revolution, its nature. future and enemies; and its general program, covering the political, economics social, mental, cultural, and security fields. Early in 1960 the central message of the celebrated speech was stated as consisting of five ideas —the 1945 constitution, Socialism a la Indonesia, Guided Democracy, Guided Economy, and Indonesian Personality— and the first letters of these five phrases were put together to make the acronym USDEK. With ‘Political Manifesto’ becoming “Manipol”, the new creed became known as “Manipol-USDEK”.[52]

And, as the Pantjasila before it, the Manipol-USDEK image of political order found a ready response in a population for whom opinions have indeed become a scramble, parties a jumble, the times a chaos:

Many were attracted by the idea that what Indonesia needed above all was men with the right state of mind, the right spirit, the true patriotic dedication. "Returning to our own national personality" was attractive to many who wanted to withdraw from the challenges of modernity, and also to those who wanted to believe in the current political leadership but were aware of its failures to modernize as fast as such countries as India and Malaya. And for members of some Indonesian communities, notably for many [lndic-mindedl Javanese, there was real meaning in the various complex schemes which the President presented in elaboration of Manipol-USDEK, explaining the peculiar signifieanee and tasks of the current stage of history. [But] perhaps the most important appeal of Manipol-USDEK, however, lay in the simple fact that it promised to give men a pegangan — something to which to hold fast. They were attracted not so much by the content of this pegangan as by the fact that the President had offered one at a time when the lack of a sense of purpose was sorely felt. Values and cognitive patterns being in flux and in conflict, men looked eagerly for dogmatic and schematic formulations of the political good.[53]

While the President and his entourage concern themselves almost entirely with the “creation and recreation of mystique”, the army concerns itself mainly with combating the numerous protests, plots, mutinies, and rebellions that occur when that mystique fails to achieve its hoped-for effect and when rival claims to leadership arise.[54] Although involved in some aspects of the civil service, in the managing of the confiscated Dutch enterprises, and even in the (nonparliamentary) cabinet, the army has not been able to take up, for lack of training, internal unity, or sense of direction, the administrative, planning, and organizational tasks of the government in any detail or with any effectiveness. The result is that these tasks are either not performed or very inadequately performed, and the supralocal polity, the national state, shrinks more and more to the limits of its traditional domain, the capital city —Djakarta— plus a number of semi-independent tributary cities and towns held to a minimal loyalty by the threat of centrally applied force.

That this attempt to revive the politics of the exemplary court will long survive is rather doubtful. It is already being severely strained by its incapacity to cope with the technical and administrative problems involved in the government of a modern state. Far from arresting Indonesia’s decline into what Sukarno has called “the abyss of annihilation”, the retreat from the hesitant, admittedly hectic and awkwardly functioning parliamentarianism of the Pantjasila period to the Manipol-USDEK alliance between a charismatic president and a watchdog army has probably accelerated it. But what will succeed this ideological framework when, as seems certain, it too dissolves, or from where a conception of political order more adequate to Indonesia’s contemporary needs and ambitions will come, if it does come, is impossible to say.

Not that Indonesia’s problems are purely or even primarily ideological and that they will —as all too many Indonesians already think— melt away before a political change of heart. The disorder is more general, and the failure to create a conceptual framework in terms of which to shape a modern polity is in great part itself a reflection of the tremendous social and psychological strains that the country and its population are undergoing. Things do not merely seem jumbled — they are jumbled, and it will take more than theory to unjumble them. It will take administrative skill, technical knowledge, personal courage and resolution, endless patience and tolerance, enormous self-sacrifice, a virtually incorruptible public conscience, and a very great deal of sheer (and unlikely) good luck in the most material sense of the word. Ideological formulation, no matter how elegant, can substitute for none of these elements; and, in fact, in their absence, it degenerates, as it has in Indonesia, into a smokescreen for failure, a diversion to stave off despair, a mask to conceal reality rather than a portrait to reveal it. With a tremendous population problem; extraordinary ethnic, geographical, and regional diversity; a moribund economy; a severe lack of trained personnel, popular poverty of the bitterest sort; and pervasive, implacable social discontent, Indonesia’s social problems seem virtually insoluble even without the ideological pandemonium. The abyss into which Ir. Sukarno claims to have looked is a real one.

Yet, at the same time, that Indonesia (or, I should imagine, any new nation) can find her way through this forest of problems without any ideological guidance at all seems impossible.[55] The motivation to seek (and, even more important, to use) technical skill and knowledge, the emotional resilience to support the necessary patience and resolution, and the moral strength to self-sacrifice and incorruptibility must come from somewhere, from some vision of public purpose anchored in a compelling image of social reality. That all these qualities may not be present, that the present drift to revivalistic irrationalism and unbridled fantasy may continue; that the next ideological phase may be even further from the ideals for which the revolution was ostensibly fought than is the present one; that Indonesia may continue to be, as Bagehot called France, the scene of political experiments from which others profit much but she herself very little; or that the ultimate outcome may be viciously totalitarian and wildly zealotic is all very true. But whichever way events move, the determining forces will not be wholly sociological or psychological but partly cultural — that is, conceptual. To forge a theoretical framework adequate to the analysis of such three-dimensional processes is the task of the scientific study of ideology — a task but barely begun.


Critical and imaginative works are answer to questions posed by the situation in which they arose. They are not merely answers, they are strategic answers, stylized answers. For there is a difference in style or strategy, if one says “yes” in tonalities that imply “thank God!” or in tonalities that imply “alas!” So I should propose an initial working distinction between “strategies” and “situations” whereby we think of … any work of critical or imaginative cast … as the adopting of various strategies for the encompassing of situations. These strategies size up the situations, name their structure and outstanding ingredients, and name them in a way that contains an attitude toward them.
This point of view dies not, by any means, vow us to personal or historical subjectivism. The situations are real; the strategies for handling them have public content; in so far as situations overlap from individual to individual, or from one historical period to another, the strategies possess universal relevance.

Kenneth Burke, The Philosophy of Literary Form

As both science and ideology are critical and imaginitive “works” (that is symbolic structures), an objective formulation both of the marked differences between them and of the nature of their relationship to one another seems more likely to be achieved by proceeding from such a concept of stylistic strategies than from a nervous concern with comparative epistemological or axiological status of the two forms of thought. No more than scientific studies of religion ought to begin with unnecessary questions about the legitimacy of the substantive claims of such questions. The best way to deal with Mannheim’s, as with any true paradox, is to circumvent it by reformulating one’s theoretical approach so as to avoid setting off yet once more down the well-worn path of argument that led to it in the first place.

The differentiae of science and ideology as cultural systems are to be sought in the sorts of symbolic strategy for encompassing situations that they respectively represent. Science names the structure of situations in such a way that the attitude contained toward them is one of disinterestedness. Its style is restrained, spare, resolutely analytic: by shunning the semantic devices that most effectively formulate moral sentiment, it seeks to maximize intellectual clarity. But ideology names the structure of situations in such a way that the attitude contained toward them IS one of commitment. Its style is ornate, vivid, deliberately suggestive: by objectifying moral sentiment through the same devices that science shuns, it seeks to motivate action. Both are concerned with the definition of a problematic situation and are responses to a felt lack of needed information. But the information needed is quite different, even in cases where the situation is the same. An ideologist is no more a poor social scientist than a social scientist is a poor ideologist. The two are —or at least they ought to be— in quite different lines of work, lines so different that little is gained and much obscured by measuring the activities of the one against the aims of the other.[56]

Where science is the diagnostic, the critical, dimension of culture, ideology is the justificatory, the apologetic one — it refers “to that part of culture which is actively concerned with the establishment and defense of patterns of belief and value.”[57] That there is natural tendency for the two to clash, particularly when they are directed to the interpretation of the same range of situations, is thus clear; but that the clash is inevitable and that the findings of (social) science necessarily will undermine the validity of the beliefs and values that ideology has chosen to defend and propagate seem most dubious assumptions. An attitude at once critical and apologetic toward the same situation is no intrinsic contradiction in terms (however often it may in fact turn out to be an empirical one) but a sign of a certain level of intellectual sophistication. One remembers the story, probably ben trovato, to the effect that when Churchill had finished his famous rally of isolated England, “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills …”, he turned to an aide and whispered, “and we shall hit them over the head with soda-water bottles, because we haven’t any guns.”

The quality of social rhetoric in ideology is thus not proof that the vision of sociopsychological reality upon which it is based is false and that it draws its persuasive power from any discrepancy between what is believed and what can, now or someday, be established as scientifically correct. That it may indeed lose touch with reality in an orgy of autistic fantasy —even that, in situations where it is left uncriticized by either a free science or competing ideologies well-rooted in the general social structure, it has a very strong tendency to do so— is all too apparent. But however interesting pathologies are for clarifying normal functioning (and however common they may be empirically), they are misleading as prototypes of it. Although fortunately it never had to be tested, it seems most likely that the British would have indeed fought on the beaches, landing grounds, streets, and hills —with soda-water bottles too, if it came to that— for Churchill formulated acurately the mood of his countrymen and, formulating it, mobilized it by making it a public possession, a social fact, rather than a set of disconnected, unrealized private emotions. Even morally loathsome ideological expressions may still catch most acutely the mood of a people or a group. Hitler was not distorting the German conscience when he rendered his countrymen’s demonic self-hatred in the tropological figure of the magically corrupting Jew; he was merely objectifying it —transforming a prevalent personal neurosis into a powerful social force.

But though science and ideology are different enterprises, they are not unrelated ones. Ideologies do make empirical claims about the condition and direction of society, which it is the business of science (and, where scientific knowledge is lacking, common sense) to assess. The social function of science vis-a-vis ideologies is first to understand them —what they are, how they work, what gives rise to them— and second to criticize them, to force them to come to terms with (but not necessarily to surrender to) reality. The existence of a vital tradition of scientific analysis of social issues is one of the most effective guarantees against ideological extremism, for it provides an incomparably reliable source of positive knowledge for the political imagination to work with and to honor. It is not the only such check. The existence, as mentioned, of competing ideologies carried by other powerful groups in the society is at least as important; as is a liberal political system in which dreams of total rower are obvious fantasies; as are stable social conditions in which conventional expectations are not continually frustrated and conventional ideas not radically incompetent. But, committed with a quiet intransigence to a vision of its own, it is perhaps the most indomitable.


1. F. X. Sutton, S. E. Harris, C. Kaysen, and J. Tobin, The American Business Creed (Cambridge, Mass., 1956), pp. 3-6.

2. K. Mannheim, Ideology and Utopia, Harvest ed. (New York), p 59-83; see also R. Merton, Social Theory and Social Structure (New York)

3. W. White, Beyond Conformity (New York, 1961), p. 211.

4. W. Stark, The Sociology of Knowledge (London, 1958), p. 48.

5. Ibid., pp. 90-91. Italics in the original. For approximation of the same argument in Mannheim, formulated as a distinction between “total” and “particular” ideology, see Ideology and Utopia.

6. E. Shils, Ideology and Civility: On the Politics of the Intellectual, The Sewanee Review 66 (1958): 450-480.

7. T. Parsons, An Approach to the Sociology of Knowledge, Transactions of the Fourth World Congress of Sociology (Milan and Stressa, 1959), pp. 25-49. Italics in original.

8. R. Aron, The Opium of the Inrellectuals (New York, 1962).

9. As the danger of being misinterpreted here is serious, may I hope that my criticism will be credited as technical and not political. I note that my own general ideological (as I would frankly call it) position is largely the same as that of Aron, Shils, Parsons, and so forth; that I am in agreement with their plea for a civil, temperate, unheroic politics? Also it should he remarked that the demand for a nonevaluative concept of ideology is not a demand for the nonevaluation of ideologies, any more than a nonevaluative concept of religion implies religious relativism.

10. Sutton, et al., American Business Creed; White, Beyond Conformity; H. Eckstem, Pressure Croup Politics: The Case of the British Medical Association (Stanford, 1960); C. Wright Mills, The New Men of Power (New York, 1948); J. Schumpeter, Science and Ideology, American Economic Review 39 (1949).

11. There have been, in fact, a number of other terms used in the literature for the general range of phenomena that ideology “denotes, from Plato’s ‘noble lies’ through Sorel’s ‘myths’ to Paretos ‘Derivations’; but none of them has managed to reach any greater level of technical neutrality than has Ideology.” See H. D. Lasswell, The Language of Power, in: Lasswell, N. Leites, and Associates, Language of Politics (New York, 1949), pp. 3-19.

12. Sutton, et al., American Business Creed, pp. I 1-12, 303-310.

13. The quotations are from the most eminent recent interest theorist, A. Wright Mills, The Causes of World War Three (New York, 1958), pp. 54, 65.

14. For the general schema, see Parsons, The Social System (New York, 1951), especially Chaps. I and 7. The fullest development of the strain theory is in Sutton et al.. American Business Creed, especially Chap. 15.

15. Sutton, et al., American Business Creed, pp. 307-308.

16. Parsons, An Approach

17. White, Beyond Conformity, p. 204.

18. Perhaps the most impressive tour de force in this paratactic genre is Nathan Leites’s A Study of Bolshevism (New York, 1953).

19. K. Burke, The Philosophy of Literary Form, Studies in Symbolic Action (Baton Rouge, 1941). In the following discussion, I use «symbol» broadly in the sense of any physical, social, or cultural act or object that serves as the vehicle for a conception. For an explication of this view, under which “five” and “the Cross” are equally symbols, see S. Langer, Philosophy in a New Key, 4th ed. (Cambridge, Mass., 1960), pp. 60-66.

20. Useful general summaries of the tradition of literary criticism can be found in S. E. Hyman, The Armed Vision (New York, 1948) and in R. Welleck and A. Warren, Theory of Literature, 2nd ed. (New York, 1958). A similar summary of the somewhat more diverse philosophical development is apparently not available, but the seminal works are C. S. Peirce, Collected Papers, ed. C. Hartshorne and P. Weiss, 8 vols. (Cambridge, Mass., 1931-1958); E. Cassirer, Die Philosophie der symholischen Formen, 3 vols. (Berlin, 1923-1929); C. W. Morris, Signs, Language and Behavior (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1944); and L. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations (Oxford, 1953).

21. W. Percy, The Symbolic Structure of Interpersonal Process, Psychiatry 24 (1961):39-52. Italics in original. The reference is to Sapir’s The Status of Linguistics as a Science, originally published in 1929 and reprinted in D. Mandlezaum, ed., Selected Writings of Edward Sapir (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1949), pp. 160-166.

22. A partial exception to this stricture, although marred by his obsession with power as the sum and substance of politics, is Lasswell’s Style in the Language of Politics, in Lasswell et al., Language of Politics, pp. 20-39. It also should be remarked that the emphasis on verbal symbolism in the following discussion is merely for the sake of simplicity and is not intended to deny the importance of plastic, theatrical, or other nonlinguistic devices —the rhetoric of uniforms, floodlit stages, and marching bands— in ideological thought.

23. Sutton, et al., American Business Creed, pp. 4-5.

24. An excellent recent review is to be found in P. Henle, ed., Language Thought and Culture (Ann Arbor, 1958), pp. 173-195. The quotation is from Langer, Philosophy, P. 117.

25. W. Percy, Metaphor as Mistake, The Sewanee Review 66 (1958): 79-99.

26. Quoted in J Crowiey, Japanese Army Factionalism in the Early 1930’s, The Journal of Asian Studies 21 (1958): 309-326.

27. Henle, Language, Thought and Culture, pp 4-5.

28. K. Burke, Counterstatement (Chicago, 1957), p. 149.

29. Sapir, Status of Linguistics p. 568.

30. Metaphor is, of course, not the only stylistic resource upon which ideology draws. Metonymy (“All I have to offer is blood, sweat and tears”), hyperbole (“The thousand-year Reich”), meiosis (“I shall return”), synechdoche (“Wall Street”), oxymoron (“Iron curtain”), personification (“The hand that held the dagger has plunged it into the back of its neighbor”), and all the other figures the classical rhetoricians so painstakingly collected and so carefully classified are utilized over and over again, as are such syntactical devices as antithesis, inversion, and repetition, such prosodic ones as rhyme, rhythm, and alliteration; such literary ones as irony, eulogy, and sarcasm. Nor is all ideological expression figurative. The bulk of it consists of quite literal, not to say flat-footed, assertions, which, a certain tendency toward prima facie implausibility aside, are difficult to distinguish from properly scientific statements: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles”; “The whole of the morality of Europe is based upon the values which are useful to the herd”; and so forth. As a cultural system, an ideology that has developed beyond the stage of mere sloganeering consists of an intricate structure of interrelated meanings —interrelated in terms of the semantic mechanisms that formulate them— of which the two-level organization of an isolated metaphor is but a feeble representation.

31. Percy, Symbolic Structure.

32. G. Ryle, The Concept of Mind (New York, 1949).

33. E. Galanter and M. Gerstenhaber, On Thought: The Extrinsic Theory, Psychol. Rev. 63 (1956):218-227.

34. Ibid. I have quoted this incisive passage above (pp. 77-78), in attempting to set the extrinsic theory of thought in the context of recent evolutionary, neurological, and cultural anthropological findings.

35. W. Percy, Symbol, Consciousness and Intersubjectivity, Journal of Philosophy 55 (1958) 631-641. Italics in original. Quoted by permission.

36. Ibid. Quoted by permission.

37. S. Langer, Feeling and Form (New York, 1953).

38. The quotations are from Ryle, Concept of Mind, p. 51.

39. T. Parsons, An Approach to Psychological Theory in Terms of the Theory of Action, in Psychology: A Study of a Science, ed. S. Koch (New York, 1959), vol. 3. Italics in original. Compare: “In order to account for this selectivity, it is necessary to assume that the structure of the enzyme is related in some way to the structure of the gene. By a logical extension of this idea we arrive at the concept that the gene is a representation —blueprint so to speak— of the enzyme molecule, and that the function of the gene is to serve as a source of information regarding the structure of the enzyme. It seems evident that the synthesis of an enzyme —a giant protein molecule consisting of hundreds of ammo acid units arranged end-to-end in a specific and unique order— requires a model or set of instructions of some kind. These instructions must be characteristic of the species; they must be automatically transmitted from generation to generation, and they must be constant yet capable of evolutionary change. The only known entity that could perform such a function is the gene. There are many reasons for believing that it transmits information, by acting as a model or template.” N. H. Horowitz, The Gene, Scientific American, February 1956, p. 85.

40. This point is perhaps somewhat too baldly put in light of recent analyses of animal learning; but the essential thesis —that there is a general trend toward a more diffuse, less determinate control of behavior by intrinsic (innate) parameters as one moves from lower to higher animals— seems well established. See above, Chapter 3, pp. 70-76.

41. Of course, there are moral, economic, and even aesthetic ideologies, as well as specifically political ones, but as very few ideologies of any social prominence lack political implications, it is perhaps permissible to view the problem here in this somewhat narrowed focus. In any case, the arguments developed for political ideologies apply with equal force to nonpolitical ones. For an analysis of a moral ideology cast in terms very similar to those developed in this paper, see A. L. Green, The Ideology of Anti-Fluoridation Leaders, The Journal of Social Issues 17 (1961): 13-25.

42. That such ideologies may call, as did Burke’s or De Maistre’s, for the reinvigoration of custom or the reimposition of religious hegemony is, of course, no contradiction. One constructs arguments for tradition only when its credentials have been questioned. To the degree that such appeals are successful they bring, not a return to naive traditionalism, but ideological retraditionalization — an altogether different matter. See Mannheim, Conservative Thought, in his Essays on Sociology and Social Psychology (New York, 1953), especially pp. 94-98.

43. It is important to remember, too, that the principle was destroyed long before the king; It was to the successor principle that he was, in fact, a ritual sacrifice: ”When [Saint-Just] exclaims: ‘To determine the principle in virtue of which the accused [Louis XVI] is perhaps to die, is to determine the principle by which the society that judges him lives’, he demonstrates that it is the philosophers who are going to kill the King: the King must die in the name of the social contract.” A. Camus, The Rebel (New York. 1958). p. 114.

44. Alphonse de Lamartine, Declaration of Principles, in Introduction to Contemporary Civilization in the West, A Source Book (New York, 1946), 2:328-333.

45. The following very schematic and necessarily ex cathedra discussion is based mainly on my own research and represents only my own views, but I have also drawn heavily on the work of Herbert Feith for factual material. See especially, The Decline of Constitutional Democracy in Indonesia (New York, 1962) and Dynamics of Guided Democracy, in Indonesia, ed. R. McVey (New Haven, 1963), pp. 309-409. For the general cultural analysis within which my interpretations are set, see C. Geertz, The Religion of Java (New York, 1960).

46. R. Heme-Geldern, Conceptions of State and Kinship in Southeast Asia, Far Eastern Quarterly 2 (1942): 15-30.

47. Ibid.

48. The whole expanse of Yawa-land [Java] is to be compared with one town in the Prince's reign. / By thousands are [counted] the people's dwelling places, to be compared with the manors of Royal servants, surrounding the body of the Royal compound. / All kinds of foreign islands--to be compared with them are the cultivated land's areas, made happy and quiet. / Of the aspect of parks, then, are the forests and mountains, all of them set foot on by Him, without feeling anxiety. Canto 17, stanza 3 of the Nagara-Kertagama, a fourteenth century royal epic. Translated in Th. Piegeaud, Java in the 14th Century (The Hague, 1960) 3:21. The term nagara still means, indifferently, “palace”, “capital city”,“state”, “country”, or “government” sometimes even “civilization” — in Java.

49. For a description of the Pantjasila speech, see G. Kahin, Nationalism and Revolution in Indonesia (Ithaca, 1952), pp.122-127.

50. The quotations are from the Pantjasila speech, as quoted in ibid., p. 126.

51. The proceedings of the convention, unfortunately still untranslated, form one of the fullest and most instructive records of ideological combat in the new states available. See Tentang Negara Republik Indonesia Dalam Konstituante, 3 vols. (n.p. [Diakarta?].n.d. [1958?]].

52, Feith, Dynamics of Guided Democracy, p. 367. A vivid, if somewhat shrill, description of “Manipol-USDEKism” in action can be found in W. Hanna, Bung Karno’s Indonesia (New York, 1961).

53. Feith, Dynamics of Guided Democracy, 367-368. Pegang literally means “to grasp” thus peganean “something graspable.”

54. Ibid.

55. For an analysis of the role of ideology in an emerging African nation, conducted along lines similar to our own, see L. A. Fallers, Ideology and Culture In Uganda Nationalism, American Anthropologist 63 (1961): 677-686. For a superb case study of an “adolescent” nation in which the process of thorough-going ideological reconstruction seems to have been conducted with reasonable success, see B. Lewis, The Emergence of Modern Turkey (London, 1961), especially Chap. 10.

56. This point is, however, not quite the same as saying that the two sorts of activity may not in practice be carried on together, any more than a man cannot, for example, paint a portrait of a bird that is both ornithologically accurate and aesthetically effective. Marx is, of course, the outstanding case, but for a more recent successful synchronization of scientific analysis, and ideological argument, see E. Shils, The Torment of Secrecy (New York, 1956). Most such attempts to mix genres are however, distinctly less happy.

57. Fallers, Ideology and Culture. The patterns of belief and value defended may be, of course, those of a socially subordinate group, as well as those of a socially dominant one, and the “apology” therefore for reform or revolution.

Ideology as a cultural system, in: Apter, David Ernest (ed.) [1964] Ideology and discontent. New-York: Free Press of Glencoe, pp. 47-76. Also in: Geertz, Clifford [1973] The Interpretation of Cultures, New York: Basic Books, pp. 193-233

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