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The word “ideology” derives from the word “idea.” Emmet Kennedy identified the philosopher Antoine Destutt de Tracy (1754–1836) as the founder of the concept of ideology as the theory of ideas (Kennedy, A Philosophe in the Age of Revolution, 1978). During the French Revolution, intellectuals first used the term “ideology” to establish a science of ideas. Ideology seemed to be the right method to distinguish true ideas from false ones. Ideology was originally a branch of learning that believed in the ability of the image to represent reality. The view that ideology was a method to distinguish false and true images from one another goes back to Francis Bacon: “The Idols and false notions which now garrison the human intellect and are well dug in there […] so obstruct the minds of men that the truth has difficulty gaining access […].” (Bacon, Novum Organum, 2004, p. 79)

Since Karl Marx, the term “ideology” has had negative connotations. Ideology is certainly not a true and correct description of reality, but its depiction distorted by interests. Marx compared the function of ideology to the mechanism of a camera obscura: “If in all ideology men and their relations appear upside-down as in a camera obscura, this phenomenon arises just as much from their historical life-process as the inversion of objects on the retina does from their physical life-process.” (Marx and Engels, The German Ideology, 1998, p. 42)

Ideology thus turns the world on its head. Ideology consists of images and ideas that falsely represent reality. Marx’s metaphor is based on the analogy of ideology and the camera obscura. Ideology thus becomes a kind of machine that produces false images of the world. According to Vilém Flusser, however, the strength of the technical image established by scientific discoveries is its ability to overcome the ideological: “The function of the photographic apparatus reveals the death of ideology. It is an anti-ideological apparatus. It [the apparatus] says: I deepen truth thanks to a changing standpoint, and if I insist on a single standpoint, then I am certainly mistaken.” (Kommunikologie weiter denken, 2009, pp. 168–169; translated from the German)

Moreover, in a radicalization of the philosophy of information, Flusser introduces a striking dividing line. “Bestiality and civilization” can “be distinguished very well” as follows: “An ideology is all the more bestial, the more it insists on inherited information, and it is less bestial, the more it insists on acquired information. For human beings, acquired information is incomparably more crucial than inherited information.” (ibid., pp. 40–41; translated from the German)

Ideology [20:02, Television image and political space in the light of the Romanian Revolution] is the insistence of one point of view and can be destroyed by collecting as many points of view as possible. Flusser argues that images were used to document historical events, but the problem of subjectivity came into it. Photography was invented to give an objective image, but since the camera is coded, it is even less objective than a painting. The moment you step back from politics into image you can have no point of view. The political point of view is lost because the moment you get out from politics you can see that every event has many possible points of view, none of it is correct and what you can do is multiply points of view and the more you collect points of view the better is your image.

Original article by Peter Weibel

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ideology.txt · Last modified: 2021/11/05 17:47 by