Academic journal article Contemporary Psychoanalytic Studies

Twelve Ideology and Utopia: Negative Qualities of the Mind

Academic journal article Contemporary Psychoanalytic Studies

Twelve Ideology and Utopia: Negative Qualities of the Mind

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: This work examines ideology from two points of view: the epistemologica!, which distinguishes science from ideology, and the psychoanalytic. Ideologies, with their absolute character, satisfy the need for certainty, in the face of fundamental decisions, and the need to give meaning to one's own existence. Whoever espouses an ideology out of a need for certainty will not readily give up this sense of security, even if confronted with rational objections. The authoritarian, narcissistic, aggressive, and destructive personality finds justification in ideology, and, in turn, ideology justifies power as domination.

The analysis of ideology and utopia, from a psychoanalytic point of view, tries to understand the conscious and unconscious mechanisms which idealise, or demonise, social, political, and inter- subjective reality.

When ideology is supported by negative feelings of hatred, envy, and rivalry, the quality of the mind deteriorates. These feelings are present in authoritarian, sadistic, megalomaniac, and destructive character structures, which can be found not only in dictators, such as, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, but in all those who commit inhuman acts of violence justified by ideology.

The mental processes of demonisation of the opposing ideology and of idealisation of one's own ideology often give rise to much violence and injustices, causing inhuman suffering, especially in totalitarian states. Some maintain that man cannot do without ideologies because they represent the, normal or pathological, inner world. Utopia expresses a social dream, without, however, indicating the means of achieving the dreamed-of society. The Utopian vision is frequently viewed as a schizophrenic approach to society. It allows an escape from the present, but avoids any form of control or verification. Both concepts, that of ideology and that of utopia, can be regarded as deviant forms of relationship with reality, as Mannheim (1936) believed.

Jervis (2002) commented that utopias enchant us, but make us victims of the tyranny of the imaginary; their historical ending finally obliges us to confront reality. To sum up, from the psychoanalytic perspective, ideologies are equivalent to internalised, often idealised, parental figures which evoke the relationship with the parental figures of early infancy. In conflictual decisions, in particular, ideological processes are set in motion which imply the parent-child relationship.

The pathology of ideology is dissimulation.. .the pathology of utopia is escape. (Ricoeur)

Ideology alone cannot keep the system standing; power must be added to it. (Bracher)


Many detailed studies have been conducted on the concept, nature, and function of ideology. The reader is referred to, for example, the books Marxism and Ideology b)^ Rossi-Landi (1990), Ideology and Utopia by Karl Mannheim (1936), Truth and Ideology by Hans Barth (1976), Lectures on Ideology and Utopia by Ricoeur (1986) and, additionally, the section by Stoppino (1983) on Ideology, in the Dizionario di Politica (Dictionary of politics), edited by Bobbio, Matteucci, and Pasquino. The word "ideology" has numerous meanings attributed to it; hence the need to discuss the two types of meanings which Norberto Bobbio proposed to call the "strong" meaning and the "weak" meaning of ideology.

a. In its "weak" meaning, the term ideology represents a set of ideas and values concerning the political order whose function is to guide collective political behaviour. It has to do with a neutral concept that is separate from the possibly mystifying character of political beliefs.

b. Its "strong" meaning originates in Marx's concept of Ideology, meant as a false consciousness of relationships of domination between classes. It clearly distinguishes itself from the first meaning because, although corrected or modified by various authors, it maintains the notion of falseness at its centre. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.