Academic journal article World Review of Political Economy

Invisible Ideology of Mainstream Economics: The "Invisible Hand"

Academic journal article World Review of Political Economy

Invisible Ideology of Mainstream Economics: The "Invisible Hand"

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

This article discusses the "invisible hand" as a cognitive metaphor in mainstream economics' adoption of worldview, scientific view, research methodology, and mathematical rationality, which are learned through education and the media. the "invisible hand" focuses on individual behavior and how it translates into improvement for society as a whole. therefore, the "invisible hand" as an ideology has an atomistic view but abstracts from the practical social problems.

The rest of the article is organized as follows. Section 2 defines ideology. Sections 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, respectively, explain what is meant by the "invisible hand" in mainstream economics, and what worldview, what type of science, what research methodology, and what rationality are adopted by the application of the cognitive metaphor of "invisible hand." Sections 8 and 9, respectively, show how the "invisible hand" ideology is spread out through the educational institutions and the media. Sections 10 and 11, respectively, discuss the nexus of "invisible hand" and the "invisible hand" in reality. Section 12 is the conclusion. the purpose of this article is not so much to generate a new piece of puzzle as it is to put the existing pieces of puzzle together to make sense of them.

2. Ideology

The term "ideology" has been used in the literature with four major different meanings (see Boudon 1989; Freeden 2003; lukes 1990): (1) social1 bond,2 (2) road3 map,4 (3) domination5 instrument,6 and (4) ruling-class7 ideas.8 In this article, "ideology" refers not only to the ideas, concepts, images, theories, metaphors, and stories that mystify social reality and block social change but also to those programs of social reconstruction that mobilize people for social activism. the former actually acts as a political doctrine and as the hegemonic ideas in a given class or society. the latter refers to the hegemony that is a form of domination in the sphere of ideas, exemplified in the triumph and predominance of bourgeois ideology over feudal ideology.9

Some of the extant social theories mystify these social functions by defining ideology as political "isms" and thus divert attention from criticizing ideology and analyzing hegemonic ideas. Other social theories state that ideologies refer to the dominant ideas in a society and that these ideas are necessary to provide a social bond. Such theories naturalize ideology by taking ideology for granted and fail to analyze its distortions, its role as a mask for special interests, and its repressive functions.

Ideology is not solely determined by either the economy or pure consciousness. Emphasis has to be placed on both the material grounding of ideology and its important role in social life. there exists a relative autonomy of ideas in a complex reciprocal interaction of being and consciousness, and not a one-way causal determination. that is, there exists a dialectical relationship between being and consciousness, including both the interaction between ideas and social life and the relative autonomy of ideas. Ideologies should not be treated as empty fantasies or mere ideas. dialectical materialism grasps philosophies and other ideological systems as realities and treats them in practice as such. In fact, those who combat the dominant ideology by their intellectual action and ideological critique are involved in an important element of class struggle.

Ideology should be regarded as the dominant ideas of a given society, i.e., ideology as hegemony. Ideology as a project of social reconstruction can be turned into and institutionalized as instruments of domination. theory of ideology reflects the formation of the ideology of a rising class, which is based on the generalization of the rise of bourgeois ideology as a weapon against feudalism and the rise of marxism as a weapon against bourgeois society. the ruling class exercises power and maintains social control through two distinct methods of force and consent. …

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