Cold War Rhetoric: Strategy, Metaphor, and Ideology

By Robert L. Ivie; Philip Wander et al. | Go to book overview

8
Critical and Classical Theory: An Introduction to Ideology Criticism

Philip Wander

Rhetoric and ideology limit choices and guide the decisions of men [and women]. For [they] are influenced in their use of the powers they possess, by the rhetoric they feel they must employ, and by the ideological coin in which they transact affairs with one another. The leaders as well as the led, even the hired mythmakers and hack apologists, are influenced by their own rhetoric of justification and the ideological consolidation that prevails.1

C. Wright Mills

Ideology criticism does not represent another technique, a new approach to criticism embedded in some mysterious European intellectual tradition. First introduced by French revolutionaries, the term "ideology" referred to the critical study of ideas. Napoleon, annoyed by attacks on his policies and the myths used to justify them, contrasted ideology with knowledge of the heart and the lessons of history. Ideologues, in his view, were mere intellectuals, impractical thinkers with subversive impulses. Marx appropriated the term and used it to mean the ruling ideas of the ruling class. He stressed the connection between established economic interests and the spiritual formulations in law, religion, and philosophy growing out of them and working in their favor. In the twentieth century, critical theorists, those associated with the Frankfurt school of sociology, noting that even the term "Marxism" can be exploited in defense of an established order, used it to designate the lack of totality or completeness in any attempt to generalize. Ideology, in this view, encompasses not only the partiality or party interest in any formulation, but also the connection between what is embraced or concealed and the interests served by a particular formulation.

While one may intone a phrase like "ideology criticism" with a solemn and mysterious look, it lives on in the world of affairs as robust common sense -- skepticism not as a well of life, but as a leavening making its way

-131-

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