H. C. F. Mansilla is a member of the Bolivian National Academy of Sciences and the Bolivian Academy of Language. He is the author of El desencanto con el desarrollo actual: las ilusiones and las trampas de la modernización.
This translation has been automatically generated and has not been verified for accuracy.
The concept of ideology is one of the most widely used and most controversial in the social sciences and political philosophy. Within the framework of this brief text it is not possible to account for the richness of this debate or the plurality of positions on the meaning of ideology1. Nor is it possible to address the distinction between a neutral notion of ideology, as proposed by Karl Mannheim2, and a critical notion, postulated by various theoretical traditions, very different from each other, such as those initiated by Francis Bacon and Karl Marx. If all thought is considered as ideological, relative and partialized, that is, as inexorably linked to a specific and inescapable socio-historical context, then the search for a minimum of objectivity and truth becomes vain and superfluous. This trend leads to the contention that every opinion is as true and as valuable as any other. This position represents one of the foundations of contemporary postmodernist thought, which often exhausts itself in its own stylistic and rhetorical agitation and in the spectacles it manages to put on with memorable success. What results from all this in everyday reality is a tacit acceptance of authoritarian models of the social order and a devaluation of efforts to radically clarify the political and intellectual horizon.
For reasons of space and structure, I will limit myself here to applying the so-called ideology critique [Ideologiekritik] to a relatively well-known but still topical issue: the mechanisms of legitimization used by notable intellectuals, generally placed or thought of in the sphere of the political left, to justify the existence and actions of socialist regimes and related parties in the attainment and consolidation of power3. The critique of ideologies, in the tradition of Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche and the Frankfurt School, analyzes the obstacles and prejudices that prevent a better understanding of a given social reality. One of the most brilliant investigations in this sense has been that carried out by Hannah Arendt in her study of the ideological myths constructed by totalitarian regimes, which turn out to be systems of thought self-immunized against any possibility of criticism or even of mere contrary experience4. Ideological constructs have the important function of reconciling the individual with the prevailing social order and collective identity, in order to provide the prevailing system with the necessary illusion of rationality and respectability. Ideologies, which represent a necessarily false awareness of the corresponding reality, but with a socially indispensable propagandistic cover, have the objective of constructing an apparent compensation to cushion the injustices experienced and to justify collective suffering5. These compensatory functions can coexist with a utopian dimension, which projects the desired dimension of happiness and solidarity towards a distant future, but envisioned as certain, leading to a certain reconciliation with the shortcomings of the present.
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Alejandro Gutiérrez S.
A conversation with Randy E. Barnett