Apr 13, 2007

Ideologies and Theories

Ideology and Theories.
Does ideology really matter? Why not look at the society as it is, that is, as a group of people inhabiting a specific geographic area instead of burdening ourselves with confusing “isms”: “social-ism”, “Marx-ism”, “modern-ism”, “post-modern-ism", to name but a few. Would it really make a difference if I were to write about class antagonisms without making reference to Karl Marx’s class theory? If workers and their employers are in disagreement on wages, how worth is it to understand the differences in opinion therein in terms of Marxist thinking? Why not just state that “There is a dispute between employees and employers over wages”, finish and klaar! I tutored first years in sociology at Wits University and one thing I realised is that the moment I expressed an idea in which there was what I will call an “ismized” term, the students, almost in a chorus, said: “We do not understand!” What emerges from this example is that ideologies, which are usually expressed in technical and difficult-to-pronounce terms, leave most people more confused about particular phenomena than before they read them. So why ideology? I must confess that I am one person who was strongly married to ideology until I was made to realise that “isms” have a tendency to blur one’s positions in writing if not properly handled. To me to use a theory was an expression of an excellent form of academic pedigree-academic smartness indeed! But it got to dawn to me that ideologies would always be a serious disservice if they are used without a clear understanding of their fundamental implications. It was at high school, the first point at which I was introduced to theories, (Joseph Schumpeter’s theory of imperialism for example), and also the first point at which I was dissuaded from using the same ideologies in essay-writing. My history teacher would always say: “Don’t be verbose Mbuso!” From then, I developed a sense that those who use technical terms such as “existentialism” suffer from inability to state the simple as simple. “People are fighting, can you see that?” “Yes they are fighting.” Simply that!

The word “verbose” is a big scary word. I made some serious thinking on the real meaning of the word itself. After some time, I came to a realisation that the words verbose and existentialism were simply two big, and high sounding words for very simple ideas.

But can we really dismiss ideology as absurdity consummate? If you walk into a class and teach Marxism and feminism, you are not saying something new. You are just stating the same thing in a paraphrased way. Isn’t that so?

People really live ideology but they do not want to hear about it. Ideology is best-lived than trying to write and bind it in a book. It is a creature that resides somewhere in the netherworld.
Someone simply took a simple idea and stamped his name on to it and called it Marxism. Don’t we all believe that people should be equal; don’t we all think that workers should not be exploited; and don’t we all think that there should be equal distribution of economic resources to achieve social justice? If we do, so what is new about Marxism that we did not know?
Alas! All we do in the world as we know it today is not by accident. Someone thought of how the world should look like-hence the nation state; someone thought that an educated person must be the one who spent a considerable number of years mastering theories, etc. So this world as we see it, is a product of ideology. So, does ideology matter? Well, if you do not think about it it doesn’t but if you think about it, it does.
Mbuso Moyo

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