Monday, March 18, 2013

YES, Ideology

Our national rhetorical fondness for “bipartisanship” and “compromise” leads many politicians to demonize ideology as though it were a bad thing. One of the many great things about Up with Chris Hayes (and there are many) is that Chris Hayes has respect for the centrality of ideology in politics and its difference from—and perhaps superiority to (in terms of meriting respect)—mere opportunism, and he challenges guests who act as though there is a realm of politics and policy that exists outside of ideology. Only those people have ideology, both parties like say—speaking about the other party, of course, or just engaging in platitudes of bipartisanship. Ideology, though, is neither inherently good nor bad; it is simply how we see the world. Without ideology, all that is left is a series of discrete facts and events with no inherent meaning. Ideology refers to the interpretive framework we develop from our experiences—our raising, our education, our religion, our geography, our occupation, etc. This interpretive framework provides the lens through which we understand the world around us and through which we attribute meaning, value, and cohesion to the events and the raw facts that constitute that world.

Without ideology, there can be no solutions, for data cannot prescribe. Even more, without ideology, there can be no problems, for data themselves cannot render a datum or a condition as a problem, let alone one worth solving. The deficit, the debt, the unemployment rate, the poverty rate, the tax rate---none of these have meaning outside of ideology. They are not problems, let alone problems worth solving, by mere virtue of existing; there is nothing within their nature that defines them as a problem. Priorities and values must be superimposed onto data before we can create policy. There is no policy prescription that exists beyond ideology—and the desire to reach such a Holy Grail marks a particular ideology of its own.

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