FOUR DEPARTMENTS: SCIENCE AND IDEOLOGY
By now it has become a worn-out cliché that 'all science
is ideological' (and that solely the speaker's own ideology
would be 'scientific'). Even to say that 'all science is
ideological' presupposes that there is a difference in meaning
between science and ideology, that scientific
thought is another aspect of thought, or side of social life, than
It may be true that in
science and ideology are conceived of as social activities, the
person who is involved in scientific activities (often) does
things which are ideological as well, or which can only be
justified or explained in ideological terms. Yet, by distinguishing
persons doing scientific work from other persons it is
admitted that there is indeed something like 'scientific work'
which has at least one quality distinguishing it from all other
types of work. And the same applies to someone thinking or doing
something that is ideological. Our first concern is therefore:
what differentiates 'science' and 'ideology'? Whether all scientists
are persons who are at the same time ideologues is, then,
a logically contingent matter, and itself a question of empirical
science, which may or may not be replaced by an empirical
presupposition in ideology.
It has been said that the scientist (as scientist) confines
'imself to explaining 'the facts of
experience' or 'how things happen in the world', that
'er explanations or hypotheses
'can be tested by an appeal to the facts'.
This description is far too simplistic, but it rightly shows the
scientist's primary concern with facts and
--in our terminology, especially where statistics
play a significant role-- with
Nevertheless, it is often ideology too (whether religious or not)
which purports to explain how things did happen, happen and/or
will happen in the world.
In other words, much ideological thought is also about facts, or about
factual and modal conditions.
Yet --as has been
argued-- the primary function of ideology is not
to explain the world but to support certain interests.
On this view every ideology is not only to the exclusive interest of one
class or other, this is also its very reason for existence.
It has been pointed out, however, that
ideology is employed here by the same theorists in at
least three different senses. Firstly, as people's whole system of
ideas 'to describe the world and to express their standards,
feelings and purposes'. Secondly, as all nonscientific
disciplinary and all moral or legal thought.
And thirdly, as all nonscientific
disciplinary thought and all moral or legal thought
(disciplinary or not) which serves the interests of some class
or group. Subsequently it has been demonstrated that theories
which are not largely speculative or fanciful can serve class
interests as well as theories which are, and that the latter
theories need not serve the interests of a 'class' in the
socioeconomic sense. (If class could also denote the group
of people adhering to the ideology in question, the entire claim
would obviously lose its force.)
What clearly distinguishes ideology from science also in this debate, is
that ideology is at least partially normative or evaluative,
normative in a doxastic sense,
with respect to the
This is most evident when theorists
refer to the moral and legal concepts or rules involved in
Ideology not merely describes reality as it is (believed to be), or some
aspect of reality, it also propagates adherence to certain norms and/or
values or --as has been said before-- it also
encourages obedience to a moral or legal rule.
In the event that the ideology is successful this
results in certain practises and the possible emergence of a
more or less organized social entity. According to one theorist,
'ideology' must manifest itself simultaneously as a set
of ideas or doctrines, a set of practises and a more or less
institutionalized social group. To call a system of thought
"an ideology", however, it is not necessary from a logical or
semantic point of view that it be manifested in certain
practises and institutions,
altho it probably
should from the standpoint of the ideology itself.
Insofar as an ideological doctrine is concerned with facts
and modal conditions, its function is (purely) informative,
insofar as it is concerned with norms, values or moral and legal
rules (also) imperative. Some theorists may insist that
ideology has, in addition to these two functions, an emotive
function. But to put these three functions side by side on one
level does not properly reflect the relationships between them,
because what is emotive (and perhaps also informative) about an
ideology is in the first place meant to get the normative
message across. An ideological normative doctrine distinguishes
itself from a philosophical normative doctrine at least in that
it uses nonargumentative means as well, such as nonlinguistic
symbols, to communicate. Nonargumentative does, then, not
mean counter-argumentative or irrational, nor does
emotive mean emotional; one should rather think of an
artistic symbolism and the socialization of the doctrine which furnishes
it with its emotive content (which often is indeed irrational and
emotionalizing, but need not be so). This emotive aspect is not an
end in itself as it may be in the field of art. In ideology it
is a means to another end: in general, the promotion of the
doctrine's norms or values.
The subject-matter and interests of ideologies may vary considerably.
If the subject-matter is specific, or if an ideology serves the
self-interests of a specific group, the ideology is --as we shall call it--
Political ideologies are typically specialistic, for instance.
On the other hand, if the range of an ideology is in principle unlimited
or total, the ideology is 'comprehensive'. It is then that one
may speak of "a weltanschauung" or "cosmology",
that is, a more or less unitary, total conception of the world or of
the ground-world. However, to be ideological such a weltanschauung
has to demand a commitment to a way of life, has to be able to
mobilize people for actions, while convincing them of the
wrongness of other actions. When a comprehensive ideology has
become part of their daily existence, people live, as it were,
under the denomination of this ideology. The name of this world
outlook or cosmology is then their 'denomination'. This is one
reason why we shall use the expressions denomination and
comprehensive ideology (in the sense of one particular doctrine)
as synonyms. (A term like confession
is by its very etymology of course unacceptable.)
Denominationalism (in a noncondemnatory sense) is, then,
the recognition of and adherence to denominational principles and the
devotion to denominational interests. This is also a traditional meaning
of denominationalism except that it has been exclusively used to
refer to religious ideology (and often only as organized on a local
level). Tho religion is indeed a mode of comprehensive ideology
(or 'denominationalism') which has played an important part in
humankind's history, a particular comprehensive ideology (or
'denominational doctrine') need obviously not be religious (and
whether it is organized on a local, national or international
scale is not a substantive issue). What differentiates religious
and nonreligious denominations is not our present concern, as
this question pertains to the further subdivision of only one of the
departments of disciplinary thought: that of ideology.
We do subsume 'religion' under the heading of 'ideology' or,
to be more precise, 'comprehensive ideology'.
Those who present religious thought as a separate department of thought
besides ideology (and philosophy and science) do so for ideological
reasons: they try to conceal that every religion is a kind of
ideology itself. Especially when religion has a meliorative,
and ideology a pejorative connotation, the desire to do so
may but too strongly be felt by religious believers. In
societies or subcultures where it is considered legitimate to
find fault with 'ideologies', while those who criticize 'religions'
are blamed for being intolerant, the contention that
religion would not be a form of ideology plays a crucial role in
the immunization strategy of 'parties of God ' and suchlike groups.
Their deliberate separation of religion and ideology is merely meant to
enable them to cover their creed with a veneer of unchallengeable
sacrosanctity that should shield it from any and all forms of penetrating
Such a cowardly immunization strategy may be especially successful in some
circles when the 'adherents' of a particular religion traditionally belong
to one race or ethnic group (for example, because all children and adults
of that race or ethnic group are automatically counted as believers).
It can then be insinuated that the attack is not on the religious ideology
but on the race or ethnic group in question.
(As a matter of fact, the original, objective meaning of ideology
is theory of ideas. This theory of ideas was
intended to reveal the source of people's prejudices.
It was the monotheist establishment of the time in conjunction with
a political dictator who saddled the term ideology with a
negative connotation for many years to come.)
Not only the different connotations of ideology but also
the nature of the relationship between 'ideology' (also when
referred to in a nonpejorative sense) and 'religion' has often
confused social theorists. They have thus been seduced into calling
nonreligious denominations or ideologies "secular religions", or
into calling ideologies such as nationalism "religions". Altho
correctly noticing that secular denominationalism and religion,
and also nationalism and religion, have a great deal in common, these
theorists did not realize that what they have in common is not
something typically religious, but ideological (or in the
case of nationalism and theist religion perhaps more specifically
the exclusivist content of the ideological repository).
Even specialist, political ideologies have been described as "religions"
because of their ability to bind a society with ideals and hopes, if not
(Religare, from which religion probably derives, means
to tie back or to bind.)
Yet, whether a particular ideological system is a binding, societal
force or not is not essential to its being ideological.
Therefore there are even no etymological reasons to treat ideology
and religion as synonyms, and least of all, to subsume ideology
under religion instead of the other way around.