Ideology and Ideologues

No one can go through life without believing in some general principles, even if most of us act on those principles regularly without giving them much, if any, thought. But, if you stop a moment in your daily hunt for living your life with some success and dignity; just stop a moment, lift your head up from that ‘walking into a strong wind’ position and widen out that tunnel vision to see more broadly than a specific ambition, job or encounter, then you just might begin to see what humanity is up against.

People are presented with millions of pieces of information every day, from the chemistry of your liver to the latest political outrage, from which they can only select a small percentage to recognize and overtly respond – thus, in part, the head down, tunnel vision push through life hoping for the best. Most people accept this state of affairs, stay at least a little light on their feet, even as they try to find some reasonable and reliable pattern so as not to start each day from scratch, set upon with overwhelming sensation and information.

Karl Marx made the argument that different classes in the same society can have quite different ideas and beliefs about what is real. He called this ‘ideology’ – like styles of clothing and an accent might identify someone in the mid 1800s in England as belonging to a certain class, so would their ideas and beliefs – and these would form the possibilities for their lives. Marx also assumed that such class-based ideologies were inherently untrue in their details measured against human potential and a reality larger than prescriptions of a particular society and its classes.

Ludwig von Mises dismisses this seemingly sound bit of thinking by suggesting, in what sounds to my ear like a “best of all possible worlds” sophistry, that these are beliefs adapted to reality, functionally true beliefs, and thus are not ideological in the sense that Marx means. Why or even how, he asks, could people function from a set of belief principles that are untrue. He argues that mechanical devices depend on correct theory and application and that there could not be an ideological (false) science of mechanics; and by implication that if societies function, then the principles that underlie them cannot be ideologies since they must be ‘true’ working principles.

A larger reality, I would note, can be thought of as a rocky ground that we can cushion with adapted beliefs in good times, but that delivers its full discomfort, demonstrating the narrowness and failures of those beliefs, in bad times. A whole social design can be ultimately mal-adjusted to biophysical reality – a condition that might not critically show itself for some generations.

Some people are not so disposed to the ambiguities of a general ideology. Such people construct an internal system of ideas bulwarked and buttressed against all bending and flexing – prepared to go through life like an ice-breaker ship, crushing out a path in a hostile environment – and even thinking, because they can allow themselves to see only what they wish to see, that the narrow channel created is really the whole ocean. These are the ideologues.

Ideologues are confident, certain and claim to be in complete possession of THE truth. They use the language of reality and truth just as if they possessed them. Actually humanity has been deciding between the Real (what would be functioning in the universe if people were not present) and realities that are local in a time, a place and a belief system for a very long time. Add to this difficulty what I will call ‘highly adaptive individuals’ who use existing ideas, confusions, beliefs and desires without regard to their connection to Reality, as social and political devices for their own ends.

But remember the analogy to an ice-breaker; the world of their competence is very narrow and often fleeting. One of the signs that a person is an ideologue is an unwillingness to consider anything beyond their narrow path as being part of the actual world (the rejection of consideration does not prevent the ideologue from claiming wide, forthright examination of all opinion). Such a test is useful, though not fool-proof: the ideologue can claim that a refusal to accept their reality is the true act of narrow exclusion.

If we stir together a large number of regular people with a few hard-core ideologues, many of the regular folks end up sticking to the ideologues; drawn by the crushing power of their certainty and the way that certainty appears to ease the path through life.

Religions are good examples of ideology-based systems and the role of ideologues (though once religions were local environmentally-based belief systems that organized complex highly adaptable human behavior to function ecologically in the environment). Religious people, for the most part regular folks stuck to ideological institutions, believe that their way of making observance to their image of a higher power is the correct way and that other ways range from misguided to dangerous. It is necessary for religious (regular) people to gather in sufficient number that their local individual realities are mutually supported in the face of inevitable contrary evidence; and often they require a true ideologue (or ‘highly adaptive person’ to play one) to act as the prow on the ice-breaker.

An issue of greatest concern is how to measure notions of truth, accuracy, honesty, reality, effective adaptation, environmental fit – the actions of our human world that are answerable to biophysical reality – in a social/political world in which ideologies are the standards of truth and ideologues can seem like honest brokers.

Now everything cannot be true. It has become our habit these days to assume that there is “some truth in everything.” At least it is the habit among the least ideological. But that is just foolishness. The atomic mass of chlorine is about 35.46 atomic mass units. This is not open to argument; you can’t pick an atomic mass that you like for chlorine. Why this mass and not another is more open to opinion, but that opinion needs to be informed; the theoretical foundations for atomic structure are pretty solid these days. While it is clearly, and unarguably sound, to have “true” answers for the nature of chlorine, would it not be very useful to have testable and measured answers to many questions that, today, we leave to typical ideologues?

What is believed depends on how those beliefs are arrived at. If it is our dominant social habit to believe in authority, beliefs will come from established institutions and adapt in the self-referenced way that they have for thousands of years. It was the great contribution of the Enlightenment that knowing should come from direct experience and that there had to be epistemological principles to properly use that experience; an understanding of understanding that seems to be weakening just as we need it the most.

More than ever humans are confronted with new and surprising experiences: many a day whether we realize it or not. What belief system, what ideology, would be best for a world in which two conditions, previously not a primary concern, have become essential to respond to; (1) huge amounts of rapidly changing information and (2) an immediate need for our actions to comport very closely with biophysical reality. Would you select an ideology that is confident in an existing set of answers even as new information is conflicting or would you select an ideology that doesn’t base its beliefs on unchallengeable facts, but on a method to evaluate new information and with a track record of discovering the ‘truths’ that underlie our understanding of the physical and biological worlds?

This is not a new observation. How to discover the truth of things and make an understanding of what is true into appropriate and meaningful lives is one of the oldest questions on the books. You’d think that an animal that can build the Large Hadron Collider and produce energies approaching those of the origin of the universe might spend an effective moment or two getting clear how not to destroy the world it lives in through the madness of its political and economic actions… you’d think!

What if part of a belief system is the demand that the specific content of belief be put to test? What if the ideology – the belief system – required testing and replication of basic data from which testable hypotheses are organized into theories about the general form and function of the stuff that happens in the world? Is it not possible that an ideology of process, scientific method and epistemological philosophy, would more accurately and consistently discover ways of thinking and behaving that are closer to capital ‘R’ Reality than the local adaptation of idea to form, ad hoc, in the service of the immediate and the self-interested?

This would demand a great deal of people, to learn about these things, to develop a clear understanding and reasoned use of scientific method, have a basic comprehension of statistical probability and epistemology, but what the hell! It was demanding for 4 or 5 guys to kill a mammoth; it was difficult and demanding to sail in a little tub of a wooden ship around the world; it was demanding to march across Europe in 1944 -45.

I am talking about a critical mass of humanity developing the critical understandings and using processes that have demonstrably attached our human technical reality to the physical reality. It is time that we attach our human reality to the biophysical reality – there is just no choice. Now how is that for an ideological statement?

James Keye is the nom de plume of a retired academic and small businessman living with an Ecological Footprint of 1.6 earths. He can be reached at Read other articles by James, or visit James's website.

34 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on September 2nd, 2010 at 8:03am #

    Sorry, james, but i have not found any fact in your piece nor in what marx or mises said.
    Aside from the fact that it is a fact that keyes lives and mises and marx lived, i could not find another descriptive statement in this piece– only a mass of conclusions.
    And anwers right-wrong or true-false do not pertain to isms nor conclusions.
    I think that ?every politician, priest, collumnist, ideolog, yogi berra, jesus, mohammed knows this either instictively or are fully cognizant of the fact that as long as they spout inferences, vacuities, casuistry, sophistry, cliches, etc., they can never be wrong or untrue.

    Unfortunately for us, marx, mises, dostoyevski, tolstoy, ghandi, MLK, russel had not espied this truth. Or have they?
    Alas, 99.99 of public have not as yet seen the ruse! And obama, clinton, tho, talking ‘brilliantly’ would not tell their admirers that the are just pulling them by nose!
    Or? Themselves, don’t know this???? How about just instictively?!
    James take a hoe, an arrow, spear, cudgel and go till, hunt, fish and then tell me whether you thoght about philosophy, isms or whether you thought how to survive and ensure your wife, kids, neighbors, village survives.
    Survival being the only measure of succes. If only indigenes new this, they would have beheaded the first white man that showed on their shores. tnx

  2. David Silver said on September 2nd, 2010 at 8:34am #

    Key’s psyco-social Freudianish is mostly rhetoric Is a liberala Leninist
    or anaechist an “ideologue” because they have s unique ideology.
    Key’s perspective is Descartes “I think, therefore I am. Ass backwards/
    Marx said that the brain is matter that thinks. And Brecht said “first you feed the stomach (and alleviate oppression and exploitation and THEN
    we duscuss philosophy.

  3. Maien said on September 2nd, 2010 at 9:45am #

    “What is believed depends on how those beliefs are arrived at.”

    “… on a method to evaluate new information and with a track record of discovering the ‘truths’ that underlie our understanding of the physical and biological worlds?”

    “It is time that we attach our human reality to the biophysical reality – there is just no choice.”

    I have been following your work. In this article as in previous work, I found certain statements to be the signposts, leading to yet, a deeper ‘truth’ or ‘possible reality’. I wonder , especially based on the last quote, when you will be tackling one of the base false premises/belief that current western (therefore world) culture is based upon?

    And to Bozh, Mr. Keyes is slowly coming to a conclusion, which will provide new perspective. In your comment you write,

    “If only indigenes new this, they would have beheaded the first white man that showed on their shores. tnx”

    Would you possibly consider the very big difference between the “indigenes” and the western pillagers? Very simply, the “indigenes” were community minded. the pillagers lived a creed of dominance, theft and murder as sanctioned by their religious belief and therefore limited understanding of ALL life…. including the “biophysical reality”, which Mr. Keyes has referenced. After all Bozh, if that first “indigene” who offered hospitality and friendship …instead had offered murder then we wouldn’t have had a problem. There wouldn’t be any “indigenes” anywhere in the world …only polarised victims and tyrants. Pretty much a realised wet dream, for the power brokers. Yes, because that is where the power brokers are stuck.

    When a religion teaches you that you are a sinner or a piece of shit …and an outside authority decides whether you’ll ever be good, you have the perfect set-up to play games …forever. Just read some of the redundant same old, over and over ideological discussions on even this site. Excellent commentaries for education, but not really for change. Max Sheilds has said very intelligent things in some of his posts (when he doesn’t get involved with the ideological banter) which indicates his understanding of what Mr. Keyes is leading up to, in his writing. Yes, that is an assumption based on the trajectory of thought, visible, thus far.

  4. Maien said on September 2nd, 2010 at 9:48am #

    Unless of course Mr. Silver , it is the very ideology/philosophy which is preventing the food being produced. then maybe , you need to show your ability at doing two things at one time.

  5. Rehmat said on September 2nd, 2010 at 10:36am #

    All man-made ideologies were created to serve the minority elites (mostly Jewish). All ISMs are nothing but the two-faces of the same coin. One of these is SECULARISM.

    Recently there was lot of excitement in the Zionist world about banning of mosques with minarets in Switzerland – a country never ruled by Muslims. However, there is country in Europe which was ruled by Muslims for over 300 years – but its capital city where Muslims doesn’t have a single proper mosque to say their daily prayers. Well, I am talking about Athens, the capital city of Greece – the very city which under Muslim rule from 1458 to 1821….

  6. 3bancan said on September 2nd, 2010 at 11:07am #

    Maien said on September 2nd, 2010 at 9:45am :
    “After all Bozh, if that first “indigene” who offered hospitality and friendship …instead had offered murder then we wouldn’t have had a problem. There wouldn’t be any “indigenes” anywhere in the world …only polarised victims and tyrants.”

    Imho the opposite is true: The world today IS mostly “polarised victims and tyrants”, and this precisely because that first “indigene” treated the murderous invaders as friends.
    Let me be more concrete: Every soldier on foreign soil should be put to death immediately, and his executioner should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
    This is what treating evil with goodness leads to:

  7. Maien said on September 2nd, 2010 at 12:07pm #

    Good one 3bancan! And of course i could have been more clear. My focus was not refering to judgements of good and evil. My focus was on basic “bio-physical” reality actually being accepted rather than religion which was simply meant to be a teaching tool, an education to assist a human child to grow up to become an adult. Judeo-Christian ethics regardless of their original intent, at this time (since Constantinople) is simply a political tool to control children who are still wasting time trying to prove they are good/bad powerful/powerless. Those are the games. I am suggesting that perhaps if one is able to lose their judgements (based on immature emotional demands) then one is positioned to possibly see that “bio-physical” reality and be able to clarify their behaviour to one which works with reality instead of the needy demands of our very sick western leadership.

  8. bozh said on September 2nd, 2010 at 12:16pm #

    I had to reread maien’s point before i understood it: that if indigenes knew or understood all about life [biosphere] the fate that had befallen them would have been prevented.

    However, this appears as an error: it’s called “allness”; i.e., not knowing all even about an apple, let alone all about deviousnes of some people.

    Blaming indigenes is a classic case of blame the victim tenet or casuistry. And for what? Because they did not know it all?

    Comparable event would be buying acreage of land knowing that underneath is a gold mine, but the owner does not.
    Or passing recent health care reform, knowing it is another deform, but 90%+ people not knowing that.
    Isn’t that type of thinking a cause for warfare, exploitation, chasmic differences in wages, but the needs being about the same and people not knowing that.
    But blame an honest victim; it serves him-her right; s/he should have known this or that.
    A young woman should have known better than to have worn such a short skirt; `flirted`, thus asked for it! etcetcetc. tnx

  9. bozh said on September 2nd, 2010 at 12:29pm #

    Your ruse does not work on me! Why? Because naming names any event does not an iota contribute to understandings.
    But what islam or secularism says or does, does. Impious do not call for stoning people, but pious do; both mosheists and mohammedans.
    Impious people do not say kill all pious people but the pious—`jews` and moslems— do! tnx

  10. Don Hawkins said on September 2nd, 2010 at 12:31pm #

    Yes, man-made climate change denial is about politics, but it’s more pragmatic than ideological. The politics have been shaped around the demands of industrial lobby groups, which happen, in many cases, to fund those who articulate them. Right-wingers are making monkeys of themselves over climate change not just because their beliefs take precedence over the evidence, but also because their interests take precedence over their beliefs. Monbiot

    And so it goes

  11. bozh said on September 2nd, 2010 at 12:41pm #

    Don, yes!
    The greatest criminal minds such as kings, ulema, priests, rabbinate, lords, earls, counts, barons and modern plutos who are just the best and greatets thieves on planet never ever change their mind unles we start beheading some.

    To them, 95% of people are naive,dumb, idiotic people and serves them right to be robbed! tnx

  12. Don Hawkins said on September 2nd, 2010 at 12:42pm #

    All you need really to track the storm click on fronts at the top you will see it.

  13. teafoe2 said on September 2nd, 2010 at 4:38pm #

    some days you just have to let pass & not try to accomplish much. like when the thermometer hits 105 I just put the day in the HOT! category and get out the ice cream.

    Other days I get up, turn on the PC, open DV & see it’s a Bozh Day so I go back to bed.

  14. bozh said on September 2nd, 2010 at 5:58pm #

    And i finished last in my class; quit school and started learning from real teachers.
    So, nearly everything i say had been said by many [non] scholars and from all nations. Please don’t read what the most honest amongst us have said over the last 10 k yrs.
    Obama, clinton, jefferson, churchill, stalyin,mussolini, hitler, bush, saddam, arafat, netanyahu, blair et al did not and look at the mess they have created! Tnx

  15. teafoe2 said on September 2nd, 2010 at 6:23pm #

    so what?

  16. teafoe2 said on September 2nd, 2010 at 6:25pm #

    other days I see it’s a Jas Keye day, & pull the covers over my head.

  17. Deadbeat said on September 2nd, 2010 at 6:58pm #

    Other days I get up, turn on the PC, open DV & see it’s a Bozh Day so I go back to bed.

    other days I see it’s a Jas Keye day, & pull the covers over my head.


  18. 3bancan said on September 2nd, 2010 at 7:48pm #

    bozh said on September 2nd, 2010 at 5:58pm:
    “i finished last in my class; quit school and started learning from real teachers.”

    Imho it wasn’t Bozh’s teachers’ fault that he finished last in his class, most probably he wouldn’t have fared any better if I had been his teacher.
    But there remains the greatest internet mystery – his “real teachers”…

  19. Don Hawkins said on September 3rd, 2010 at 7:14am #

    And in today already walks tomorrow.

    “[The skeptic community overwhelmingly embraced what they formerly dismissed as] New Age claptrap … We give up! The nuts were right.”

    Soon there will come from the rising sun a different kind of man from any you have ever yet seen. Who will bring with them a book and will teach you everything and after that the world will fall to pieces. -Spokane Prophecy.

  20. bozh said on September 3rd, 2010 at 8:35am #

    Some of my teachers [none are on internet or private media] were alfred korbziski, harry weinberg, public lore, wendel johnson, sitting bull, et al.
    Most of these peoples have passed away i believe.
    As for alfred habdank [have thanks, litterally] korbziski a polish ‘nobleman’, even people who deeply admire his labors are not sure wheather he had been a genius or not.
    However, his teachings helped me more than anyone else’s. No, he was not a philosopher. In fact, he averred that philosophers have produced no value of whatever kind. And i agree!
    Aristotle, tho, was a bit philosophic, but a lot more scientific.

    In short, what korzibski had taught people was to think about how we think and how to use words so that they don’t [ab]use us as much as other words .
    It is he who suggested we use postscripts to labels. Eg, there is no truth but truth1,2,3,4,5,x at a point i time. So, say truth1 today is not truth1 tomorrow.
    USA 2010 is not US 1800. And US 2010 is not gonna be US 2060!
    He also invented the term “invariance under trasformation”. Meaning what? I am not sure but i think that he meant that structure of, say, US governance represents invariance even tho US itself changes.
    Another one of his useful concepts is to view events as a joint fenomenon bwtween observer and the observed.
    He also suggested we stay away from inferential level [ gussess, theories, wishes, conclusions, blame, etc] and use descriptive actional, language that would depict what s’mthing does, what happens.
    And avoid like a plague the word “IS” of identity; such as zionism IS this or that; religions ARE this or that or he IS a liar. He lied, eg, is easier on ones nerves; at least to me. tnx

  21. hayate said on September 3rd, 2010 at 8:17pm #


    People accept bs and live their lives by it. Do they do this because they understand the advantages of it, or because they are told to by a authoritative source? Usually the latter…

  22. 3bancan said on September 3rd, 2010 at 11:25pm #

    bozh said on September 3rd, 2010 at 8:35am #

    In short, Bozh’s “ism” is the so-called general semantics. So that’s why he sounds like a scientology priest…
    PS: It’s strange that Bozh doesn’t do what he preaches, ie he uses the IS speak quite profusely. As every IS statement has an equivalent non-IS statement (e.g. You are a liar. You seem to be telling me that the sun rises in the west.), he should strictly use the non-IS speak…

  23. Don Hawkins said on September 4th, 2010 at 2:45am #

    In June this year Prof Hawking told a Channel 4 series that he didn’t believe that a “personal” God existed. He told Genius of Britain: “The question is: is the way the universe began chosen by God for reasons we can’t understand, or was it determined by a law of science? I believe the second. If you like, you can call the laws of science ‘God’, but it wouldn’t be a personal God that you could meet, and ask questions.” Telegraph uk

    There were 1500 hundred comments on that thinking here’s the article.

    Hawking went and did it this time and a few hundred years ago house arrest for thinking those thoughts am sure or worst. But it wouldn’t be a personal God that you could meet, and ask questions.

  24. Don Hawkins said on September 4th, 2010 at 2:55am #

    How today’s extinction crisis – species today go extinct at a rate that may range from 10 to 100 times the so-called background extinction rate – may change the face of the planet and its species goes beyond what humans can predict, the researchers say.

    But it wouldn’t be a personal God that you could meet, and ask questions. Here’s a question how about just human’s on Earth no other life some of course some will say no bug’s great or snakes or frogs and I don’t like fly’s can we still have dog’s or cat’s? We will need fish right?

  25. Don Hawkins said on September 4th, 2010 at 3:56am #

    The human mind and reason tell’s us this all came from somewhere you know the heaven and Earth. Ok it was God the creator then reason tell’s us ok who created the creator now here’s where reason goes out the window the creator was always’ here. Cool so maybe the Universe was always’ here anyway for us silly human’s in the greatest nation on Earth it look’s like the Republicans will regain power very soon oh my God what do you think more gridlock as we all go down the drain in not such slow motion? Nancy is out Orrin is in Harry out someone is in. Then of course in two years no shinning city they can blame each other and so it goes and for us the people probably a good idea to get some boot’s and ear plugs. Maybe we will see repeal and replace, oh I think the repeal and replace is well underway. Repeal and replace with what now there’s a good question we can talk with and ask questions of our so called leaders right. But it wouldn’t be a personal God that you could meet, and ask questions yes Nancy is out Orrin is in on the third planet from the Sun we are going to be just fine but just in case boot’s and ear plugs, cup of coffee nice game of checkers.

  26. kalidas said on September 4th, 2010 at 8:02am #

    It seems to me that Hawking is under a house arrest of the worst kind.
    Even a psychopathic murderer gets let out for an hours reprieve each day. A stroll around the yard. Hawking doesn’t.

    Not hard to conceive of him having an extremely active dislike (to put it mildly) of God, whether God exists or not.

    I’d bet bet he’d throw away that math book and volunteer to dig ditches if it meant getting out of that chair, combing his hair and giving his wife a pinch.

    Like Asimov or Heinlein, who were actually a lot like him when you think about it..

  27. shabnam said on September 4th, 2010 at 8:11am #

    {It seems to me that Hawking is under a house arrest of the worst kind.}


  28. bozh said on September 4th, 2010 at 8:15am #

    Hopefully, i use IS profusely as an auxilliary term as in how’ things going, is s/he here, etc.
    But hopefully not too often the IS od identity such as s/he’s a liar, fool or s/he’s brilliant, wrong, right, stupid.
    But, yes, i do say that clerico-plutocratic class of life ARE the greatest criminals.
    That’s indeed a misrepresentation of reality.
    However, i do repeat over and over again that naming events or using IS [of identity] in order to call people names does not explain anything.
    I should replace “ARE criminals” with: clerico-plutocratic people commit the greatest crimes. But do admit to being a bit afraid that some people may not go for that kind of structure.
    I am gald you pointed that out! tnx

  29. bozh said on September 4th, 2010 at 8:44am #

    General semantics appears a study of all happenings and their connection with each other.
    So, i wonder which of the views of general semantists represents even one view of even one scientologist.
    I didn’t name thinking about thinking! I don’t name eating an apple or looking at a woman’s legs. So, why put your word in my mouth?
    You chose to name my, hayakawa’s, korzibski’s thinking about thinking and using language differently an “ism”.

    Why so much intolerance of and belligerence towards people who merely talk and think? Do i kill aliens in asia?
    Shld we adhere to the rules of talking laid dwn by priests, generals, collumnists, ‘educators’ and also your own?

    Ok, i am not talking nor thinking anymore unless it is approved by an authority and the established way of thinking and talking. And especially not unless teafoe and 3ban don’t permit it. tnx

  30. bozh said on September 4th, 2010 at 8:52am #

    It is now clear to me that 3ban and teafoe came on this site to deter free speech and at the same time avoid positing or postulating causes for it! Thus, talking to these people or reading their posts cannot ever be useful to me! tnx

  31. hayate said on September 4th, 2010 at 9:56am #


    “It is now clear to me that 3ban and teafoe came on this site to deter free speech and at the same time avoid positing or postulating causes for it! Thus, talking to these people or reading their posts cannot ever be useful to me! tnx”

    Er….both of them write readable commentaries…. ;D

  32. teafoe2 said on September 4th, 2010 at 10:47am #

    Hey Bozh,

    what’s this krepp about me & tresbancan detering free speech? about us not “permitting” you to engage in talking & thinking?

    the only thing preventing you from thinking is located inside your own skull. and I see you’re still babbling away, with or without permission.

    But just to prove what a nice guy I am, (speaking for myself only, you’ll have to get 3BC’s permission directly from her/him…) I hereby grand you full permission to go on making a fool of yourself in public as long as you can stand it.


  33. bozh said on September 4th, 2010 at 10:48am #

    Hayate, may i ask,
    What does …. ;D stand for? I saw smthink like that before, but do not know what it means”. Appreciate your explanation. tnx

  34. hayate said on September 4th, 2010 at 10:57am #


    “What does …. ;D stand for?”

    A big grin with a wink.