[D-G] Why Do Ideologies Exist?
Richard Koenigsberg, Ph. D.
libraryofsocialscience at earthlink.net
Thu Jul 7 08:43:10 PDT 2005
"Contemporary social theory suggests that mind and thought are the result of
the 'discourses that push and pull us'. However, the question remains: Who
has created societal discourses and why do they exist? Why have particular
ideas been "selected out" (from among the multitude of ideas that people
have put forth) to become elements of culture? Why are specific beliefs
embraced and perpetuated, and not others? Why do certain ideologies evoke
such passion? In order to answer these questions, it is necessary to
articulate the meaning of culturally constituted ideas, to delineate the
psychic work that these ideas perform for the people who embrace them."
WHY DO IDEOLOGIES EXIST:
The Psychological Function of Culture
Contemporary social theory does not address the question of the reasons why
particular ideologies exist. People write about "dominant discourses," but
the question is why particular discourses become dominant. To answer the
question of why particular ideas are embraced and perpetuated, I suggest a
psychological approach. What does the ideology do for the people who embrace
it? What role does this ideology play in the psychic life of its adherents?
Culture is not a domain separate from human beings. Ideologies exist to the
extent that people produce, espouse and perpetuate them. Ideologies are
created by human beings for human beings. Ideologies perform psychic work,
functioning to allow people to encounter, work through and attempt to master
fundamental desires, fantasies, conflicts and existential dilemmas.
The complete paper by Richard A. Koenigsberg is available for the first time
as an on-line publication.
To read: WHY DO IDEOLOGIES EXIST: The Psychological Function of Culture
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How are we to explain the nature and shape of the entire panoply of ideas,
material objects and social arrangements that we call culture? What inhibits
us from posing the question: Why do specific ideologies and societal
When people examine cultural forms such as musical symphonies, light-bulbs
or air-conditioners, it is not difficult to acknowledge that human beings
are the source; to say that these inventions represent a response to our
desires and fantasies; that they exist to the extent that they fulfill human
needs. We do not hesitate to conclude that symphonies, light-bulbs and
air-conditioners exist and are perpetuated as elements of culture because
they provide physical and psychological gratification.
It is more difficult for people to say that cultural inventions such as war
and genocide exist because they provide psychological gratification. We shy
away from the idea that ideologies of war and genocide represent the
fulfillment of human desires and fantasies. We prefer to imagine that war
and genocide come from a place outside the self. We would rather understand
war and genocide from the perspective of the political situations out of
which events grow; or to declare that what occurs is generated by
I theorize that war and genocide--like symphonies, light-bulbs and
air-conditioners--exist because they represent the fulfillment of
psychological needs. Why do ideologies of war and genocide exist? Why have
they been perpetuated as elements of culture? Because--like symphonies,
light-bulbs and air-conditioners--they are responsive to and serve to
articulate human desires, anxieties and fantasies.
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