Below is a Goodreads user’s (Kevin K’s) review of Kenneth Minogue’s book on Ideology, Alien Powers. It’s brilliant and whets the appetite for Kenneth’s work. See The Liberal Mind, The Servile Mind and this referenced work. He’s done great work and joins the ranks of Gottfried, Lasch and co. ”First a note on terminology: In Alien Powers Minogue uses the term “pure ideology” (or “ideology” for short) as a technical term for theories of oppression. The nature of these theories will become clearer as we proceed, but—generally speaking—ideology claims that the “freedom” of modern society is a facade; in reality there is a hidden, oppressive social structure, and a divide between two classes: oppressors and oppressed. Ideology reveals the hard truth the sheeple aren’t supposed to see, i.e., everything in the modern world is a form of domination: ordinary language, institutions, manners, ways of life. All practices benefit an alien other (the “alien powers” of the book’s title). Minogue sees this as a dominant idiom of our time, a “creative art form” used by all sorts of activists to build their own theories/movements. The original template is Marx. As Minogue observes: “Whitehead exaggerated when he said that philosophy was but a series of footnotes to Plato; but there is hardly any exaggeration at all in saying that ideology is a footnote to Marx” (P. 38). For Marx the oppressors were the bourgeoisie, and the oppressed were the proletariat. In retrospect, we know this old-fashioned strain of ideology suffered a long decline, but the underlying framework has flourished. Over time, it has evolved into an ever-growing array of imitators and new “proletariats.” A classic example (often cited by Minogue) is feminism, and its claim that men oppress women through an all-pervasive system called the patriarchy. Other examples include: white people oppressing minorities, imperialists oppressing natives, humans oppressing animals, a hidden Jewish cabal oppressing non-Jews, attractive people oppressing the homely (lookism), religious people oppressing atheists, age-ism, able-ism, heteronormativity, cisnormativity etc. Ideology is so protean that today even religions (part of the regime of oppression according to Marx) make claims to being oppressed by a hostile “system.” In part, Alien Powers is interesting because it looks at ideologies as a general type rather than individual doctrines, thereby offering a bird’s eye view of this strange phenomenon. This helps one to see patterns, and get some much-needed objectivity. As a system of thought, ideology has a strong emotional (even vituperative) component, and it may seem harsh to doubt the prima facie reality of oppression. (Indeed reflexive concern for the oppressed accounts for much of ideology’s persuasive power.) Of course there’s no doubt that some oppression is real. However ideology is a slippery and dangerous thing. Consider the well-known horrors of Communism. Gulags, show trials and mass killings have been driven by ideology, and justified (quite sincerely, I believe) by concern for the oppressed. Or consider an example that Minogue raises: the radical feminist doctrine that sexual intercourse is “occupation of the oppressed by the oppressor” (P. 47). Should that view be uncritically accepted (particularly since it is being expressed by a member of the oppressed class)? What about the ideology of anti-Semitism, according to which non-Jews are oppressed by a hidden structure of Jewish media and financial control? Surely that shouldn’t be taken at face value. These issues obviously can’t be sorted out here. My point is simply that a skeptical attitude is warranted toward ideologies (and claims of oppression). One of the basic motifs of ideology is the idea of brainwashing (what Marxists call “false consciousness”). Ideology claims that, under the veneer, society is an ugly, all-pervasive system of oppression. It’s oddly reminiscent of the ancient Gnostic idea that the material world is dominated by the Devil. But if that’s the case, why don’t the proles notice the oppression and spontaneously revolt? The answer is that people are brainwashed by the system to actually enjoy and assist in their own oppression. Suppose, for argument’s sake, that 90% of the women in a certain country prefer being housewives. The ideological response would be that these women have been brainwashed by the patriarchy, and need to be educated. They aren’t facing reality. Minogue raises some important points about such brainwashing claims. First, they show the conflict between ideology and democracy. Surely brainwashed fools should not be allowed to determine their own destiny or affect policy? A related principle is what Minogue calls Talmon’s Fork: “Either a democratic vote elects the enlightened to power, or it does not. If so, it is unnecessary. If not it is pernicious” (P. 238). Second, the doctrine of mass-brainwashing is ironic: ideology, despite its pretense of egalitarianism, requires an elite to tell the deluded masses what is actually going on. Third, the brainwashing charge is convenient from a rhetorical standpoint. If a woman disagrees with feminism, that simply proves she’s been brainwashed, and is a tool of the oppressors. Indeed, a housewife’s stubborn claims of not being oppressed are damning evidence that she actually is oppressed. Ideology has an unstable hybrid nature. On one hand, it aspires to be scientific, and enjoy the prestige of the academy. Marx himself made the grandiose (and obviously false) claim that he had discovered a science of history. (Vestiges of this strain of thought are still evident today, e.g., in talk about irreversible progress, and the “right side of history” or—to use Trotsky’s phrase—the “dustbin of history.”) On the other hand, ideology has an impatience for action which conflicts with the dispassionate standards of the academy. This is what gives ideology its melodramatic, Manichaean tone. You can’t motivate people to revolt based on an objective picture of The Other. Even a trace of sympathy or positive understanding will sap the will to act. As the communist Rubashov puts it in Koestler’s Darkness at Noon: “It is necessary to hammer every sentence into the head of the masses by repetition and simplification. What is presented as right must shine like gold; what is presented as wrong must be black as pitch.” Or in the words of Minogue: “Politics is impossible between oppressor and oppressed. There can only be total war.” This highlights another feature of ideology: its rigid, didactic certainty. Minogue compares it to religious revelation. As he points out, the academy is generally a low-key place concerned with workaday facts, and scholars are unperturbed (or even thrilled) if their field gets turned upside-down by new findings or theories. Detached scientific thinking of this sort is anathema to ideology. Basic ideological “truths”—like the identification of the oppressor/oppressed, or the existence of the hidden oppressive system—are simply not on the table, and must never be subjected to dispassionate questioning. Skepticism about ideology insults the oppressed, and gives succor to the oppressor. Rejection of the imperative to cause change results in mere “fact-grubbing.” Bourgeois science. This means ideology can only be criticized on its own terms. It does not allow for the existence of any “neutral” position, where facts might be objectively assessed. Critics are derisively labeled and forced into roles within the ideologist’s melodrama. At the extreme, this ramifies into ideas like “the academy is a tool of the bourgeois” or “logic and science are the creation of white males, and part of the oppressive structure.” In short, ideologists rule academics out of court. All thought reflects interests, and anyone not fully on board with ideological certainties (i.e., an oppressor) doesn’t have standing to respond. Here I’ve sketched a few of the most interesting themes of Alien Powers. It’s a very stimulating book, but does have a number of problems. First it was written in 1985, during the Cold War, and is too focused on Marxism proper. Minogue wrote in the early phase of today’s “ideology explosion,” and though he was well ahead of the curve, he missed some of its most salient elements. For example, Marxism was concerned with eliminating individualism/egoism and strengthening community/solidarity; whereas today’s ideologies encourage individualism. Gender-identity, for example, has fragmented into a kaleidoscopic variety of types. In a similar vein, Communist states tended to resist cosmopolitanism (e.g., the isolation of the USSR), whereas modern ideologies embrace it. This struck me as the biggest disconnect between Minogue’s analysis and current conditions. But it raises an interesting, indeed ideological, question: Is 21st century ideology focused on individualism/cosmopolitanism because those trends serve the interests of the era’s dominant powers, e.g., large corporations and governments? One could make a good case along those lines. Classic Marxism was fixated on economic and political power; it was a genuine threat to wealth and the status quo. Today’s ideologies, on the other hand, are focused on culture and lifestyle — “cultural Marxism” as the phrase goes. Isn’t that exactly the sort of “revolution” that the status quo would prefer people channel their energies into? Could it be that ideology itself has been (paradoxically) turned into a tool of domination? Minogue mentions an interesting political strategy: a central government may ally itself with ordinary citizens, and advocate for their rights, as a way to break the power of the mid-level nobility which stands in the way of greater central power. Consider the Solidarity trade union movement of the 1980s, and its fight against the communist party in Poland. The revolt was driven by mid-level organizations like trade unions and the Catholic church. Groups like unions, religions, nations and ethnicities have the size and inclination to resist centralized power, so it serves the interest of a central power to ally with individuals and fragment these blocks. If the strategy works, intermediate groups are dissolved leaving only two layers: powerful states/corporations, and easily-controlled atomized individuals. “Happiness” and “individuality” can be the bait/reward component of this strategy. Compare this with Classic Marxism, which flatly rejected happiness as a goal. It was the ultimate no-nonsense ideology, with a laser-like focus on seizing the levers of power. Although Alien Powers is not a fully satisfying analysis, it’s a good starting point for those interested in understanding the increasingly ideological tone of politics in the 21st century.”m
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” – Mahatma Gandhi
God grant Janice Fiamengo many years. This briliant woman is courageousy standing up to the tyrants seeking to implement their secular religion against Christian truth and lived reality.
There is no Just Mercy in the Marxist and/or Cultural Marxist faith and inevitably leads to the anti-Christ desire to sacrifice others i’ve looked at previously in Illich, Girard, Paul Gottfried and co.
”The ultimate focus is not payback for what you did. Did you pay that other person back for what they did? Did God pay these people back for the wickedness they did? The real question is, “Have things been set right?” Yes, this wickedness was committed, but has the relationship been restored? And setting things right does not always require retribution. In fact, I would say most of the time, setting things right requires mercy.”
Add this to anachronism as one of the major sins of the quest for what Sowell calls ‘cosmic justice’; an ideological parody of true justice.
Lest we forget, God gifts us the freedom to follow Him or not, ideology doesn’t.
http://www.berdyaev.com/berdiaev/berd_lib/1905_115.html The catechesis of Marxism
It’s amazing how people can manage to be so prideful, ignorant and self-righteous all in one. Always a temptation but particularly problematic in our time and place as an unholy trinity of modern social (media) convention. The devil’s working overtime.
His tribe is ‘the oppressed’, in a miasmic phantom alternate ‘reality’, superimposed on earth. A place where one IS, ultimately, their group/s as defined by the secular high priests of ‘critical theory’ and his main identity is one of a victim who needs to educate the ignorant ‘out there’ whilst annihilating the ‘phobes’; motivated by his immense disgust. Evil is always outside people like that- the unfallen.
We can see where this mindset has come from by reading the works of people like Fr Ivan Illich, Christopher Lasch, Jordan Peterson, Jacques Ellul and Rollo May.
Many of the descriptors of the narcissist or schizo referenced by Lasch and May put the modern utopian (as Ellul describes it) in context clarifyingly.
”I’m not a fan of the term “white theology”, for several reasons.
1. It makes the criteria for a theology its *origin* not its *object*. A theology is neither good nor bad based on where it come from, but rather on what it focuses on or espouses.
Origin is not an irrelevant category when evaluating a theology, but it is not the defining category. Historical orthodoxy & biblical fidelity, are two examples of more relevant criteria.
2. The term “white theology” implies a sense of collusion among a diverse set of theologians over many geographic areas & eras to systematically oppress minorities on the basis on skin color— an implication that is sloppy at best.
3. Origin and context of a particular theology *do* matter— and it is because they matter that things cannot be collapsed into “white”. French, German, British, Roman…are very different contexts…and theologians from these regions emerge over very different eras.
It is much better to think in the 4 terms the Bible uses for diversity— ethnicity, language, geography, & culture. It is helpful to evaluate the ethnic, linguistic, geographical, & cultural context from which a theology emerges. It is not helpful to designate “white theology”.”
- Pastor Glenn Packiam, on Twitter.
Honour your father and mother- Earthly and Heavenly
Wisdom- Tremper Longman
Love your wife and kids-
Guroian, Stephen Muse, Fr Behr,
Clean your room- Peterson
Tidy your pantry- Pollan, Capon, Wirzba
Fix up your house- Scruton, Frederica M Green
Tend to the garden- Guroian
Love thy neighbour- Stephen Muse, Love Human and Divine
Look after the neighbourhood and/or Caress the farm- Berry, Salatin, Ellen Davis, Jacques Ellul, Leithart
Care for your culture- Fujimura, Begbie, Robert K Johson, Bishop Barron
A holy nation- Pearse, Aurobindo, John O’ Donohue, Scruton
Pentecost and The Kingdom -Bobrinskoy, Met Ware, Schmemann, Bible Project
”At the very end of Revelation, though, John stands on the last of the Bible’s mountains to see the heavenly Jerusalem descend. It’s a garden city, with a river flowing down its golden boulevards and fruit trees on it banks…” https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2016/05/ascent-descent-and-human-destiny
“We, today, have a language to celebrate waywardness, but we do not have a cultural language to bring people back home.” – Makoto Fujimura
What Japanese- American artist Makoto Fujimura has done with his shared Four Gospels project is that he has made manifest the kind of beautiful, unnecessarily necessary culture play that the Christian Faith encourages. 1
Such creative witness immerses us more in time whilst also catching a sail on the wind of history.
At odds with the worship of faux- originality, this is not altogether new but manifests the Gospel in a particular manner for his time and place in a refreshingly new way. In doing so, he draws upon his various worthwhile identities and harmonises them to bear witness as only he can. Previously, in our ancient nation, known as Hibernia by the Romans, we created our own beautiful holy books. We are endowed with many wonderful Christian artefacts which rose up from similar deep soils of cultural memory and the flowering of Faith. 2 Love letters from man to God in response to His Word.2.5
This Christian cultivation of culture and what Makoto calls ‘culture care’ drinks at the life-giving spring of Revelation and is vital in harnessing the power and grace of beauty to convert our hearts and minds. It also feeds the poor weary soul, as ”the poor need beauty as they need food”, in Bishop Barron’s phrase.
Moreover, great art made in light of communion might act as a bulwark against the shallowness of contemporary ideology, which invents it’s own categories antithetical to the aesthetically expansive, inclusive language and symbols of The Gospel. The Four Gospels buoys us up delectably.
This is important, as Fr James Schall suggests, “Why bring up any reconsideration of ideology? The world that most people now live in is an ideological world. It is a world whose limits and configuration are assembled from their desires of what they would like to be, not to *what* is.” 3
These limits and this configuration have a particularly malevolent geneology and character, which is contrary to The Kerygma. This has been charted by thinkers such as Christopher Lasch, Robert Nisbet, Paul Gottfried and Gerard Casey. 3.25
One example of faithful tending to The Gospel is the rightly renowned and lavishly illustrated Book of Kells. ( Pictured below is the opening text in the Gospel of St John.)
To create beautiful works like this commands a healthy respect for deep roots, making the most of our own time and a vision, futurist and fufilled in Christ. 3.80 Certain scarcity and certain abundance combine in creative tension. The principle of scarcity has shown to be of central importance in governing human behaviour.* This concerns our very being as creatures, subject to death and decay. Christian psychologist has researched how our fear of death motivates us to act and considered common Eastern Orthodox approaches to this problem.3.82 His use of Orthodox Theology is good, as far as it goes but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Neither does Becker, whose thought he utilises. Becker considered our institutions and creations that survive our physical death in terms of them being a response to the fear that it induces. This half-truth, or less than half truth, misses out our nature as human beings, creatures meant for deification- not as individuals but as persons in communion reflective of the trinity itself. It is life, eternal life, that is even more significant and our creations are not all our own or motivated solely by the fear of death. The fear of the LORD is the begging of wisdom after all. By taking part in culture- making that transcends death, we are partaking in the Kingdom even here on earth. We are living a life now that will be even more full in the kingdom. By considering this, in a manner comparable to Chesterton’s democracy of the dead, we become more human and formed in Christ as his body.3.85 This is a ‘creative tension’ we see in various kinds of Mission. 3.90
This is both work and play, ‘useful’ but so much more than that. 3.95 If we persist in the shallow language and false consciousness that today’s ideologies induce in us then we will not be able to cultivate the Spirit for co-creations such as these. The ‘buffered self’ shuts us off from such transcendence. 3.99 Let us remember who we are. 4 5 6
The legendary lunatic farmer, Joel Salatin, recognises this in agricultural terms whereby by giving glory to creation, we give glory to God.6.5 In ‘The Marvellous Pigness of Pigs’ he points out examples from the scripture which refer to the glory of pigs, people and even places; all of which work towards the glory of God.6.75
Metropolitan Gregorios proclaimed in his recent time that the principle task of Theology was to discern a genuinely Christian Theology of Liberation. We can agree and this is especially pressing given the claims to freedom that ‘social justice warriors’ make when perverting the message of The Gospel. Co-creating with God and our neighbours in time and space frees us from the dullness wrought by sin and death and evident in these modern sophist philosophies. Ultimately, it has it’s role in our Theosis.7
To echo the Malankara Metropolitan, we must meet these challenges by becoming more sensitive to ”the transcendental dimensions of both history and salvation.”8
”You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”8.25
For the Irish in particular, we need to bear witness as distinct Celtic Christians, taking ourselves out of the falseness of totalitarian identity politics, imported from French continental philosophy and the unholy fools of American universities. Resisting it’s flattening distortions of history, recognising the Pentecostal diversity of the world in Incarnate time and place. Not just individuals but cultures gratefully appropriating the gift of The Gospel to our own times and places. 8.5 8.75 Fr John O’Donohue has popularised a kind of Celtic Christian way of being and is a good guide to begin with.9
Review of Makoto Fujimura’s book, Culture Care-
Makoto writes beautifully and presents a beguiling vision for culture and the arts, whilst properly criticising the commercialism of art and life. The gratuitous beauty and goodness of creation and our role in co-creation are restored to their rightful place via his biblical vista. Focusing on organic metaphors, Makoto makes room for a florishing of fertility and does well to plant seeds for ripening.
Yet, it’s all a bit too idealistic unfortunately, especially in trying to redeem our ‘common life’ without a holistic radical conversion. There’s an element of him preaching to the choir, in spite of his best intentions. All of these wonderful ideas and forms can be followed, but within the mileau of Christian culture- whether that’s ‘inside’ or ‘outside’ the church. Makoto speaks sweetly of Dickinson and Van Gogh, testifying to the power of their witness and forthrightness to follow their vocations even if that meant going against the herd. Fantastic yes, but the line between the church and outside the church that he draws is a red herring and misses the point that they could do this because the church was still so central. This is regrettably no longer the case as Dr Gerard Casey makes clear in critiquing modern secularisms. Moreover, as we see in John Gatta’s book on The Transfiguration, there’s a great both/and playing out in Christ. We need both to be orthodox and The Church holds the margins in their rightful place precisely by acting as a foci. (He makes this point later in referring to Christ as The Good Shepherd so it’s a matter of consistently appying the principle and allowing it to bear fruits even when it upsets good friends- scandal to the Jews, foolishness to the Greeks.
Attacking utilitarinism is excellent and Christians do get sucked into this mindset too easily. We should not try and force the terms ‘Christian’ art, ‘Christian’ music, etc in the manner which quite literalist evangelicals have done. However, being intentionally Christian is important in order to bear true witness and we can be both adjective Christians who follow Christ as a noun. If we recast what they were trying to do in a more layered symbolic manner then we will be on the right path. The Church over time, rather than acting negatively, helps us here. (See Jonathan Pageau’s and Fr Schmemann’s work)
The many competing narratives at play in postmodernism, government intervention and strength of consumerism assiduously undermine the Christian Way. So,in attempting to build bridges that are constantly being burned, Christians are in danger of being stranded. Fujimura gets this but doesn’t follow through on some of his own skepticism. It’s a nice attitude to have, refreshingly open, etc but ultimately untenable unless harnessed with decisive discernment.
Peterson suggests artistic people are generally higher in openess and we can see this in the ability and longing to transcend differences for common purpose, yet there is a dark side and it is constantly exploited, especially by cultural marxism today. Those who want to balance unity and difference in harmony, like Fujimura, are unjustly attacked as upholding ‘power structures’ arbitrarily proffered by marxists and cultural marxists. In trying to reach out to all in Christian charity, you’re accused of being ‘part of the problem’ and obstructive to the politicisation of art. This problem need to be wrestled with by Christians, such as Makoto, and to support culture care requires a strong Christian culture. Even a healthy just culture war alongside culture care. This means a certain intentional Christian community standing aside from the fragmentation of politics, government, consumerism of America and disgust at the disgusting. To repress these forces would mean their reappearance later in distorted form and if done right it provides for a semblance of Fujimura’s optimism, in Hope.
A lovely conversation starter and vision, well written and replete with rich metaphors, in need of Christian support and calls for conversion- cultural conversion, personal conversion and other.
If you enjoy this book then I would recommend John Gatta’s sublime manuscript on The Transfiguration of Christ and Creation, Dr Norman Wirzba’s books and Roger Scruton’s work.
”The spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue ethereal sky,
And spangled heav’ns, a shining frame,
Their great original proclaim:
Th’ unwearied Sun, from day to day,
Does his Creator’s power display,
And publishes to every land
The work of an Almighty Hand.
Soon as the evening shades prevail,
The Moon takes up the wondrous tale,
And nightly to the list’ning Earth
Repeats the story of her birth:
Whilst all the stars that round her burn,
And all the planets, in their turn,
Confirm the tidings as they roll,
And spread the truth from pole to pole.
What though, in solemn silence, all
Move round the dark terrestrial ball?
What though nor real voice nor sound
Amid their radiant orbs be found?
In Reason’s ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice,
For ever singing, as they shine,
‘The Hand that made us is Divine.”
This article links neatly to what Fr Schall is writing about in his piece on Ideology. If we accept the false dichotomy of fact-opinion and similar modern shibboleths then we put ourselves at danger of ideological entrapment.
“Why bring up any reconsideration of ideology? The world that most people now live in is an ideological world. It is a world whose limits and configuration are assembled from their desires of what they would like to be, not to *what* is.”
”…We must also, however, consider the poverty that relates to power and means; I shall speak of this as political poverty. I am referring to those who lack the means of intervening with the authorities, those who lack influence, those whom the administration thinks of as the “vulgar herd,” the people who do not share in any decision-making and on whom the laws are simply imposed. I am referring to those whose only weapon is that laughable one of the ballot they cast from time to time, and who are deprived even of this since they must follow a political party if they want their “voice” to count; if they do not line up with a party, their “voice” is useless, lost, the more so as they express a more reflective and noteworthy view of their own. The man who is politically poor has no choice but to lose himself completely in the anonymity of the crowd if he wants his vote to have any chance of changing anything. Only two courses are open to him. His voice can remain his own, expressing his real sufferings, his own experience, his personal passion, but then it will not be heard; it will be useless, lost. Or he may lend his voice to a mass organization that is made up precisely of many abandoned voices; then a change can be effected but the voice of the person who contributed to form the crowd is lost (as an individual reality) just as much as before”.
–Jacques Ellul, The Betrayal of The West, page 91
…Books to read on Libertarian ways.