Criticism of ideology

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Ideology criticism describes a philosophical and sociological criticism model that shows the lack of agreement between thinking and being and analyzes the causes of the emergence of this discrepancy. The disagreement with reality circumscribed by the concept of ideology is not attributed to erroneous thinking, but rather explained as a product necessarily generated by anthropological, psychological or social causes (see: categorization ) . Uncovering the social conditions that set barriers to thought is a main motif of the classic ideology criticism by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels .

The word history of the term has never been systematically researched. An early use can be found in the early 1930s at Antonio Gramsci .

The term “criticism of ideology” must not be misunderstood as “criticism of the concept of ideology”, but on the contrary as “exposure of ideological motives in society”.

Bacon's doctrine of idols

In retrospect, the doctrine of idols of the English philosopher Francis Bacon was received as a forerunner of ideological criticism. In his Critique of Scholasticism , in the book Novum Organum (1620, German 1870) , he identifies preconceived notions in the idols and traditional opinions with a tendency towards anthropomorphic thinking, which prevented an object-adequate cognition.

Feuerbach's criticism of religion

Ludwig Feuerbach derives the concept of God from the essence of man. In his essay Das Wesen des Christianentums (1841) he understands the idea of ​​an almighty and benevolent creator God as an anthropological projection that embodies the secret desires and longings of man in a supernatural subject.

Criticism of ideology in Marx and Engels

The ideology criticism finds its classic form in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the context of their materialistic basic superstructure doctrine. In the posthumously published German Ideology , they criticize the philosophy of the Young Hegelians Feuerbach, Bruno Bauer and Max Stirner . Marx and Engels regard "morality, religion, metaphysics and other ideology and the forms of consciousness that correspond to them" as superstructure phenomena. To them, ideological criticism means first and foremost to deprive ideology of the “semblance of independence” and to explain it as dependent on material circumstances, then to analyze its function for existing or desired rule. For them, the thoughts that rule every epoch are the thoughts of the ruling class. Jürgen Habermas sees in Marx's critique of political economy the theory of bourgeois society as a critique of ideology, which in particular exposes the “basic ideology of fair exchange ”.

For the Marxist doctrine of ideology, the so-called fetish chapter from the first volume of Capital took on fundamental importance (see below).

Marx also understands ideological criticism as immanent criticism that makes the ideal (justice) claim that ideologies make the normative standard of social relations. He wants to “force the petrified circumstances to dance by singing their own melody to them” and - as a certain negation - “find the new one from the criticism of the old world”.

Lukács' reification theorem

The fetish chapter from Capital is central to Georg Lukács ' Marx exegesis . On this basis he developed a theory of reification in his collection of essays History and Class Consciousness (1923) . This is based on the idea that in the private production of goods based on the division of labor, the products become independent from their producers. Due to the shape of the goods, the work products show a self-regulating market behavior that cannot be influenced by the will of the goods owner . As a result, the social relationship of producers turns into a relationship of things. Lukács sees this as the main ideological source of the false consciousness of the proletariat. The theoretical description of false appearances could be the beginning of overcoming them.

For Christoph Demmerling , Lukács made a “groundbreaking link between Marx's 'Critique of Political Economy' and Max Weber's theory of the world-historical process of rationalization”, which he used for a “comprehensive diagnosis of the time”. According to her, the goods are not only to be found on the market, but also structure the relationships between people and shape the entire social reality.

Critique of the ideology of critical theory

The founders of critical theory appropriated the Marxist critique of ideology in particular through Lukács' theorem of reification. For them ideology is “objectively necessary and at the same time false consciousness”, the product of social conditions. Fundamental to the Frankfurt School's understanding of ideology is the social delusion created by the commodity fetish , which reflects the relationships between people as relationships between goods, as well as the exchange of equivalents , in which "right things happen but not right things". After all, he conceals the exploitation of the wage laborer, who is reimbursed for his reproduction costs as an equivalent for the expenditure of his labor power, but is cheated out of the surplus value he generates .

Emmerich Nyikos describes in “Class Unconsciousness and History” ideology as an operation on the level of the phenomenal world. That world of appearance is designed, modified, modulated, deformed or alienated to be real or illusory.

According to Adorno, the function of ideology is justification. Since it seeks to justify existing injustice with ideals and theorems of justice (in which Adorno sees “its truth”), the task of ideology criticism is to “confront ideology with its own truth”. This means that ideological criticism through immanent criticism takes the raised claim of justice at its word and exposes the injustice concealed by ideology. In the case of an equivalent exchange, this means showing that only apparently comparable things are exchanged.

Much of the work by the representatives of the Frankfurt School is based on the critique of ideology. This is already evident from the titles of some of her writings, e.g. B. Jargon of authenticity. On German ideology (Theodor W. Adorno), The one-dimensional man . Studies on the ideology of the advanced industrial society ( Herbert Marcuse ), technology and science as 'ideology' ( Jürgen Habermas ).

Sociology of knowledge

The teaching of ideology became the subject of an academic discipline, the sociology of knowledge , in the 1920s. Karl Mannheim, as one of its main representatives, understands ideology as a value-free concept , as "being-bound" thinking, i. H. rooted in a particular social situation. In contrast to the ideology-critical explanatory approaches , which pejoratively equate the concept of ideology with distorted and wrong thinking, Mannheim's “total concept of ideology” expresses that all thinking is ideological.


Classic texts

  • Francis Bacon : Novum Organum (1620). First German edition: Neues Organum . Berlin 1870.
  • Ludwig Feuerbach : The essence of Christianity (1841). Current edition after the 3rd edition from 1849: Reclam, Stuttgart 1978.
  • Georg Lukács : History and Class Consciousness (1923) . In: ders .: Georg Lukács' Works, Volume 2: Early Writings II: History and Class Consciousness . Luchterhand. Neuwied and Berlin 1968, pp. 161–517.
  • Karl Mannheim : ideology and utopia . Bonn 1929; 3. Edition. Frankfurt am Main 1952.
  • Karl Marx / Friedrich Engels : The German Ideology . Critique of the newest German philosophy in its representatives Feuerbach, B. Bauer and Stirner, and of German socialism in its various prophets . In: Marx-Engels Works, Volume 3. Dietz, Berlin 1961, pp. 9–533.

Secondary literature

  • Theodor W. Adorno : Contribution to the theory of ideologies . In: another way: Collected Writings, Volume 8: Sociological writings I . 3. Edition. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1990, pp. 457-477.
  • Hans Barth : Truth and Ideology . Eugen Rentsch Verlag, Erlenbach-Zurich 1961.
  • Max Horkheimer : A New Concept of Ideology? . In: ders .: Collected Writings, Volume 2: Philosophical early writings 1922–1932 . Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1987, pp. 272-294.
  • Kurt Lenk (Ed.): Ideology . 2nd Edition. Luchterhand, Neuwied 1964.
  • Tilman Reitz: ideology criticism . In: Wolfgang Fritz Haug (Ed.): Historical-critical dictionary of Marxism . Volume 6 / I: Hegemony to Imperialism . Argument, Hamburg 2004, columns 690–717.
  • Theory discussion: hermeneutics and ideology criticism . With contributions by Karl-Otto Apel , Claus v. Bormann, Rüdiger Bubner, Hans-Georg Gadamer , Hans Joachim Giegel, Jürgen Habermas . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1971.
  • Reinhold Zippelius : Basic concepts of legal and state sociology. 3. Edition. Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2012, pp. 8 ff., 16 ff., 20 ff.

Web links

Wiktionary: Ideology criticism  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Entry Ideologiekritik In: Wolfgang Fritz Haug (Hrsg.): Historisch -kritisches Dictionary des Marxismus . Volume 6 / I: Hegemony to Imperialism . Argument, Hamburg 2004, column 692.
  2. Kurt Lenk (Ed.): Ideology. 2nd Edition. Luchterhand, Neuwied 1964, p. 29.
  3. ^ Karl Marx / Friedrich Engels: The German Ideology. In: Marx-Engels Werke, Volume 3. Dietz, Berlin 1961, p. 26.
  4. ^ Karl Marx / Friedrich Engels: The German Ideology. In: Marx-Engels Werke, Volume 3. Dietz, Berlin 1961, p. 27.
  5. ^ Entry ideological criticism. In: Wolfgang Fritz Haug (Ed.): Historical-critical dictionary of Marxism . Volume 6 / I: Hegemony to Imperialism . Argument, Hamburg 2004, column 696.
  6. ^ Karl Marx / Friedrich Engels: The German Ideology . In: Marx-Engels Werke, Volume 3. Dietz, Berlin 1961, p. 36.
  7. Jürgen Habermas: Technology and science as 'ideology'. Suhrkamp 1969, p. 71f.
  8. See subsection The fetish character of the commodity and its secret, in: Karl Marx: Das Kapital. Critique of Political Economy. First volume (Marx-Engels Works, Volume 23). Dietz, Berlin 1962, pp. 85-98.
  9. Karl Marx: On the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right. Introduction. In: Marx-Engels Works, Volume 1. Dietz, Berlin 1961, p. 381.
  10. ^ Karl Marx: Letters from the 'German-French Yearbooks' . In: Marx-Engels Works, Volume 1. Dietz, Berlin 1961, p. 344.
  11. Entry of the fetish character of the goods . In: Wolfgang Fritz Haug (Ed.): Historical-critical dictionary of Marxism . Volume 4: Fable to Counter Power . Argument, Hamburg 1999, column 238f.
  12. Christoph Demmerling: Language and Reification. Wittgenstein, Adorno and the project of a critical theory . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1994, p. 37f.
  13. XII. Ideology . in: Institute for Social Research: Sociological digressions. After lectures and discussions . European Publishing House, Frankfurt am Main 1956, p. 168.
  14. ^ Theodor W. Adorno: Sociology and empirical research. In: another way: Collected Writings, Volume 8: Sociological writings I . 3. Edition. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1990, p. 209.
  15. Emmerich Nyikos: Class Unconsciousness and History - On the Critique of Postmodernism . Ed .: Deutscher Wissenschaftsverlag. 1st edition, ISBN 3-935176-36-8 .
  16. ^ Theodor W. Adorno: Contribution to the theory of ideologies . In: ders: Gesammelte Schriften, Volume 8: Sociological Writings I. 3rd edition. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1990, p. 465.
  17. ^ Theodor W. Adorno: Contribution to the theory of ideologies. In: another way: Collected Writings, Volume 8: Sociological writings I . 3. Edition. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1990, p. 465.
  18. Kurt Lenk (Ed.): Ideology . 2nd Edition. Luchterhand, Neuwied 1964, p. 52.