Sunday, 24 February 2013

How to be sure you have a Political ideology- and why it matters

How can I be sure I have or lack a Political ideology? Suppose
1) I belong to a political party- how can I be sure I understand and support not merely its Manifesto, with its list of concrete policy proposals, but the ideology behind that Manifesto?
2) I don't belong to a political party but feel a sense of sympathy with some section of the conventionally given political spectrum. Is it the case that I have, at some sub conscious level, a political ideology and a political preference of a Platonic sort which I find imperfectly expressed in the menu of options available to me as a voter? How can I be sure either way?
3) I have no interest in Politics and no fixed Political allegiance but vote for particular individuals who somehow capture my imagination or who appear to be tackling an issue I feel important. Is it really the case that I have no ideology or is it that I do have an ideology which, for some reason, it is not tractable for me to articulate? Is there any way to tell for sure which camp I fall into?
4) I am sure I have a Political ideology and believe it corresponds to a publicly recognized brand but all of the knowledgeable people peddling that brand keep telling me I'm a fuckwit and that I don't know shit and should just kindly fuck off coz wot I got is a paranoid obsession not an political ideology at all. What should I do? How do I prove I do too have a political ideology and what's more it can kick the ass of your political ideology and fart in its face and make fun of its puny genitals.

What is Ideology?
Something physiological.  Either ideas are secretions of some sort which tell us about the disposition of our internal organs or else they sui generis change something internally such that we produce more and more of the same thing.
Suppose Ideology wasn't physiological, wasn't supervenient on some biological fact, then it would change as the Weltgeist changes and be nothing in itself- under these circumstances, as happened with Johannes Peter Muller, studying Hegel would lead, not to trying to shit higher than one's arsehole, but to the rejection of any theory not founded upon the most exacting and scientific observation of the facts of the case including the researcher's own internal organ responsible for secreting this Research Program. Here, it is indeed the case, contra William James, that psychologus nemo nisi physiologus- and thus the question 'do I have an Ideology' is answered at the same time as the Researcher establishes to which Rudolphi species of humanity you belong and which regime (think 'Hymn of Hate' Ernst Lissauer,  'Man without Qualities' Walter Rathenau or, the Kaiser's friend, shipping magnate Albert Ballin) makes best provision for a cozy little gas chamber for people of your sort.
On this view- the only way to find out if you really have a Political Ideology, absent some structured Social crisis so constituted as to elicit that information, is, by an application of Muller's law of specific energies', to artificially stimulate the organism such that the same sensation is experienced.
What this means is that all we need to do is to remove a portion of your skull and stick electrodes into your brain- but also into your spinal cord, just to be on the safe side- and have ourselves a party till, hopefully before the booze runs out, we duplicate whatever Social process it is that would elicit your ideology.
Unfortunately, I'm no longer allowed to perform brain surgery- my little sister complained and Mum got real stroppy and said she'd just summarily marry me off to Vandana Siva (got a good dowry, that girl) if I tried it again- so, I guess this is a good time to introduce two crucial concepts linked to ideology- viz. responsibility and punishability.

Having an ideology will soon mean- so invidious all post-modern insurgency- that the ingrowing Cliodynamics of Peace-as-War will hold you to a, higher if vicarious, 'command responsibility'  even if you yourself are utterly and self evidently ineffectual in terms of accomplishing whatever evil it is you term the Good. The other side of the coin, is that ideology becomes ipso facto punishable, indeed, in the recoil from Nuremberg's weakening of the standard of mens rea, ideology took the Cabaret spotlight as the Blue Angel more intrinsically guilty.
In this context, it becomes urgent you immediately take
The Iyer test for Ideology
Task- construct a partial ordering over Stalnaker-Lewis closest possible worlds  to establish a Konus index.
Method- for any change, i , from what currently obtains, O, look at the closest possible world to our own in which it occurs and select that persona (or possible self)  in it which leaves you indifferent between worlds. Repeat, for that world's closest neighbor till you get a closed path- i.e. you are back in the original world which we designated as O.  Call this your Konus curvature for i- call it K(i).
Rank all K(i)  weakly. Call the result you Konus curvature for O. Rank for all O, to get your Konus index.
Query- what if you can't get a closed path for any O? Then you don't have an ideology. You might be Napoleon- consult a psychiatrist- but whatever you lack in inches you do not make up for by being an ideologue.
Similarly, an incomplete Konus index, implies your ideology is incomplete or of the type of a Napoleon le petit.
A bonus- if your closed paths take in every possible person then your ideology is subjectively Universalisable in the sense that there is some assumption re. preferences over basic goods plus degree of risk aversion you can make such that you can plausibly argue that everybody might acquiesce in the type of Society you choose from behind the Rawlsian veil of ignorance.
Distinguishing between Strategic and Tactical changes.
Since Ideologies counsel tactical retreats as part of a wider strategy, the difficulty arises that Ideologies might seem self-contradictory or that they end up appearing operationally indistinguishable from each other. However, since you now have a Konus index you can treat Tactical changes as being like the Slutsky Subsititution effect and Strategic advances as being like a positive Income effect. In other words, changes in real world constraints can be represented by shadow prices and the whole question of Ideology becomes tractable for Economic analysis.
Globally, it remains the case that Ideologies continue to be observationally indistinguishable- but this follows from the Sonnenschein–Mantel–Debreu theorem and has no bearing on whether or not you yourself have a coherent ideology. True, knowledge of this 'anything goes' theorem may change your Konus index or render it incomplete but that is a separate matter.
What about ontologically dysphoric ideologies?
It might be argued that ideologies are essentially ontologically dysphoric- i.e. they represent an unhappiness with having to live in a real world, with real people, interacting according to real laws- and thus the relevant domain for the Konus index is not the Stallnacker-Lewis sphere of closest possible worlds but another set of logically impossible worlds which nevertheless motivate ontological dysphoria in our sphere. In this case, those impossible worlds project into our Lewis sphere to alter preferences- i.e. that information is not being thrown away but rather is encoded in the Konus curvature.


  1. I think you are confused as to what is meant by 'ideological consistency' in the literature. Essentially, the agenda in this area of discourse has been set by 'attitudinal theory' who posit that voting decisions by Legislators, Supreme Court Judges and other such agents for whom good data-sets are available- are best explained by a unidimensional Ideological model.
    I don't really understand what you are getting at with mention of Muller (never heard of him, had to look him up on Wiki)and William James and so on. For all I know their might be some Scholarly tradition along those lines but I haven't heard of it and I don't believe it used things like Konus indices- which are used in Cost of Living calculations.
    I simply don't understand what you mean by this- 'Method- for any change, i , from what currently obtains, O, look at the closest possible world to our own in which it occurs and select that persona (or possible self) in it which leaves you indifferent between worlds. Repeat, for that world's closest neighbor till you get a closed path- i.e. you are back in the original world which we designated as O. Call this your Konus curvature for i- call it K(i).
    Rank all K(i) weakly. Call the result you Konus curvature for O. Rank for all O, to get your Konus index.'
    Let me take an example. Suppose I am a Marxist. Let the change, i, from what obtains be the privatisation of Govt. Schools- i.e. their transfer to for-profit operators. Who is the person I could be in that world whom I would just as rather be as myself in this world?
    If you are saying 'you could be the operator of a for-profit school who gains a windfall profit and is able to spend that extra money on your favourite vice' then my answer to you is that all your talk of possible worlds and so on is totally beside the point. Within this world, no doubt, there is someone I could trade places with whose private greed and vices are being gratified at such a high level that they are prepared to let their conscience, or ideology, go hang. Let us put a money value on the this- the Judas price for which you are prepared to sell out. Then, conventional Welfare Econ can chew upt this datum- the set of Judas prices give information for Kaldor-Hicks improvements. There was no need for your Konus curvature and so forth.
    In any case, you must be aware- this is Welfare Econ 101- that the essence of political or ideological preferences is that they forbid Judas prices in the same way that they forbid torture to elicit compliance. No doubt, humans are fallible creatures. There is some torture or temptation no man can withstand. But this is irrelevant to the Principle of Public Justification and thus Political Discourse.
    Frankly, if this is a joke on your part- it is a stupid joke.

  2. Why would a person with an ideology choose the Judas price-taker as preferred persona in the closest possible world? There must be some increased activism or self sacrifice in that world- which he hasn't yet been pushed into in this world- which would leave him equally satisfied with himself. Of course, if he doesn't have an ideology- your analysis is (albeit only under the grossly simplifying assumptions of Welfare Econ 101) undoubtedly right- no need for talk of possible worlds just determine the Kaldor-Hicks matrix of Judas-prices or Caiaphas-bids for any i.

    The point about an ideology, or a conscience, or a conscious espousal of meta-preferences of any description, is that some otherwise unmotivated action or gratuitous level of activism HAS to yield an equal level of self-worth for any change i.
    The reason I talk about Stalnaker-Lewis worlds and use the term Konus index is because I'm not in your Welfare Econ 101 play-pen. The metaphysics of Counterfactuals is deep not facile.
    There is an obvious reason why I've chosen to speak of a Konus index. We are talking about stuff discoverable to the agent with as much fine-graining as she wishes because we are talking about Ideology not preferences. I don't know my preferences. I never thought I'd go down on a girl till I did it. Turned out, I had a preference not to be a selfish little shit. Who would have thunk it?
    Ideologically, of course, I'm totally opposed to cunnilingus coz that's like to do With Chomskian linguistics right? And Chomsky is like totally left-wing Iyengar and writes for the Hindu and doesn't drink or smoke and gets all them Iyengar chicks and I fucking hate him. Bastard! That coulda been me. Fuck couldn't my ancestor like just listen to Ramanuja and convert to Vaishnavism back when?
    What I mean is Ramanuja was an Iyer. But he spotted that changing his name to Iyengar would turn him into a chick magnet. True, my revealed preference for cunnilingus meant I didn't die a Brahmacharee. However, my absentminded adding of Encona hot sauce to spice things up has got me many a tight slap and divorce or other such proceeding.