What is Ideology?
We are taught in our schools that ideology is a perspective, a way to see the world, and that is true to an extent. However, that is just one aspect of ideology; on its own it is incomplete. You see, every concept has a historical development to it and in a class structured society like capitalism, concepts, terms, definitions - everything – comes with their own history; their own story and development. All of this history and development is based on class struggle. Sometimes the struggle is competitive like between different class fractions of the dominant classes, sometimes it’s antagonistic like between the dominant classes and those they exploit and dominate.
Everything is a Model, or a Form of a Model
For us to have a better understanding of our reality and how it is shaped, we need to understand that everything is basically a model. Models are used as tools to study and identify reality. They’re also used for the development and application of political lines. Ideology is its own model, and the capitalist model of ideology is a tool the capitalist class uses to reproduce its ideological domination over society. It is also a tool for validation and reproduction of the dictatorship of capital. In other words, they use ideology to justify and continue capitalism. Capitalism itself being a model of a society by capital - is alo composed of many other models.
The Blurring of Class Antagonism
Historically, what class societies generally have in common is the fact that the dominant classes of a given society use ideology to justify and/or blur the mechanisms of their existence - because they exist through exploitation and domination of other classes. Under medieval feudalism for example, the peasantry was well aware of the fruits of their stolen labor reproducing the feudal hierarchy (be it nobility, royalty or some other form of class) – they had to physically give a portion of their crop yields no matter what. The ideology of the feudal dominant classes though was always justifying this arrangement, such as through the “divine right” of Kings, Tsars, Popes Bishops, etc., or through other justifications of cheiftanship heirarchy - whether hereditary or elected by some defined constituency.
Depending on the era, the place, and the particular class struggle, the forms this ideology takes are different. Feudalism in Africa takes on a unique character from feudalism in Europe, Asia or the Americas for example.
Capitalist Ideological Domination
At any stage of capitalism’s development, its ideology takes many forms with many tendencies. All these forms and tendencies compete with each other in the greater model of capitalist ideology. Capitalism’s main objective is the accumulation of capital and different class fractions (which are based on their particular form of accumulation; so industrial vs banking for example) have their own ideological tendencies to reproduce themselves and to struggle with the other tendencies with the objective to emerge as the hegemonic one to lead capital's further development. We are witnessing this now in the fascist consolidation with the political struggles between the different class fractions represented by Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi, AOC, etc.
Ideology as a Historical Process
For example, when capitalism was in its earlier stages of historical development in the US, the form the ideology took was used to justify the plunder of the American landscape. So, the concept of the indigenous population as “savages”, and later the concept of “Manifest Destiny” came to life. All this was used to validate, rationalize, and coordinate capitalist expansion. During those stages this was done from stealing the lands of the native resident and these concepts were part of the dominant ideology of the time.
As this process continued and the factories were built, capitalism as the model of societal organization was reaching a higher level of consolidation; it was coming into itself. Capitalism’s core is the fundamental class antagonism between capital and labor – which goes through the process of labor exploitation. So, the concept of “freed” workers was emerging as a tendency which would eventually battle with the concept of chattel slavery (the idea that one human can own another as private property). Chattel slavery, as a form of capitalist reproduction, was eventually defeated and outlawed throughout most of the world by the late 19th century.
The struggle against chattel slavery unfolded in various ways in different countries. In the United States, abolitionists managed to temporarily dissolve the unity of the US bourgeoisie by widening a wedge between an agrarian bourgeois fraction which depended directly upon chattel slave labor—and an urbanized fraction which depended directly upon urban wage labor (even though it also needed the commodities produced by slave in the agrarian faction's turf). Both bourgeois factions claimed ideological ownership of the concepts of Manifest Destiny and the continuing industrialization/development of capitalism.
The main ideological difference between these two bourgeois camps was that one was willing to extend the bourgeois democratic right of personal self-ownership to nearly everyone within their physical territory. The other faction only wanted to extend that right to a limited “middle” class, while permanently withholding it from a rapidly growing number of enslaved laborers—about 4 million by 1860—which the agrarian bourgeois faction planned to continue increasing.
Since ideology is an element of infrastructure used to reproduce the domination of the capitalist class- when we are told to pick ourselves up from our bootstraps this is a form of ideological domination. The same with the whole concept of wanting to be “the boss” and any of the “alternatives” capitalism offers us. Capitalist forms of “empowerment” are commodified products serving the ideological aspect of individualism. The capitalist mode of production requires us to be disorganized and not realiz our collective potential because if we organize ourselves, we have the capacity to build an ACTUAL alternative to capitalism, which of course capitalism doesn't want – it’s enjoying its dictatorship.
Since all the capitalist fractions use ideology to blur the class reality (Capital’s exploitation of labor), they have each developed their own forms of identity politics to this end. So, they’ll give us women politicians, gay politicians, nike deals for “black lives matter”, MAGA hats, and many other forms of commodified identity to keep us unorganized for our common CLASS interests. Capitalism produces such ideologies during all of its stages. However, as capitalism goes deeper into crisis, bourgeois identity politics get pushed even more to the front.
The different capitalist fractions are now waging an intensifying ideological struggle between themselves as they offer their own “alternatives” to the crisis that banking and finance capital created. Our wages are stagnant, our benefits are cut and everything is privatized. Most of us desire a change in the world. But change left in the hands of a class which exists trough exploitation and domination is not a change worth realizing. We need a new model. We’re tired of this constructed, planned, and organized theft that’s producing this deep social misery.