Political Ideology Discussion Question
Instructions: You must choose two (2) essay prompts to answer from the assignment sheet. Be sure to address all facets of the questions in a thorough manner that draws upon the assigned course readings (no external readings should be included in your answers). Remember, you are expected to provide page numbers and proper citations in Chicago Manual Style to back up your argument.
Possible points: 50 points each (per question). Total: 100 points
In this section, pick two (2) of the essay prompts to answer. Each essay prompt answer should be between 500 – 800 words. This means that the total word count for the entire document should be between 1000 – 1600 words.
On page 26 of Political Liberalism, John Rawls writes:
“The reason the original position must abstract from and not be affected by the contingencies of the social world is that the conditions for a fair agreement on the principles of political justice between free and equal persons must eliminate the bargaining advantages that inevitably arise within the background institutions of any society from cumulative social, historical, and natural tendencies.”
Though Rawls notes that there are other differences that are rooted in identity, status, and natural cognitive abilities, he sets forth a political model of democratic deliberation that is primarily aimed at addressing how individuals who subscribe to different philosophical belief systems and worldviews (“comprehensive doctrines”) might come to an agreement on political matters. Rawls specifies that he is not explicitly dealing with differences rooted in identity (e.g., race, class, age) because it assumes that the individual can easily disregard these differences in their employment of “public reason.”
Drawing on the writings of Silvia Federici and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, how might feminist scholars and activists problematize and critique the above quote? In what ways might they argue that the “justice as fairness” model of deliberative democracy that Rawls sets forth is itself an ideology and/or comprehensive doctrine? Additionally, how might they critique Rawls’s understanding and theorization of difference? Do you think that they might problematize the way that Rawls separates differences based in comprehensive doctrines from those based in identity? If so, why?
On page 376 of Selections from the Prison Notebooks, Antonio Gramsci specifies that:
“‘ideology’ itself must be analyzed historically, in the terms of the philosophy of praxis, as a superstructure.”
Indeed, Gramsci argues that “it seems to me that there is a potential element of error in assessing the value of ideologies, due to the fact (by no means casual) that the name ideology is given both to the necessary superstructure of a particular structure and to the arbitrary elucabrations of particular individuals.”
Gramsci goes on to identify three processes that lead up to what he believes is an erroneous theorization or “bad sense” of ideology, writing that the first error occurs when “ideology is identified as distinct from the structure, and it is asserted that it is not ideology that changes the structure but vice versa.”
Compare and contrast Gramsci’s critique of ideology on pages 376-377 to Michel Foucault’s claim that “a régime of truth is not merely ideological or superstructural; it was a condition of the formation and development of capitalism” (in Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews & Other Writings, pages 131-133), and also to Louis Althusser’s argument that under ideological state apparatuses, “individuals are always-already subjects” (On the Reproduction of Capitalism: Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses, page 192). Additionally, how does Gramsci’s conception of organic ideologies, hegemony, and common sense compare to, and differ from, Michel Foucault’s and Louis Althusser’s respective theorizations of power?
On pages 28-31 of Ideology: An Introduction, Terry Eagleton provides six definitions of ideology. After reading the selected texts in this course, which author most sparked your intellectual passion, and which of Eagleton’s six conceptions of ideology most closely connects to, and describes, their general school of thought? Additionally, which of Eagleton’s definitions most closely aligns with the ways in which the selected author writes about ideology and power in their text?