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Ideology - Essay Example

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Of course, by its manifestations in every aspect of the material world including social structure and gender roles, ideology comes to have a material existence of its own (165). When I express 'my own thoughts' in 'my own words' I am greatly circumscribed by ideological norms about what I can express and how I can express it: whether to a single listener or to a global audience. By making visible the powerful influences on communication (the material relations between author and recipient; the choice of form and style as historically determined), the study of ideology enables a piece of communication to be viewed as a product of the status quo with which it dialectically engages.
Language - whether verbal or nonverbal - is a system of symbols which are given meaning by mutual agreement. There is no universal physical reality to the representation of a particular entity by the word 'dog.' In the case of onomatopoeic words there is some auditory similarity between the represented sound and the representing word: e.g. 'bow wow' is a loose mimicry of a dog barking. But the vast majority of signifiers: words (me), signs (the exclamation point) and symbols (the Mitsubishi logo) are pure symbols: the signification is perfectly non-representative. The most sophisticated forms of communication are purely symbolic: the oldest known script, Sumerian hieroglyphics, began with representative drawings which became more and more stylised and symbolic. Of course, the non-universality of symbols is not obvious: when we learn a language we agree that 'dog' indicates a particular entity in the real world and that the purely arbitrary collection of symbols 'dog' is associated with particular ways of moving our articulators and producing sound.
Is language then, artificial Noam Chomsky suggests that human beings are born with the inherent ability to imbibe language; and this ability seems to be universal. People can learn new languages well into late life and babies can acquire multiple languages simultaneously and apparently effortlessly. It is not language that is artificial but the particular significations (signifier-signified relationships) of any given language. This kind of artificiality typifies ideology or any of its components, for example the ascription of certain human qualities to inanimate entities (the rose as a symbol of love suggests something about the culture that accepts such a symbol). Any given communication, whether interpersonal or mass-scale, can then be viewed as an iceberg, with the bulk of meaning residing under the level of consciousness. A rose with its petals being torn off by the wind evokes strong emotions not attributable to the mere sensation of watching a flower being disassembled. The rose is not 'saying' anything new; rather, its very presence and conditions call forth a predictable set of responses: to quote Barthes: "it comes and seeks me out in order to oblige me to acknowledge the body of intentions which have motivated it and arranged it there as the signal of an individual history, as a confidence and a complicity" (Mythologies 48).
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Ideology is intrinsically invisible, making the existing conditions and relations of production appear inevitable, natural, and desirable. Althusser describes ideology as the imaginary relation of people to the real condition of existence (Essays on Ideology 164)…
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Ideology essay example
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