Slavov Zizek (via biblioklept.org) on ideology and Starbucks
But what is ideology?
Ideology is the process by which
cultures are structured in ways that enable the group holding power to have the maximum control with the minimum of conflict. This is not a matter of groups deliberately planning to oppress people or alter their consciousness (although this can happen), but rather a matter of how the dominant institutions in society work through values, conceptions of the world, and symbol systems, in order to legitimize the current order. […]through the widespread teaching (the social adoption) of ideas about the way things are, how the world ‘really' works and should work. These ideas [often “hidden” in the culture of daily life as in the Starbucks example above”] orient people’s thinking in such a way that they accept the current way of doing things, the current sense of what is ‘natural,’ and the current understanding of their roles in society.
—John Lye, Ideology - A brief guide
This socialization process often occurs informally, but often also manifests itself under the name of “education”.
A good example of this occurs in Aldous Huxley’s novel, Brave New World, in which humans are bred into distinct social classes or castes, and are taught never to question the “natural” “reality” of the world as they find it —as, rather, it is constructed for them:
This striking image, of moving through our unexamined social norms as a fish moves through water, of feeling most “at home” in our environment when we least question anything about it, is where ideology is most potent, and ideology, then is what we teachers are [supposedly] asking students asking to critique when we go on and on about “critical thinking”.
Truth is, if you really think do critically, you will find that it puts you at odds with those fish who like the water they swim in, and who find that thinking is precisely the last thing you want to be doing if you want to “fit in” or merely want a hassle-free, comfortable, unquestioning future, a la Cipher in The Matrix (1999)
By contrast, consider this passage from Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, in which the authorjuxtaposes kitsch (false, self-deluding sentimentality in art, politics and culture generally) and critique:
The question is thus a knife that cuts beneath the surface, beneath the apparent naturalness of our beliefs to expose the artificial, the ideological, the staged nature of the “backdrop” of our consensual reality…
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Friend:
An acquaintance of mine (least of all men a political zealot) had christened a vessel which he had just built — THE LIBERTY; and was seriously admonished by his aristocratic friends to change it for some other name. What? replied the owner very innocently — should I call THE FREEDOM? That (it was replied) would be far better, as people might then think only of Freedom of Trade; whereas LIBERTY had a jacobinical sound with it!
—What a great find, Mr. Robin. Here’s something somewhat analogous from Robert Nozick:
[…] One first needs a theory of property rights before one can apply any supposed right to life […] Therefore the right to life cannot provide the foundation for a theory of property rights.
(Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State and Utopia)