Saturday, June 7, 2014

To Be Universal

Alvin Gouldner [in The Dialectic of Ideology and Technology] writes:
To revert and reiterate: ideologies are partly legitimated by their claim to represent the whole.  It is precisely in this way that ideology also constitutes itself as a moral discourse. [p. 282]
The scam of every ideology, the definition of an ideology:
Ideology, we have said, redefined the private interest in terms of the public, the part in terms of the whole. It thereby transforms political action into moral conduct. [p. 283]
is putting a partial interest forward as the whole.  By claiming a universality of one sort or another, an ideology fallaciously avoids considering both whether it does in fact apply — since it applies everywhere — and the consequences it produces — since there are no alternatives to them.

But perhaps this relationship between ideologies and universality is not just the one-way implication of ideologies claiming universality.  Can't we also say that any theory or conceptual system that claims universality is thereby an ideology?  Euclid's geometry was an ideology — there was no question of its applicability nor its consequences — for the centuries until that supposed universality was put into question?  And, what did it gain during those centuries by the claim to be universal?  Its functionality was, and is, the same.  The extent of its applications has not changed, the reliability of its consequences remains what it was.  And what did we gain, besides the illusion that a universality of thought was possible?