Everyone has their own ideology

Language and politics

Ekkehard fields

To person

Ekkehard Felder is Professor of German Studies at Heidelberg University. His research areas include political language analysis, linguistic media discourse analysis as a history of mentality and the problem of language norms and language criticism.

What is the meaning of the term ideology? And does a person's ideology also influence their use of language? Is language perhaps not a neutral medium at all, and is it impossible to speak without ideology?

Ideology and language (& copy bpb / wordle.net)

The term "ideology" is a particularly colorful and interesting term because it is directly related to the question of objectivity and truth. Not only in everyday language, sometimes also in a scientific and political context, the claim that a person represents an ideology is intended to devalue the respective point of view or even the respective person. The so-called attitude is to be reduced, for example by assuming a dogmatic-totalitarian claim to rule or an intolerant attitude.

How is such a use of the word possible if (yes) the word ideology in the etymological sense completely unsuspicious only refers to the 'doctrine of ideas'? To what extent is there any difference between Have ideas or. represent an ideology and how is it to be determined?

To answer these questions, it is helpful to take a brief and purposeful look at recent history. Because words don't have per se Rather, people ascribe meaning to words in specific linguistic usage, "using words to make meaning" on the basis of their previous communication experiences. In the following, only the two corner points of an incompatible opposition are outlined.




Ideology, knowledge, truth

"While Marx and Engels still have the possibility of looking through ideological distortions of perception, that is, of conducting ideological criticism" (Metzler Lexikon Literatur- und Kulturtheorie 1998; p. 228), Karl Mannheim (1929) represents in his work Ideology and utopia the sociological knowledge that all thinking is location-dependent and ideological. This view is ultimately compatible with post-structuralist views, which turn away from the idea that one could discover generally valid truths and "hard" facts and instead understand the struggle for the right thing as a process of negotiation in discourses. In these discourses, actors try to enforce validity claims of points of view by trying to establish validity conditions for statements in the social discourse.

In the philosophical and linguistic context, the concept of ideology is in tension with the concept of knowledge and that of truth. The concept field opens up the scope that there must be something like undoubtedly correct knowledge on the one hand and something like "unreal knowledge" on the other. This brings us to the problem of knowledge and the conditions for gaining experience. The question of things in themselves, of being, has been replaced since Immanuel Kant by looking at the forms of perception (space, time) and by the categories of understanding that shape our point of view.


Knowledge, knowledge and experience

Two questions arise in this context. First: Can one perceive reality without prior knowledge and pre-setting, that is to say with an open mind? Secondly, and in connection with this, the following can be asked: Can we only think for which we already have (a priori) categories, terms or other mental "drawers", as the prevailing philosophical view since Immanuel Kant proclaims?

The answer to the first question is clearly in the negative. Our perceptions are always influenced by prior knowledge, attitudes, expectations, cultural influences and everything that we think we already know. Just think that after media reports or media campaigns about the homeless, for example, we suddenly see many more people in the cities who we suspect might belong to this group.

The second question touches on the fundamental philosophical question of the possibilities and conditions of knowledge, knowledge and experience. It would take us too far to discuss them here, but as a recommendation to read here is the famous novel Sofie's world called by Jostein Gaarder, who discusses this basic philosophical problem in a fictional story. Instead, we sharpen the problem area from a linguistic point of view. Regardless of the differentiated answers to the questions asked, it is undoubtedly correct that we have to use natural language to exchange our experiences, feelings, attitudes and knowledge. Based on this knowledge, there was a scientific paradigm shift in the 20th century. From then on, language, its forms and effects were placed at the center of the humanities and social sciences (the work is the reference point in this context The linguistic turn by Richard Rorty from 1967).

We can therefore state that every knowledge and experience is also dependent on language, because language is the medium in which we express our knowledge of the world. To put it more pointedly, one could say: Since people can only exchange information about facts in the world in communicative interaction with the help of linguistic means, language creates the reality that we use to communicate. This does not exclude that prior to communicative understanding, language-independent primary experiences were made with the help of our senses. But if we want to talk about these impressions and experiences, we have to use the words.

First day envelope "25th anniversary of the anti-fascist protective wall". (& copy private archive Hans-Hermann Hertle)
The fundamental relevance of these thoughts for the problem of ideology will be shown using two examples:

A half-full glass (the famous example) can be seen with the eyes regardless of the name, whether it is called "half full" or "half empty". In this respect, the explosive naming of this everyday example is put into perspective when everyone present can perceive the object directly and not just on its linguistic communication or Description are dependent.

Much more exciting and politically interesting is the example of the Berlin Wall, which separated two German states for almost thirty years. You could also see it directly, from different sides at different distances (from the west side you could touch it directly, from the east it was largely cordoned off). Why was there such a violent dispute between East and West as to whether this was "an anti-fascist protective wall" or a "inhuman border"? Can there be an ideology-free standpoint on this question, i.e. a non-ideological one?