On Ideologies: Sapere Aude


The characteristics of a good lie lie in its ‘believability’ and patches of truth. Likewise a good truth, in its bitterness and ‘unbelievability’. Please widen your horizon beyond petty lies and truths. Here we are talking about humongous truths and lies that have passed in history, indented in the hearts of men. Cloaked in one deciduous garment or the other.

Man is quick to acquiesce, and when he doesn’t, quick to dispel, with impetuosity, propositions that contradict his common sense, emotional self or historical shelf. Elsewhere it has been expressed that, only those lacking or lagging in ideas need fear the market place of ideas. On this footing, I will argue that the only blemish of a “world of ideas” is the sort, by chauvinists or extremists, for hegemony, suzerainty or the foisting of a single idea, as functus officio or res judicata of a sort on a polity.

Having in mind the debacles of definitions, from Karl Marx to Louis Althusser, down to contemporary suppositions, the word “ideology” has been evolutionary and even, in some instances, revolutionary. For example, Karl Marx sees it as false consciousness- a sort of bunkum basted on the ruled class by the ruling class. This of course wasn’t the intention of Antoine Destutt de Tracy in 1976 when he first coined the word. When a word is accompanied by the suffix (-logy), it implies (the science of), as in ideology- the science of ideas.

The word has also been used in a pejorative sense, for example, by Napoleon Bonaparte, so much so that, if it is said that one has an ideology, it infers that he is a nitwit or claptrap of a sort. Louis Althusser believes that ideas are not subjective but rather  constitutes discourses that produce these believes, the material institutions and rituals that individuals take part in without submitting it to conscious examination and critical thinking are what constitute ideology.

To give this work a face lest it becomes blind, a limb lest it becomes handicap and a wife lest it becomes single, the definitions will be taken as detotalised totalities, that is, inclusion does not rule out exclusion and exclusion does not rule out inclusion.

In his quest for meaning, man has formulated quite a number of ideologies, proposing a certain beliefs or schema. They include doctrines, philosophies, body of beliefs or principles belonging to an individual or groups. Examples include, the countless (–isms) and religions that have and are in existence.

On relativity of ideologies

Elsewhere, Aristotle expressed that there is a truth to every proposition (not his exact words). Likewise, Proudhon had this to say about ideas; “all ideas are false, that is to say, contradicting or irrational, if they are taken in an exclusive or absolute sense. All ideas are true, that is to say, susceptible of being realized and useful, if they are taken in composition with others or in evolution”. When men produce ideas, it is usually borne out of the existing situation, proffering solutions, explanations or theories. Usually to favor them,  or the general community. It is only fitting then, that rain of ideas is encouraged, from nooks and cranies, from all corners and may. As there is no monopoly of ideas or the truth thereof.

Racism, for example, might have helped Europe to develop; realizing the supposed superiority of their race, gave them the leeway to economic, political and social development. Functionally, it seems therefore that this ideology played a significant role at that time. However unethical, cannot be undermined. The idea that a race is superior to another could be true or false, depending on optics, context or reference. This institutional superiority led to the supposed ‘exploitation’ or is it ‘colonization’ of Africa and the Americas and to the appreciation and elevation of Europe as many will argue. Europeans can’t but be grateful to racism, ‘a kinyi ooo, ono mi lowo oo’

Take also, feminism; it has helped women, achieve substantial progress in human rights. Giving them a place on the table. The idea that women should be given equal rights as men, could be tenable or untenable, putting the individual men and women into consideration. You won’t need the examples of the Hillary Clintons, and Theresa Mays to showcase the breakthrough capacity of women, women who have been to where millions or billions of men won’t dare. It’s high time the male chauvinists and sexists revolve or evolve in their arguments. After all it’s an ideological war. That women are equal to men, has done nothing but brought to the polity, care and concern, in dealing with women- related issues, women affairs and women rights. Women therefore, cannot but be grateful to feminism, ‘godiya mukeyi’, more of it please.


Same can be said of Socialism and Capitalism, Meritocracy and Democracy, Conservatism and Radicalism, Sunnism, Shi’ism and Sufism, Catholicism and Protestantism to mention a few. Many will argue that religions are not ideologies, usually with sentiments. Especially because of their metaphysical characters. But ideologies are not restricted to politics, with the polemics within and without; one cannot but agree that religions are ideologies.

In one definition, ideology was defined as a comprehensive normative vision that is followed by people. In another, as a set of conscious or unconscious ideas that makes up one’s belief, goals, expectations and motivations. This I believe is all encompassing.

Marx and Engels subsequently in their lives admitted that the two pamphlets which contained the essence of their teaching, i.e ‘the communist manifesto’ and ‘the address to the communist league’ were written at a time of illusion and colored by ill founded hopes. These ill founded hopes would turn out to be one of the greatest manuscripts and marks in history. These ideas will turn out to be the source of freedom, nationalism and solace for many. These ill founded hopes would turn out to be one of the most quoted, if not the most quoted references in the academia today.

It is therefore important, that we look deep within us, and bring out those ideas that are submerged in our intellectual distinct faculties. Who knows, those ideas could change the world.




















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