I recently met Eric Swanson at the conference on Jason Stanley's work in Valladolid (where I presented this paper). We had some very nice discussions about the paper he presented there entitled "Slurs and Ideologies" (latest version here [in PDF]).
I've spent some time since then thinking about the paper and realized that, despite some desultory reading of the classics, I had never really written down my thoughts on ideology. So I thought I'd compose these notes, without doing any re-reading, just trying to let my thoughts crystallize. While these notes were prompted by reading Eric's paper (and Jason's propaganda book), they are largley independent of those works and shouldn't necessarily be seen as a commentary on them.
Comments welcome, of course, here or by email.
Here's how I think of ideology: it's a set of affective-cognitive dispositions, instilled in people by their participation in practices.* Its implantation starts with kids growing up in an environment in which certain verbal and physical practices are common and once that implantation takes hold actions coming from those dispositions reinforce the ideology. An ideology doesn’t act, but it makes it easier for those who consent to the ideology to act in ways that are consonant with the content of the ideology.
I don’t think practices are part of ideologies; practices are sets of actions that interact with ideologies, implanting and being reinforced by actions that are the components of practices. For instance, mortgage redlining is a practice that is part of, and reinforces, the general practice of racial segregation which is itself part of and reinforces the way of life of white supremacy ("way of life" would be an interacting set of practices and ideologies).
I don't think a practice is like a belief, norm, value, or way of interpreting the world, which all seem cognitive / subjective. Practices are instead ways of acting in the world (but I wouldn't call it a way of interacting *with* the world, since that installs a subject / world split I think). They find their unity in a "script" which brings together affective-cognitive dispositions that guide actions, beliefs, and so on, so that by following a script different iterations of an action become a practice.
"Interests" is another difficult term here. They aren’t parts of ideologies, but they are a principle of explanation of ideology-guided actions and practices. They are more objective than a norm or value. Hence the occasional problem of a mismatch between the "true" interests of someone and their norms, values, and actions.
For example, the practice of mortgage redlining upholds the interests of certain actors who benefit from the way of life of white supremacy (e.g., white homeowners in segregated neighborhoods in which blacks can't get mortgages), and hurts the interests of those denied mortgages by that practice, but I'm not sure it’s in the same ontological class as belief, norm, value, and way of interpreting the world.
Verbal practices: some actions and the supposed motives that produce them, and the characters of people who repeatedly produce those actions, are repeatedly praised or blamed. Exposure to those verbal practices produces affective-cognitive dispositions to believe / feel in certain ways, thus leading to repetition of the actions, thus providing scripts by means of which the actions might congeal into a practice.
The same with physical practices: all the way from facial expressions: smiles, squints, frowns; bodily expressions: shrugs, recoils; social interactions: shaking hands, patting on the back, hugging, kissing, or pushing, shoving, fighting, killing....
Relating slurs to ideology is a socializing move. The power and danger of slurs is not just that they produce a series of internal representations linking words and classes of people; instead they do that *and*, by cueing ideologies, they trigger affective-cognitive dispositions and scripts resulting in thoughts and feelings and actions that conform to practices that reinforce a way of life.
Slurs are on-the-spot psychologically violent, and by cueing / reinforcing ideologies, they increase the chances of further psychological violence (by further slurs, and by internalization), and they increase the chance of physical violence by (on the outside reading) triggering scripts for practices, or (on the inside reading) by triggering the practices directly.
* In my own work I talk about "bodies politics" in order to mark social and somatic interaction which result in replication of "affective-cognitive structures", as I think including affective dispositions in "ideology" produces a lot of tension in the expanded concept with the traditional (cognitive) components of beliefs, norms, and values. But if we want to use an expanded notion of ideology I think the affective components should be made explicit.