Philosophical Studies 177 (5):1441-1462 (2020)

Kirun Sankaran
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
I argue that contemporary accounts of ideology critique—paradigmatically those advanced by Haslanger, Jaeggi, Celikates, and Stanley—are either inadequate or redundant. The Marxian concept of ideology—a collective epistemic distortion or irrationality that helps maintain bad social arrangements—has recently returned to the forefront of debates in contemporary analytic social philosophy. Ideology critique has similarly emerged as a technique for combating such social ills by remedying those collective epistemic distortions. Ideologies are sets of social meanings or shared understandings. I argue in this paper that because agents must coordinate on them to be mutually intelligible, ideologies, on the fashionable contemporary account, are conventions. They are equilibrium solutions to a particular kind of social coordination problem. The worry is that changing pernicious conventions requires more than the epistemic remedy contemporary critical social theorists prescribe. It also requires overcoming strategic impediments like high first-mover costs. Thus contemporary proponents of ideology critique—the “new ideology critics,” as I’ll call them—face a dilemma. Either their account of social change fails to account for important strategic impediments to social change, in which case it is inadequate, or it incorporates a theory of strategic behavior, and thus merely reinvents the wheel, poorly. It adds nothing to prominent convention-based accounts of social change in the social sciences. More generally, this is an example of a pernicious trend in contemporary critical social theory. Contemporary critical social theorists have abandoned their predecessors’ commitment to engaging with social science, thereby undermining their efforts.
Keywords Ideology   Marx
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DOI 10.1007/s11098-019-01261-9
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Citations of this work BETA

Social Structural Explanation.Valerie Soon - 2021 - Philosophy Compass 16 (10):e12782.
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Institutions and Their Strength.Frank Hindriks - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy:1-18.

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