Response to McGee’s Ideograph

The key argument of McGee’s piece is “ideograph links the rhetoric and ideology.” In order to elaborate his argument, McGee defines the term “ideology” firstly. “Human beings in collectively behave and think differently than human being in isolation.”(p2). McGee lists Marx and Mannheim, Symbolists, Materialists and Neo-Marxian’s understandings of ideology. The Marxian emphasizes the political consciousness will give human a false “reality” by their political power whereas the Symbolist believes the people uses symbol to create a reality, and the impact of material phenomena determines the process of creating the reality. McGee prefers the Marxian’s point of view that “each of us has erred to the extent that we have conceived the rubrics of symbolism as an alternative rather than supplemental description of political consciousness.”(P4)

McGee proposes his hypotheses: “If a mass consciousness exists at all, it must be empirically “present”, itself a thing obvious to those who participate in it, or at least empirically manifested in the language which communicates it (P4).” And this language is a product of persuasion, a kind of rhetoric. So McGee suggests that “ideology in practice is a political language, preserved in rhetorical documents, with the capacity to dictate decision and control public belief and behavior. (P5)”

The characteristics of ideology are discussed: The ideology is transcendent; as a result, McGee argues that peoples’ belief, behavior and tradition are accumulated and the medium of accumulation is ideographs. In other words, ideographs are the basic structural elements to build the “ideology”.

Ortega distinguishes the social usage of language and a pure thought. McGee argues that the pure thought can’t exist because you can’t find a historical and unpolluted ideograph which constructs the meaning. The ideograph constructed the ideology chronically and synchronically. The ideograph varies from situation to situation. Sometimes the variation can’t come to a consensus, and the forces will show. By analyzing the rhetoric, we can explain the tension between the “objective reality” and the “social reality”.

I think McGee overstress the influence of political consciousness on the reality, although his contention is the ideographs accumulate historically. Nevertheless, we cannot deny the human beings’ will and sometimes the intention of an individual is powerful. When the consciousness of the human being as a whole, conflicts with the political reality seriously, what will happen? A revolution? 


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