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Ideology in the Study of Music in Society

Info: 1007 words (4 pages) Essay
Published: 13th Oct 2021 in Sociology

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A consideration of ideology is essential to the study of music in society because it is an inescapable occurrence in all aspects of social life. Every person has their own beliefs and motivations, but many of these ideologies are shared with social circles, groups, nations, etc. Understanding the effects of ideology on components of social life, such as music, is vital to produce a comprehensive analysis of how these components function in society. There are three functions of ideology: integration, dissimulation, and legitimation. Together they explain the workings of ideology in society as a whole.

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The first function, integration, is the way by which we interpret actions and symbols in our surroundings. Integration is a system of symbolic mediation by which we interpret ourselves, others, and implications or intentions behind our actions. We discussed an example in which the structured space of a classroom setup could affect different expectations. In a large lecture hall with hundreds of seats, there is a distinction in hierarchy between seating sections. Those who choose to sit at the front may be more driven or proactive, while those at the back may be less inclined to involve themselves in discussion. The distance between the first row and the lecture podium may indicate a significance in power and respect, indicating that the lecturer is the focus of that immediate situation. The arrangement of these symbols invoke meaning. A Socratic seminar, in comparison, would have entirely different implications or connotations. When the desks are arranged in a circular shape, there is a notion of equal standing between all discussion participants. Perhaps most significant is the process of socialization-- what is considered 'normal' to one group may not be 'normal' to another. Essentially, how we interpret the actions and symbols in our environment dictates the integrative function of ideology.

The second function is dissimulation, or ideological distortion. Dissimulation describes the way by which a working idea is masked, such that a distorted view is produced. Our discussion of trickle-down economics lends to this concept. There is a general misconception in trickle-down economics that the success of the upper echelon in society will "trickle-down" to those lower in the pyramid, and that somehow, the benefits of the haves will benefit the have-nots, closing the gap between the two. In reality, the opposite is observed, in which the success of the haves widens the gap even further. Though, ideologically, there is a belief that there are trickle-down benefits, this view is distorted in reality. There is no consistent 'rise' between all groups. Understanding and revealing the lie of ideological claims or representations is a critique of ideology that tears away the mask.

The third function of ideology is between integration and dissimulation-- legitimation. Ideology or the claim to legitimacy can extract cultural reserves to supplement for gaps in credibility. We discussed the prevention of a legitimation crisis by this function in the commentary about the 2016 election. In the election, Trump won by electoral vote, but not by popular vote. The legitimacy of the electoral vote was called into question because of this discrepancy, but the system did not fall apart because of the claim to legitimacy's ability to extract surplus value from the cultural reserve of the nation's founding ideology. In the case of the United States, the founding ideology is the Constitution: the idea that we are a united group of states following a set of values and rules made by the nation's founders. This founding ideology allows for the justification of a gap that would otherwise not be able to be overlooked. The crisis of legitimacy is passed over because the citizenry values the shared founding ideology, legitimizing and closing the gap using this ideology.

Considering the functions of ideology calls for the consideration of utopia and Mannheim's paradox. For every function of ideology is a dialectical utopian counterpart, such that integrative function opposites excentric function, dissimulation opposites escape, and legitimation opposites challenge to existing systems of authority. Ideology always lags behind reality, while utopia is always ahead; ideology holds things back, while utopia promises future and possibility. In contrast to dissimulation, which distorts pictures of the world, utopia presents escape altogether. Utopia also contrasts the legitimating function of ideology by presenting challenges to existing systems of authority, critiquing the "current" with an idea of what "could be." Manheim's paradox presents the problem between the universalization of the concept of ideology and the critique of ideology. This paradox suggests that universalizing the concept of ideology forces us to be caught up in the condition we critique. Thus, it is impossible to denounce someone else's ideology, because one's own critiques are in themselves ideological. We are caught up in the webs of signification. Because everyone has their own interpretive grid by which they think, speak and act through ideology, there is no way to tell whose ideology is the truth; ideologically, there isn't a truth. Any critique then becomes mutual accusation. This notion of not being able to speak about ideology from a non-ideological place is the paradox itself.

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In the frame of music and society, music is an aspect of social life. Because it is part of social life and socialization as a whole, individual and collective ideologies must be considered when studying music in the context of society. Ideology is an irremovable phenomenon of social life; without ideology there is no society. Considering ideology presents the position of a sociologist in relation to their target of study. In order to study music in society one must attempt to understand the workings of society, and to do so requires a consideration of ideology.

 

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