.. the task of the critique of ideology here is precisely to discern the hidden necessity in what appears as a mere contingency.

These same examples of the actuality of the notion of ideology, however, also render clear the reasons why today one hastens to renounce the notion of ideology: does not the critique of ideology involve a privileged place, somehow exempted from the turmoils of social life, which enables some subject-agent to perceive the very hidden mechanism that regulates social visibility and non-visibility? Is not the claim that we can accede to this place the most obvious case of ideology? Consequently, with reference to today's state of epistemological reflection, is not the notion of ideology self-defeating? So why should we cling to a notion with such obviously outdated epistemological implications (the relationship of 'representation' between thought and reality, etc.)?' Is not its utterly ambiguous and elusive character in itself a sufficient reason to abandon it? 'Ideology' can designate anything from a contemplative attitude that misrecognizes its dependence on social reality to an action-orientated set of beliefs, from the indispensable medium in which individuals live out their relations to a social structure to false ideas which legitimate a dominant political power. It seems to pop up precisely when we attempt to avoid it, while it fails to appear where one would clearly expect it to dwell.


When some procedure is denounced as 'ideological par excellence', one can be sure that its inversion is no less ideological. For example, among the procedures generally acknowledged as 'ideological' is definitely the eternalization of some historically limited condition, the act of discerning some higher Necessity in a contingent occurrence (from the grounding of male domination in the 'nature of things' to interpreting AIDS as a punishment for the sinful life of modern man; or, at a more intimate level, when we encounter our 'true love', it seems as if this is what we have been waiting for all our life, as if, in some mysterious way, all our previous life has led to this encounter . . . ) : the senseless contingency of the real is thus 'internalized', symbolized, provided with Meaning. Is not ideology, however, also the opposite procedure of failing to notice the necessity, of misperceiving it as an insignificant contingency (from the psychoanalytic cure, in which one of the main forms of the anal ysand's resistance is his insistence that his symptomatic slip of tongue was a mere lapse without any signification, up to the domain of economics, in which the ideological procedure par excellence is to reduce the crisis to an external, ultimately contingent occurrence, thus failing to take note of the inherent logic of the system that begets the crisis)? In this precise sense, ideology is the exact opposite of internalization of the external contingency: it resides in externalization of the result of an inner necessity, and the task of the critique of ideology here is precisely to discern the hidden necessity in what appears as a mere contingency.

Slavoj Zizek, Mapping Ideology



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