⚠️ Disclaimer: This article is written with the help of a Large Language Model (LLM).
This is a take. I’m selling you a take. Would you buy my take?
Ideology as a service probably always existed, but it’s only now that it’s becoming more and more consolidated into a single, global superstructure with the surface area of the Internet. Can it be called an Industry vertical (with some unknown market size)? Could we potentially estimate the market size of it to be greater than that of IT or Oil & Gas? Maybe, maybe not, but I’m amusing myself by flirting with this idea.
What’s distinct of this information-age late-stage capitalism in contrast to (A) pre-colonialism (mercantilism) and (B) pre- western industrial revolution (e.g. pre-Francis Bacon, Thomas Hobbes et. al.) is that the consolidation of ideology is happening into organisations (and institutions/companies) today compared to individual thinkers or small-scale schools of thought of the past. A clear example is the emergence of global policy think tanks that get funded by companies with agendas, which are peer-reviewed in some academic political setting, in journals that are also funded by companies with agendas.
A second phenomenon is the emergence of influencer-economy, i.e. influencers who are paid by companies with agendas to promote their products (product placements). These influencers often churn out content at a rate that is faster than the rate at which some can consume, leading to content that is often not well researched, often fake, and often not original.
This essay has some very unpolished notes on recognising the consolidation of ideologies as products.
What is driving ideology as a service? Some points:
One could argue that these factors are a projection, or that where’s the data that we aren’t deep thinkers and that this is regressivism, as opposed to accelerationism. Don’t get me wrong, I’m through and through an accelerationist, but I’m also a realist, and I think that the world is changing in terms of the amount of deep thinking per capita (Shall we call this DPDP then? Deep Thinking Domestic Product Per Capita? Now I will tell you a joke Zizek-style).
Look at one of the bestselling books of today, “Deep Work” by Cal Newport.
The consolidation of more and more power into organisations e.g. media, politically funded think tanks, religious organisations, large-cap companies listed on the stock markets etc.
Some organisations tend to have high net-worth shareholders, e.g. billionaires (in fiat USD terms), and so they have a lot of power by virtue of their wealth that is used to buy shares of these organisations (or in other words rich people funding think tanks / schools of thought / churches of tomorrow etc.). How did these rich people get rich? By private means of production in another industry vertical, and now they use that capital to fund this industry vertical (i.e. Ideology industry). This is consolidation. Capital. Rich get richer, and all that.
Some other organisations tend to accumulate shareholders by choiceless induction, e.g. church tax by birth, or tax to governments (otherwise imprisonment), or social policing driven donations to NGOs, etc.
As we move more into the world of today, I couldn’t help think of how to quantify the nature of the ideology product in late stage capitalism. The closest I could think of is something along the lines of the rate of production of simulucrums (the Jean Baudrillard term) per ideology per content creator capita.
What do I mean? Every concept has a TikTok video today, or a YouTube video, or an Instagram post, or a YouTube short. A concept, or an interpretation of the concept visually delivered to the consumer of it, let me be profane and question if it’s almost like a prefabricated factory-made antithesis without the dialectic (the Hegelian one).
Then, I will leave that thought there and go on to explore the state space of ideologies (which are leading to this massive increase in rate of production of simulucrums):
Alice does action X, Bob reacts with Y # Y-ism Alice does action X, Charlie reacts with Z # Z-ism Bob does action Y, Alice reacts with X # X-ism Bob does action Y, Charlie reacts with Z # Z-ism ...
Discretizing continuous spaces is my party trick. I would discretize the space of ideologies into a finite set of ideologies, and then see the state space of ideologies as some mathematical structure, and then reason about the rate of production of simulucrums per ideology per content creator capita as a function.
Therefore, we have an emergence of super-isms from the fundamental-isms. Here come combinatorics!
YZism = Y-ism + Z-ism XZism = X-ism + Z-ism XYism = X-ism + Y-ism ...
Can we think about market incentives now? # of subscribers etc?
Funding of content creation, and the ability to control the distribution of content is a private means of production. This is a big deal because it means that the content creators are beholden to the organisation that funds them, and so they are incentivised to produce content that is in line with the ideology of the organisation that funds them.
Because of bubble structures, (probably some equivalent graph theoretic construct in math?), it seems that the content that says “X” is likely to be believed true by subscribers of organisation X. Even if a new organisation Y says X, it’s likely that the subscribers of organisation X will not believe Y, because they are in a bubble of X. This is “private ownership of the means of production” in the sense that the organisation X has a monopoly on the content that says X.
Inevitably, when ideological content itself is the product, the organisation that produces it will be driven to produce more and more of it, and to produce it faster and faster, and across various channels (books, media, web, whatever). This means that the workers who produce the content, and the subscribers who pay for it, are, in a sense, exploited for profit. In other words, an organisation’s survival depends on the exploitation of workers for profit.
What’s more is that the constant production of content and the consumption of it is administered by productivity metrics (OKRs and KPIs and what nots) like views, clicks, books sold, number of people that attend a community event of Org X, and so on and so on. The organisations also themselves have a hierarchy, board members, funders, etc. and revenue, cash flow, assets and liabilities, etc.
A saying goes, that late stage capitalism produces absurdities, such as paying more for bottled water than gasoline (is that true this year? I wanted to use this example because of that. I was a bit confused on how to read my own take on the
price(bottled_water) > price(gasoline) ? true : false thing, especially in 2023, well anyway…).
So in a similar sense, in ideology as a service, organisations tend to produce absurdities. e.g. do good, but belong to our X group if not you’re a bad person, etc. etc. etc. Now this is absurd in the fact that belonging to an organisation is more important than the value of doing what the organisation says.