chapter  4
15 Pages

How can we distinguish reality from ideology?

It is perhaps difficult to remember now, but it was only twenty years ago that most people were agreed that humankind’s exploitation of nature was a more or less uncontested fact of our existence. The way in which that exploitation was organized, however, whether it should be communism, liberal capitalism or even fascism, was a matter of the fiercest debate. Now, as Zˇizˇek points out, the situation is practically reversed. Since the end of the Cold War (the great ideological struggle between communist and capitalist countries which reached its zenith during the years 1945-1991), few care to conceive of alternative forms of production to capitalism, although most people are gravely preoccupied with the potentially apocalyptic exploitation of nature itself. The result of this change is, as Zˇizˇek argues, that ‘it seems easier to imagine “the end of the world” than a far more modest change in the mode of production, as if liberal capitalism is the “real” that will somehow survive even under conditions of a global ecological catastrophe’ (TZR: 55). For Zˇizˇek, the prevalence of this paradox (the fact that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than a change to it) attests to the work of ideology. All of which raises the question: what exactly is ideology?