This chapter discusses of ideology as a cultural construct, and specifically the concept of Manifest Destiny. It uses the theories of Edward Said and Marianna Torgovnick as basic analytical models, along with the work of other Marxist critics.
"Ideology" is the term used in Marxist theory for the belief structures that exist in a society. In Hegel's philosophy, ideas are treated as having an independent existence, and human behavior is explained by people's voluntary allegiance to ideas they find worthy. That is, in Hegel's view, human behavior is motivated by conscious choices to pursue abstract ideals.
The preceding is, of course, an oversimplification of Hegel, but it represents the young Marx's perception of what seemed inadequate about Hegel's theory of history. Marx thought that Hegel had everything upside-down, and proceeded to rectify it. He proposed that the economic means of production are the independent variable in human history, and that the social structure of a society must be compatible with its basic economic system. Further, the ideology of the society must be one that justifies the social system in the minds of its members. This is set forth succinctly in the Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy:
In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will . . . The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. . . . It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness (Eagleton 4).
That is, instead of seeing the abstract ideals in the ideology of a society as being freely pursued by its members, Marx saw them as social constructs that serve t...