In his paper “The ‘Ideograph‘: A Link Between Rhetoric and Ideology,” Michael McGee introduces the idea of the ideograph: an abstract word, or set of words that “signify and ‘contain’ a unique ideological commitment” (7).
Some of my personal favorite ideographs are
McGee covers the first two a little (I’m still trying to decide what ‘equality’ would wear if it walked up my driveway), but I add the last because I find it to be a fascinating part of life – it’s in the United States Constitution – ‘pursuit of happiness.’ We all have a right to that. But what the heck is it? I’m told I’m supposed to want children because I have a womb. Incorrect. That sounds horrifying to me. Kids leak from their faces and don’t care. No thank you.
As you can tell, I take a little contention with the ideograph ‘happiness.’ But McGee tells us that the ideograph begins with an ‘ideology’ – a concept that “has atrophied” (1). So if ideology has atrophied… how do we get to the bottom of ideographs like ‘happiness’?
Arguing against the notion that there is some kind of collective consciousness (and I wonder what Bitzer thought about this), McGee tells us that “Materialists… seem to use the concept ‘ideology’ expressly to warrant normative claims regarding the exploitation of the ‘proletarian class’ by self-serving plunderers” (3).
This is where I get confused.
As McGee continues to tell us about Materialists, he then introduces symbolists who ask “how the human symbol-using, reality-creating potential impinges on material reality, ordering it normatively, ‘mythically'” (3). But… in another article we read for this week, “Reading Maternity Materially: The Case of Demi Moore,” by Barbara Dickson, “material rhetoric is a mode of interpretation that takes as its object of study the significations of material things and corporal entities” (297). Dickson differentiates material rhetoric from cultural materialism which “is primarily interested in identifying the interactions between cultural and material production, the contradictions between the two, and how those contradictions lead to changes in the relations between the two” (298). I think I need help with my ‘isms’ here. Is Dickson’s piece more of a symbolist argument according to McGee, then?
My question then becomes, how does the work that Dickson is doing here (visual materialism??) and materialism as McGee discusses it overlap?
Does Dickson’s piece, specifically her discussion of the multiple and multilayered responses to the Demi Moore cover photo,
confirm McGee’s notion that there is no mass consciousness “because ‘truth’ in politics, no matter how firmly we believe, is always an illusion” (4)?
Can we then extend McGee to talk about politics of the body? Can I talk about ideographs such as ‘beauty,’ or ‘perfection’?
Let’s see what happens when I image search these…
I’m pretty sure no two people who read this entry will have the same idea of what these concepts entail. Does that further prove McGee’s claim that cultural consciousness cannot exist?
If this is the case – and if it’s so easy to illustrate – why does it perpetuate?