The Ruling Class and the Ruling Ideas, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (1845)
The predominant conviction in a society is built by the dominant group, which owns the power over the production means and governs the rest of the society. The other part is considered as unconscious and unable to think, so that the ruling class alone holds the role of “the production and distribution of the ideas”. This can also be studied in the model of base and superstructure, where the intellectuals in the superstructure creates the illusion of the necessity of their hegemony, while the other members of the society are only passive receptors of the ruling ideas. To recognize the power of the idea in history it is essential to separate the idea of the ruler, but to avoid a confusion in this abstraction, the ideas nevertheless needs to be transformed into a chain of persons who represent the concept. These thinkers then embody the dominant force in history.
History of the Subaltern Classes, The Concept of Ideology, Cultural Themes: Ideological Material, Antonio Gramsci (ca.1930)
A State is considered as a historical unity of the ruling class. A subaltern class cannot be seen as a unit as long it has not the same constitution as a State, but its history merges together with the one of the political and civil society. Gramsci mentions several essential points to study subaltern classes and ends in asserting that the power of a social group is demonstrated in “domination” and “intellectual leadership”. A social group dominates divided groups and leads allied groups, a necessary exercise before achieving governmental power.
The investigation of the origin of ideas works by breaking them down into their original elements, the sensations. Gramsci introduces the term of “sensationalism” and asks how the concept of Ideology as an aspect of it, developed from the “science of ideas” to a specific “system of ideas”. He opposes the notion of Ideology in the Marxists philosophy and underlines several misinterpretations of the term: First of all it should only be seen as a part of the superstructure and not also as a part of “particular individuals”. Furthermore Ideology should not be conceived detached from the structure. Then it is not the superstructure that produces Ideology but inverse. Finally, historical ideologies are essential to structure “human masses”, whereas ideologies of individuals only create controversy. Nevertheless “popular beliefs” can after Marx have the same energy as material force, what leads to the explanation of another two-part model containing the content/material and the form/ideology.
The prominent role in preventing the intellectual leadership is implied in the press. Besides that, everything that has an impact on the public opinion plays a role in maintaining the leading structure. It is important to strengthen the awareness of these mechanisms of control.
Gramsci opposes Marx thoughts by declaring that the idea can not be seen separated from the ruling class and that it is not the superstructure that creates the Ideology but inverse. However both adopt a two-part model with reciprocal interferences, Marx with the base and superstructure and Gramsci who mentions content and form, what presents each time a juxtaposition of material and thought.