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being driven by ideas



personal • 02.01.03  

In an earlier piece I wrote about my affected sense of ideology as a young man in the 1970s. Ideology around some sort of collectivist model was prevalent in these days - pseudo socialists and the rest - so I suppose I felt I had to have a big idea too. I contrived something that sounded plausible and relevant.

It was essentially this: I argued that I, or we, were involved in a process called localisation. This was a trend I conjectured was happening in many fields, the arts included. It was being fuelled by technology which was bringing to the provinces access to the tools of production, something previously afforded only to the cosmopolitan few. Technological change would free us up from the shackles of archaic systems of control. There would be no real barrier now to a small town like ours producing artistic work good enough for the wider world. We were an example of a social and cultural phenomenon. We would benefit from the decentralisation of power from urban centres into local environments where smaller organisations would spring up to develop structures allowing creative work to be advanced. Post industrial environments such as ours would move within a generation from people who worked with their hands to those who used their minds and imaginations.

It was nonsense really. First: as I’ve said, the notion was mostly a pretension on my part designed to fit the old mould with its requirement for an ideology. And second: it assumed a collectivist culture would grow from technological and economic progress when precisely the opposite has happened. The self-interested and ambition-oriented aspects of my enterprise were the ones relevant to the moment and were the ones that worked. The ideology was misguided.

The problem is, as with relationships, I seem to need an ideological context within which to work effectively. I am part driven by ideas so in that sense having an ethos might be necessary for me to function properly. I feel it’s important for personal identity. But the postmodern context has no ideology. Or is its ideology the fact that it doesn’t have one - a negativist philosophy? I’m rather stuck here. Am I out of step with the times in needing a coherent philosophy at all or do I need to hone that philosophy better to suit the modern age?


These remarks were made eight years ago when the internet and its leading institutions were in their infancy. It’s interesting how localisation is the very feature that has come to define the emergent culture in the sense that the new tech is manifest in distributed systems as opposed to centralised ones. As such its effect is now causing huge disruption and change. Perhaps my youthful ideology wasn’t so wide of the mark after all. Time will tell.