Ideology and Everyday Life

Ideology and Everyday Life


The term progress just like other philosophical terms has its equivocations which register a commonality. The concept of progress is philosophical since it articulates the societal movements while at the same time contradicts it. The concept of progress having arisen socially requires critical confrontation with the real society. In the contemporary society, the concept of progress revolves around the capability of the humanity to prevent catastrophe (Mannheim, 68). The life of humanity is threatened by their global societal constitution without the development and intervention of a self-conscious global subject. The prospect of progress to prevent the occurrence of the most extreme total disaster has migrated to this global subject. Everything that involves progress has to crystallize around it. Material needs that mocked progress have been eliminated potentially.  The modern technical forces ensure that nobody on earth suffers from deprivation. 

Kant’s concept of progress is grounded in the idea of the human being. He asserts that the development of all natural capacities which form the highest purpose of Nature can only be fulfilled for humankind in the society. Through his efforts, a man should accomplish the highest purpose of Nature as well as all his appointed needs. To fulfill the purpose of nature, society should have the greatest freedom and an incessant antagonism among its population as well as precise specifications along with the preservations of the freedom’s limits so that it can co-exist with the freedom of other societies. Nature expect the humanity to establish a society which incorporates freedom under the external laws and the greatest conceivable degree with the irresistible force.

Karl Polanyi’s Argument on the Market Society

The market economy describes the systems of the market that are self-regulating. Market prices are the sole directors of the market economy. Such a market system can be said to be self-regulating since it is capable of organizing its entire economic system without any external help or interference. Polanyi argues that the most important feature that defines modernity is the emergence of the self-regulating market economy to an unprecedented extent. He insists that the market economy is neither universal nor natural contrary to the claims of economic liberalism. For thousands of years, the socioeconomic systems that incorporate markets along with other forms of both economic activities and coordination have been in existence in various forms (Fraser, 576). However, the emergence of a self-regulating market economy that is comprehensive and fully developed is not only a distinct but also a recent historical phenomenon. The market along with its system logic dominates the self-regulating market economy.

 Polanyi further argues that all the social requirements along with the consequences of a self-regulating market economy result to a substantial inclusive transformation in culture, society, and politics. Consequently, a market economy can only exist in a market society. Polanyi asserts that a pure market society would be unsustainable and unlivable for the humanity. However, the emergence of the self-regulating economy has provoked various reactions which seek to protect institutions, societies, social practices and communities along with their interest in the pressures and effects of the market. The counter-movement against the market pressures leads to self-protection of the society. In most cases, the interests of the groups are quite selfish as they try to protect themselves as well as their interests against the market pressures.

Baudrillard’s Critique of the Consumer Society

The Consumer Society by Jean Baudrillard contributes significantly in the modern sociology and philosophy. Baudrillard claims that in the Western societies, the major feature is consumption. He describes consumption as the global response that underpins the entire cultural system of the humanity. Baudrillard’s thesis states that as opposed to being a mean of satisfaction, consumption is now a means of differentiation (Goodwin, Frank and David, 169). The objectification of individuals, bodies as well as social relations have embraced the concept. The world operates according to consumption that has replaced the reality signs from the illusion of the factual world. In the consumer society, man’s life revolves around the abundance of products and objects that eventually own it. Individuals strive to find their fulfillment in the worship of wealth. The life of a consumer society is a contradictory movement where it creates objects and then destroys them to exist resulting in increased dependence on a man in relation to the matter. 

How Progress Becomes the Ideology of Our Time

Ideologies are beliefs and ideas that shape the behaviors of and individual along with the perception of the world (Mannheim, 68). Baudrillard in his critique of the consumer society asserts that codes control the consumer society. Human relationships have undergone transformation to a relationship with objects specifically consumption of those objects. The objects no longer have meaning due to their utility nor acquire meaning any longer from their concrete relationship.  In the consumer society, the objects are signs while consumption of such object-signs create a language that the society seeks to understand. The progress has become the ideology of our time since people purchase commodities to express power, prestige, style and luxury. Consumption gives pleasure rather than satisfaction. Due to progress, we strive to differentiate ourselves from others in the society, and this has become our ideology. Consumption has become our ideology as we believe that it expresses our status and style.

Polanyi understood the modern market in his concept of a market society which is historically rooted and a special form of social organization. Before the rise of the market society, the prevailing ideologies were religion and politics. In the contemporary market society, the prevailing ideology is progress (Fraser, 580). Individuals strive to control the market prices which are the sole director of the market society. Some institutions control the market prices for their interest.  The economy is submerged in the human relationships. Human beings are more involved as parts of the production processes in the market economy.


In the contemporary society, progress has become the ideology. Humankind strives to make changes in the political, social and economic fields. The term progress is hard to define since it articulates and contradicts the societal movements at the same time. Polanyi’s theory of market society along with the critique of Baudrillard enables us to understand how progress has become the ideology of our times. In the market economy, the director is the market prices. People control the market prices for their interest and to protect themselves from the market pressures and forces. The consumer society focusses on consumption of the objects that are a sign of status and style. To realize progress, human beings strive to differentiate themselves from others. Conclusively, progress has become the ideology of our time.

Works Cited

Fraser, Nancy. “Can society be commodities all the way down? Post-Polanyian reflections on capitalist crisis.” Economy and Society 43.4 (2014): 541-558.

Goodwin, Neva R., Frank Ackerman, and David Kiron, Eds. The consumer society. Vol. 2. Island Press, 2013.-169

Mannheim, Karl. Ideology and utopia. Routledge, 2013.