Ideology, imagology, and critical thought: The impoverishment of politics

Jon Simons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


The shift from ideological politics to politics dominated by the media is characterized by Kundera as the rise of imagology. In Habermas's terms, imagology contributes to the systematic distortion of communication and impoverishes politics by undermining critical public reasoning. His view is shared by much recent research on the media and political communication. Deliberative democracy is proposed by Habermas and others as an antidote to imagology. This paper argues that the above line of reasoning errs by assuming that critical reasoning must take the form of verbal argumentation. This assumption leads commentators to over-emphasize the differences between systematic verbal presentation of ideas (ideologies) and visual and narrative representations (imagologies). Following Jameson and Hall, both forms can be understood as ideology in a Marxist sense. Rather than denigrating images as foreign to rational reflection, it is argued with reference to W. J. T. Mitchell that images are as amenable to critical interpretation as verbal argument.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-103
JournalJournal of Political Ideologies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


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