The discursive structures of totalitarian ideology

Wang, Yong
Major Professor
Carl W. Roberts
Committee Member
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Journal Issue
Sociology and Anthropology

Realist approaches to the study of ideology have treated ideologies as static ideas that mediate between presumed social realities and political powers. In this research the researcher views ideology as discursive practice that constitutes social realities through producing its subjects. A series of formal narrative models are established to tackle the fundamental discursive structures of ideological texts. Temporal narrative analysis is used to reconstruct grand narrative in terms of causality and social categorizations. Models of narrative modes, genres, and modalities are established to examine the processes of self-identity formation. Furthermore, a semantic analytical approach is devised to examine the associations among social identities, action modalization, and emotional displays and transformations.;Using the theoretical and analytical models established, the researcher conducted a case study on the Chinese communist ideology. Three types of texts (i.e. government pronouncements, personal stories, and editorials) are sampled from People's Daily. Analysis of government pronouncements shows that the Chinese communist ideological system typically opposes traditional Chinese culture as its antithesis. Different from traditional Chinese historical discourse, the communist ideology imposes a single teleological material cause on the organization of historical events. This ideological system contains two distinct sets of social categories: "we" and "they." Certain elements in the two sets are rendered ambiguous at initial stages of mass movements to provide targets. In contrast to traditional Chinese culture in which social identities change in degree, social identities in the communist ideological system change in kind.;Analysis of personal narratives shows that one's actantial role in a story is determined by one's social identity. Narrative conflicts are typically resolved through communications that are initiated by an in-group person. The ideology's typical narrative modality is the "right" modality, which is often opposed to traditional "obligation" modality. Semantic analysis conducted on editorials shows that proposed in-group actions are of primary importance in this ideology and only negative emotions are discursively transformable as potentials for action.;This research offers an alternative to the traditional discourses on totalitarian ideology. Findings of this research challenge the assumption that modern totalitarian system emerges in societies because their traditional cultures contain elements conducive to totalitarianism.