Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ideology and the Penfield: An example of how ideology manipulates and forms society

When one stays within his or her own society, one is not likely to think about ideologies.  They just exist and are present in life.  However, when one looks at a new society, such as the one in Phillip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? one can see ideology clearly.  It is important to note that ideologies are not EXPRESSIONS of beliefssuch as, I agree with this, but not that; this is opinionbut are instead a set of beliefs that acts as a way to ORGANISE one’s thinking about one’s social system or way of life.  These beliefs are anchored by core values which, in turn, structure other ideas.   If one does not have strong core values, one is not particularly ideological.  Also, ‘the goods and services [of an ideology]...carry with them prescribed attitudes and habits, certain intellectual and emotional reactions, which bind consumers to the whole.  The products indoctrinate and manipulate.’[1]  Additionally, ‘non-operational ideas,’ ideas which are in opposition to the prevailing ideology, are seen as ‘non behavioural and subversive,’[2] and thus, bad.  This idea of ideology, and, more importantly, the role that these ‘goods and services,’ produced by the prevailing social ideology, play in Dick’s Do Androids Dream About Electric Sheep? brings up the interesting dichotomy of following societal norms and breaking away from them and how this is perceived. 
To address this question, focus on the Penfield and how both Iran and Rick interact with it in the opening scene.  Dick sets his past setting C, the point at which the Penfield ‘overcomes the threshold barring consciousness,’[3] i.e. the point at which it can create emotions, and wakes up happy.  Iran, however, sets hers on a weak setting causing her to wake up grumpy and out of sorts with the world.  Dick offers to reset her Penfield, but she wants to wake up grumpy.  The difference in how the two set their Penfields is the spark that sets of the argument about the uses of the Penfield.  Rick believes wholeheartedly in the use of the mood organ: when slightly mad, he ‘hesitates between dialling’[4] for a stimulant to make him mad, or a suppression to calm him down.  He hesitates not in regards as to what he is feeling or what his wife is feeling, but instead on what he wants to feel.  While he may not be able to control the emotions that he produces naturally‘He felt irritable, now, although he hadn’t dialled it’[5]—he can program the Penfield to make him feel anything—‘I’ll dial what is on my schedule’[6]— manipulating both himself and his situation.    Conversely, while Iran believes in manipulating both herself and the situation—‘ If you dial for greater venom, then I’ll dial the’ll see a fight that makes every argument we’ve had up to now seem like nothing’[7]—she also believes in not using the Penfield at all: In response to her desire to not dial at all, Rick tells her to dial 3, to which she responds that dialling to make her want to dial is the ‘most alien drive’ she can imagine.  She wants to be depressed and look at the floor.[8]
Rick cannot imagine why one would not use the Penfield.  This idea is as alien to him as the idea of dialling to make oneself want to dial is to Iran.  He accepts the positive and the angry emotions—ones that are well known—and the Penfield, as technology is an agent of an ideology, in the case of Do Androids? that of a highly technological society, because these are well known emotions they can be regarded as ‘prescribed attitudes and habits.’  However, despair which Iran found by ‘experimentation’[9], thus it is not common, is not a part of the emotional lexicon belonging to the societal ideology in which influences her life.  Rick keeps pushing Iran until she stops being ‘non-operational,’and 'subversive,' and enters back into the culture by programming an emotion that is well known.   Iran tries to subvert the system, but at this time is unable to due to a lack of resolve.  For a time, she resists, but the indoctrination, and manipulation, from the societal ideology, is too strong to win out over.  When one is so imbued to the societal expectations it is difficult to not be a part of it.  Pressure is applied by others, in this case Rick and his pestering, and by one's self— 'Ok, I give up; I'll dial... I feel so bad,'[10]—making one feel as if he or she cannot escape. (word count 787)

[1] Herbert Marcuse, ‘Chapter One,’ One Dimensional Man, (Boston, 1964).
[2] Ibid
[3] Phillip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (New York, 1991)pp 1.
[4] Dick (Androids) pp 2.
[5] Dick (Androids) pp 1
[6] Dick (Androids) pp 2
[7] Ibid
[8] Dick (Android) pp 4
[9] Dick (Androids) pp 3.
10] Dick (Androids) pp 5.


Brian Moeller said...

Hey Robin,

I think you chose a really interesting point to focus on in the book. The Penfield passage not only introduces the futuristic setting well, but also gives great insight to Iran and Rick's true characters. It's easy to take away that mood modulation is a common tool in this society, but to add the viewpoint that Iran is a rebel in this society by choosing to feel her own emotions really gives this essay some depth and shows some good analysis. You chose a small except and did a solid job of expanding upon the idea to apply it to their society as a whole.

If you decide to edit this, I think the one challenge you should try to overcome is to find a way to lay out the story and provide the details you did here while having the room for more analysis. While the quotes from the story are interesting as reference, your analysis is the star of the show. I want to hear what you think about what Rick's dependence on the Penfield means for him as a person, why he is so pushy with Iran to use it and what an ideology that resists responsive feelings fears, as in why does this ideology believe that genuine feelings are an evil.

Adam said...

I think the initial discussion of what an ideology is might be valuable - it's a good summary of an important set of concepts - but I'm not clear on what you're doing with it, really. A lengthy introduction to a concept in a short essay would normally imply that this introduction is vital/necessary. But for what?

Similarly, your focused reading of the beginning of the novel is interesting, but also at least *seems* undirected. Clearly you are showing us, in some detail, that Deckard has a different relationship to the prevailing ideology than Iran does - but presumably there's more to it than that, and it would be nice for what you're moving toward to be clarified.

The third paragraph brings some clarification. It would work better, though, if you returned to the later moment when Iran proceeds into her depression, because that strongly confirms her questioning of or movement against the prevailing ideology

I'd like you to move beyond simply presenting that there is an ideological system in the novel which regulates itself through its members. What does it mean that Deckard is an enforcer of the ideology? Does Iran's rebellion have any help of success? What kind of an alternative, if any, does Iran represent? Etc. This is a good, well-executed starting point, but it needs to be headed *somewhere*.