At lunch one day Tyler suggested the essence of ideology is which types of people should be admired. I told him it seemed an excellent insight, pregnant with possibility and well worth pursuing. He’s finally blogged it:
Occasionally the real force behind a political ideology is the subconsciously held desire that a certain group of people should not be allowed to rise in relative status. … Some people on the right do not like those they perceive as "whiners." They do not want these whiners to rise in relative status. … Some [left-wing] people … do not want the monied class to rise in relative status, certainly not above the status of the smart people and the virtuous people. …
When happiness research indicates that money brings more happiness only up to a point, this is a popular result … [as it] lowers the status of this monied class by showing they really aren’t that happy. When happiness research indicates that conservatives are relatively happy, however, or that many redistributions don’t make the beneficiaries much happier … suddenly happiness research isn’t talked up so much. Inequalities which do not raise the status of this monied class, such as inequalities in the sphere of beauty or teenage sex, don’t come under so much criticism.
Some on the right wing will stress "individual responsibility" … when it lowers the status of the whiners … Some on the left wing will stress "individual responsibility" when it is time to punish corporate wrongdoers and thus lower their status.
This seems to me the tip of an iceberg of insight. Let us more systematically enumerate types of people who are thought to be admired too much, or not enough, and political positions that support such admiration adjustment. This view nicely explains why ideologies tend to come in opposing pairs, but it raises the question of how there can be widely popular ideologies with little visible opposition – why don’t those whose status is being lowered complain more loudly?
Let us be careful not to selectively apply this only to others’ ideologies – let us apply it to ours as well. For example, I’ll admit I plausibly want more admiration of intellectuals with a track record of deep original insight on important neglected topics, relative to non-intellectuals or intellectuals who show an impressive way with words, math, or tech, or a command of a mutual admiration society.