When a nawab smokes his hookah, he takes pride in it belonging to the times of his great-grandfathers. Rarely does he realize, that each part of the hookah has been replaced numerous times in the life span of the nawab himself. May it be the base, the hose, the shaft or the grommet – not a single part is old enough. What then brings pride to the nawab? Well, it’s the continuity of the usage of the hookah that matters. Art – just like tradition – shares a similar relationship with ideology.
The relation ideology has with literature is far complex than that it shares with politics or economics. Literary works are not merely expressions of the ideologies of their time. Such a view is unable to explain why so much literature actually challenges the ideological assumptions of its time. Art is correlated to its time – the reason why vedic literature differs from bhakti literature – but is seen in continuity in tradition. Literature, more than the ideology of the author, inhabits the relations which emerge not just in themes and preoccupations, but also the style, rhythm, quality and form. Art cannot and should not be directly reduced to ideology.
Ideology, according to Marxist critic Terry Eagleton, signifies the imaginary ways in which men experience the real world, which is the kind of experience literature gives us too, but involves an imaginary world as well. The kind of understanding of capitalism developed by Marx’s Capital and Dickens’ Oliver Twist are different. The difference between science and art is not that they deal with different objects. While science gives us conceptual knowledge of the situation, art helps us experience it. Art helps us to visualize the nature of that ideology, which in true sense develops its full understanding – which is scientific knowledge.