Because the primary medium of social life is language - it forms the basis for intentional action, shared meaning, and collective organization - attention to the ambiguities and slippages between different linguistic forms is useful in explaining how ideas become entrenched and social practices seem natural and inevitable.--Sally Haslanger (388)
One of the great, unexpected joys of my adult professional life has been to witness the development within analytical philosophy of a sustained interest in the nature of ideology as of interest to so-called core areas of philosophy (e.g., philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, metaphysics, epistemology, etc.) often building on work done in the sciences (linguistics, social psychology, sociology, etc.) and areas of philosophy that were once routinely marginalized (feminism, standpoint theory, race theory, 'science of values' within philosophy of philosophy of science). I'll call this analytical ideology studies.
Not to put too fine point on it, but reflection on ideology was systematically unwelcome were one would most expect it to be discussed: political philosophy, philosophy of social science, and -- more provocatively -- the very idea of naturalization! If one were to raise concerns about social power in linguistic practice one would be told that's not even pragmatics and certainly not semantics (and therefore not philosophically interesting). One way to lose friends quickly as a bread-and-butter-analytical philosopher, say, was to point to the tacit normative and class commitments presupposed by Grice's Maxims. To be clear I am not denying that analytical philosophers didn't sometimes discuss ideology in subtle fashion--Elster's work springs to mind, for example. But the tenor of the work was generally dismissive. (The situation toward ideology a generation ago is analogous to the way presently relativist or genuinely skeptical views are treated in metaphysics or epistemology.)
I first encountered analytical ideology studies in 2005 through the work of my then colleague Ishani Maitra a former student of Sally Haslanger; Maitra first introduced me to the work of Haslanger, Langton, Dotson, and Fricker (amongst others). As it happens, Haslanger is visiting my home town Amsterdam this semester. And today I attended a discussion of one of her papers (this one) in Amsterdam. (Earlier in the semester Jason Stanley visited to discuss some chapters of his book on propaganda.) It was in all respects a normal philosophy seminar: people asked technical and detailed questions, objections were explored, alternatives were offered, confusions were generated and clarified, etc. Moreover it was 'normal' in another sense: existing differences between analytical approaches and approaches more indebted to Habermas, Judith Butler, and Foucault were not quietly ignored in discussion. (Some other time I may return to this.)
I mention all of this as an encouraging reminder to myself and, perhaps, youthful readers: the intellectual status quo can change fairly rapidly in analytical philosophy when a group of folk set themselves the task, individually or as a group, to change it. (This point is often treated as change of fashion, but that is, too, an ideological way of expressing it.) This is due to the fact that analytical philosophy has few substantive core commitments, and that while there are lots of informal and oppressive barriers to professional entry by individuals, the conceptual hurdles are not that steep nor especially robust--much of what passes for the intellectual status quo within philosophy has few intellectual resources to defend itself come what may.
The title of this post also promises reflection on the ways that analytical philosophy is ideological. It is no surprise that folk that are active in analytical ideology studies (Jennifer Saul, Haslanger, etc.) also have been offering sustained criticisms of the practices of professional philosophy. It is an open question for if this this an essential characteristic or extrinsic byproduct of analytical ideology studies.