Mathematics and its ideologies.

An anthropologist’s observations

  • Jan Blommaert Tilburg University


Starting from the profound impact of Kenneth Arrow's Impossibility Theorem on the social sciences of the postwar twentieth century, this essay engages with the ways in which mathematics can be seen as a language-ideologically inflated notational system. In the mid-twentieth century, a profound belief in mathematics as a purely objective and non-ideological organization of knowledge took hold, and mathematical proof became the most authoritative type of statement on reality. When something was ruled 'logically impossible', real-world occurences could be seen as transgressions and exceptions. Hidden inside this belief is a set of irrational, metaphysical assumptions about humans and social behavior that can be laid bare by means of linguistic-anthropological analysis.

Keywords: ideology, mathematics, rational choice, literacy, notation, worldview

Jan Blommaert in a crowded office full of overflowing boxes of books.
Jul 19, 2020
How to Cite
BLOMMAERT, Jan. Mathematics and its ideologies.. Semiotic Review, [S.l.], n. 3, july 2020. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 08 feb. 2023.