The word ecosystem is being used a lot in the context of ideologies. People often use phrases like “right wing ecosystem”, “marxist eco-system” in the context of political ideologies but these phrases are also used to describe other groups along religion, race, capitalism, academia etc.
It is worth asking the question how do we determine if there is really an ecosystem or is this a fictional concept ?
Eco-system and Jungle
Jungle is a real eco-system. Everyone knows that biological systems where organisms interact is an eco system. But how does it map to human ideological groups ?
Health of a jungle can be measured by how many apex predators like Tigers it has. If there is a healthy population of Tigers then it means Tiger has enough prey like Deers. If there are enough Deers it means there is enough grass and water which implies there is a healthy number of insects, birds and smaller animals as well. Number of tigers becomes a proxy for how good the jungle eco-system is.
But key thing to notice here is that the Tiger does not have any personal relationship with Deers. Deers don’t sign pact with grass and birds and insects are not directed by anyone to pollinate flowers to spread the seeds. In fact, some of them are constantly at each others throats. Their interests are often adversarial. A deer wants to survive and Tiger wants to kill it. Over time a balance is automatically achieved or if balance is not achieved one of them or both die out leaving the Jungle to have a different kind of balance one that does not have Tigers and/or Deers. Tiger follows its Dharma, deer follows its dharma and mostly they seek a balance in the jungle.
In some sense, even without communicating with each other, by purely acting in self interest the Jungle ensures the survival of its entire system. A jungle with good balance will continue to thrive for thousands of years.
That is what biological eco-system means.
Applying the same logic to ideology.
Not matter what ideology or religion you pick there is always a diversity of thought within that ideology. Some are radical, some are textual, some are spiritual, some are progressive, some are reformist and some are outright critics.
For an ideology to continue to exist for centuries, they should form an eco-system were despite their disagreements they continue to help each other to exist. A balance is achieved not by some central planner but through the very human actions. Few hundred years down the line several threads of the ideology will go extinct as they wont survive the test of time but new threads will emerge.
Just like a jungle if one of the species grows too much it hurts the balance of the eco-system leading to extinction of many others. Too many tigers eat out all prey and then starve themselves to death.
Why totalitarian ideologies collapse
The fall of soviet was inevitable even though from outside the western societies looked fragile. Despite their internal chaos western societies had build more robust eco-system where as soviet communism had a single nation dominating everything and their leader appeared like a God. This was not an eco system, this was imbalance waiting to implode.
A healthy ideological ecosystem
A healthy ideological ecosystem (without passing any value judgement) is the one where you will find some of your ideological brethren in politics, academia, trade, military, street activism, philosophers, students, religious organizations, charity, working class people and so on. These groups may not agree with each other but will actively work towards self interest. They will not hit out at each others out of jealousy or desire to create a monoculture, neither of the groups will see their objectives as perfect zero sum game.
Conspiracy theories and eco-system
In politics you often hear how something is a conspiracy by “X group”. If you observe carefully X isn’t the monolithic group outsiders think it is but the reason why opponents see it as a single creature with one mind is because it is an “eco system”. Their member align when attacked by outsiders automatically without anyone controlling them.