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Should We Discard The Term ‘Ideology’?

09 January 2013 @ 20:43

This was the topic of a very interesting guest post written by sdferr and published over at Jeff Goldstein’s site, Protein Wisdom.

Please do take the time to read the full post and the comments section where the PW gang debates the issue with their usual gusto.

Here is the comment I left in the thread:

I don’t see the point in giving up the term ‘Ideology’ because it does apply to those who believe in a system of ideas that will ultimately lead to some form of Heaven On Earth [Immanentize The Eschaton].  They take a scientific approach and believe Human Life can be organized and governed by a set of ideas developed in the sterile laboratories of the mind, far away from Reality.

The term differentiates this approach from those who oppose and reject such an conceptualization to Life.  A non-ideologue [ie: a conservative or Classical Liberal] believes in the art of the possible whereas the Ideologue believes in the art of the fantastical.

When applied to the thinking of someone, the term tells you immediately that arguing with said person is a waste of time because all ideologues have willingly enslaved themselves to a system of ideas and have, therefore, become dogmatics, fanatics.  They cannot allow dissent to be legitimate because, to do so, is to allow the questioning of their system of ideas and any deviation in the formula they have concocted in their minds will cause the whole edifice to collapse.

Also, as Russell Kirk wrote in The Errors Of Ideology [note: the link takes you to a PDF]:

Ideology provides sham religion and sham philosophy, comforting in its way to those who have lost or never have known genuine religious faith, and to those not sufficiently intelligent to apprehend real philosophy. The fundamental reason why we must set our faces against ideology—so wrote the wise Swiss editor Hans Barth—is that ideology is opposed to truth: it denies the possibility of truth in politics or in anything else, substituting economic motive and class interest for abiding norms. Ideology even denies human consciousness and power of choice.  In Barth’s words, “The disastrous effect of ideological thinking in its radical form is not only to cast doubt on the quality and structure of the mind that constitute man’s distinguishing characteristic but also to undermine the foundation of his social life.”

It’s a very useful word.

[Thanks to Jeff and the gang for welcoming me quite warmly over at PW.]

6 Comments leave one →
  1. M. Thompson permalink
    09 January 2013 @ 22:15 22:15

    I wouldn’t have said scientific. Marxism (and bastard descendants) is a cult, with a prophet, disciples, and various holy writs. It’s methodical, but not scientific.

    The scientific method of defining the question, observation, formulation of a hypothesis, test, analyze the results, publish, and retest is ignored by the left. In fact, their assumptions prevent analysis of the results in a proper fashion.

    In short, a conservative method of fixing the real issues (voter fraud, corruption, and their ilk) are far more effective ways of maintaining civilization, and are better suited to the scientific method.

    Science is not a religion, it is a way to observe how the world works, and understand the Lord’s handiwork.

    • Ernst Schreiber permalink
      10 January 2013 @ 10:29 10:29

      “scientific method” is a bit of a tautology. If there’s method, there’s system, and if there’s system, there’s science.

  2. sdferr permalink
    10 January 2013 @ 15:53 15:53

    In particular I had in mind we quit using ideology self-referentially as a categorization of classical liberalism (or for that matter our own possibly looser political views, not to say political philosophical positions), yet if we should preserve the term solely for purposes of referring to our dialogic interlocutors, we may be left exposed to a rejoinder nicely captured by Squid in response to leigh’s suggestion that one simply replace ‘ideology’ with ‘principles’ — Squid sums: “My (wise, correct) political philosophy is founded on principle; your (shallow, incorrect) political beliefs are just ideology”. And that may prove to be a problem, if only rhetorically and temporarily.

    Still, I do think I see I had failed to make clear the self-referential aspect crucial to the abandonment I’m suggesting. The whole business in fact, was spurred to mind by just such a reference by one of the pw commenters calling out classical liberalism as an ideology. But how if I’m wrong to suppose classical liberalism isn’t an ideology as falling under the definition currently used? And just to say, I’m more inclined to take up that possibility than may appear at first blush.

    • 14 January 2013 @ 23:32 23:32

      I think QM’s definition of Classical Liberalism below is quite on the mark.

      I think both conservatives and Classical Liberals reject fantastical arguments and believe in The Art Of The Possible.

      Your PW post was quite stimulating.

      • sdferr permalink
        16 January 2013 @ 15:09 15:09

        I’m inclined to take the questions of the claims of classical liberalism back through their development via Hobbes, Machiavelli and so on, rather than merely suppose the assertion of right is final as a capture of the thingness of things (or as we say today “reality”), accomplished once and for all time, which as it happens will entail looking carefully at the alternatives theretofore expressed on matters of politics (and taking those alternatives seriously). Could be we’ll learn something we didn’t know.

        But this is merely an open call for a return to undertaking philosophy as such, which, in our debased age is no simple thing. This in turn proves, as Leo Strauss and Harvey Mansfield, among others, have shown, is, for us, to undertake an inquiry into the history of philosophy, to find out what it is, rather than to assume we should simply start from scratch. It’s a huge trouble, but worth it for its own sake, I believe, and not solely for the sake of the utilities it may appear to offer us.

  3. 11 January 2013 @ 09:38 09:38

    Classical Liberalism is a set of principles formulated in accordance with the reality of how the world, and fallen man, actually works. Ideology is a set of ideals that are pursued by its holders regardless of how anything actually works. Ideology is necessarily utopian as a consequence.

    Satan loves ideology as it blinds people to his machinations. he doesn’t care what keeps you away from God, just so you stay, what he thinks is, a respectable distance awayfrom the creator.

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