Terence Ball, Richard Dagger, Daniel I. O'Neill, Richard Dagger, Daniel I. O'Neill
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Ideals and Ideologies
Terence Ball, Richard Dagger, Daniel I. O'Neill, Richard Dagger, Daniel I. O'Neill
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About This Book
Ideals and Ideologies: A Reader is a comprehensive compilation of classic and contemporary readings representing all of the major "isms." It offers students a generous sampling of key thinkers in different ideological traditions and places them in their historical and political contexts. Used on its own or with Political Ideologies and the Democratic Ideal, the anthology accounts for the different ways people use ideology and conveys the continuing importance of ideas in politics.
New to this 11 th Edition:
Alexander Keyssar, "Voter Suppression, Then and Now" (a distinguished historian traces the tawdry history of attempts, successful and unsuccessful, to disenfranchise voters).
Andrew Sullivan, "Democracies End When They Become Too Democratic" (an eminent conservative commentator and author argues that, under certain circumstances, democracies pose a danger to their very own existence).
Timothy Egan, "The Dumbed Down Democracy" (a prominent author and columnist argues that American democracy has been "dumbed down" due, in large part, to the absence of civic education in the public school curriculum).
Max Boot and David Brooks, "Conservatives Assess Trump" (two leading contemporary conservatives ponder the fundamental ideological problems the current president poses for the movement, and consider the ways in which Donald Trump is—and isn't—a true conservative).
Eugene V. Debs, "Speech to the Conference for Progressive Political Action" (an early 20 th -century American socialist and former presidential candidate articulates his vision for a new workers' party that would challenge capitalism in the United States).
Robert Kagan, "This is How Fascism Comes to America" (a prominent neoconservative historian detects disturbing parallels between the rise of Donald Trump and that of various interwar fascists).
Erik Loomis, "A New Chapter in the Black Liberation Movement" (an American historian makes the case for Black Liberation with a particularly compelling case study: how prisoners (mainly black) work essentially as slaves in both public and for-profit prisons in the United States).
Black Lives Matter, "A Vision for Black Lives: Demands for Black Power, Freedom & Justice" (leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement set forth their basic ideological beliefs and public policy prescriptions).
Josephine Livingstone, "The Task Ahead for Feminism" (the author argues that much remains to be done after the #MeToo movement).
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That ideologies and ideological conflict have persisted throughout modern history should come as no surprise to anyone. Ideologies are born of crisis and feed on conflict. People need help to comprehend and cope with turbulent times and confusing circumstances, and—for better or worse—ideologies provide this help. An ideology does this by performing four important and perhaps indispensable functions for those who subscribe to it. First, it explains political phenomena that would otherwise remain mysterious or puzzling. Why are there wars and rumors of war? Why are there conflicts between nations, between classes, and between races? What causes depressions? The answer that one gives to these and to many other questions depends to some degree on one’s ideology. A Marxian socialist will answer one way, a fascist another, and a feminist yet another.
Second, an ideology provides its adherents with criteria and standards of evaluation—of deciding what is right and wrong, good and bad. Are class differences and vast disparities of wealth good or bad things? Is interracial harmony possible, and, if so, is it desirable? Is censorship permissible, and, if so, under what conditions? Again, the answers one gives will depend on which ideology one subscribes to.
Third, an ideology orients its adherents, giving them a sense of who they are and where they belong—a social and cultural compass with which to define and affirm their individual and collective identity. Fascists, for example, will typically think of themselves as members of a superior nation or race. Communists will see themselves as people who defend the working class against capitalist oppression and exploitation. Animal liberationists will identify themselves as defenders of animals that are unable to protect themselves against human abuse and exploitation.
Fourth and finally, an ideology supplies its adherents with a rudimentary political program. This program provides an answer to the question posed by the Russian revolutionary Lenin, among many others: What is to be done? And, no less important: Who is to do it? With what means? A Marxist-Leninist, for instance, will answer these questions as follows: The working class must be emancipated from capitalist exploitation by means of a revolution led by a vanguard party. Fascists, feminists, Greens, liberals, conservatives, and others will, of course, propose other—and very different—programs of political action.
To summarize, a political ideology is a more or less systematic set of ideas that performs four functions for those who hold it: the explanatory, the evaluative, the orientative, and the programmatic. By performing these functions, an ideology serves as a guide and compass through the thicket of political life.
There are, as we shall see, many different political ideologies in the modern world. But what of democracy? Is it an ideology? In our view, democracy is not an ideology but an ideal that different ideologies interpret in different ways. For the ancient Greeks, who coined the word, democracy (demos-kratein) meant rule by, and in the interest of, the common people. In the modern world, some Marxists have insisted that a “people’s democracy,” in which the leaders of a revolutionary party rule in the name of the masses, is the best way to serve the interests of the common people. For liberals, however, democracy means “liberal democracy”—that is, majority rule, but with ample provision for the protection of minority rights. For most modern environmentally oriented Greens, democracy means decentralized “participatory” or “grassroots” democracy. Other ideologies interpret the democratic ideal in other ways. Democracy, then, is an ideal that most ideologies claim to strive for, but it is an ideal whose meaning they vigorously contest.
As with “democracy,” so too with “freedom.” What “freedom” means for liberals is something quite different from what it means for fascists, for example. We can see this more clearly by thinking of freedom (or liberty) as a triadic or three-sided relation among an agent, a goal, and any obstacle standing between the agent and the goal that he, she, or they seek to achieve. We represent this relationship in the following diagram (Figure 1.1).
Every ideology identifies the three elements of the triad in its own way. A liberal will typically identify the agent as an individual, the goal as the satisfaction of an individual’s own preferences or desires, and the obstacle as any unreasonable restraint or restriction on such “want satisfaction.” A Marxist, by contrast, will characteristically identify the agent as an entire class—the working class or “proletariat”—that struggles to overcome capitalist exploitation in order to achieve a classless communist society. A fascist will conceive of the agent as a whole nation or race attempting to overcome so-called inferior nations or races in a collective search for racial or national supremacy and purity. And other ideologies conceive of freedom in still other ways. Understanding how they conceive of freedom is, in fact, one of the best ways to understand the differences that separate any political ideology from its ideological rivals.
The concept of ideology has undergone dramatic changes in meaning since the term ideologie was first coined in late eighteenth-century France. In the following essay, the Anglo-American political theorist Terrell Carver (1946–) traces these changes, concluding with a critical consideration of the ways in which the term “ideology” is used today.
Ideology: The Career of a Concept
As a coined word, the term “ideology” has a precise origin in the era of the French Revolution. The decisive shifts in its meaning, moreover, have been associated with some of the most colorful and influential figures in modern history: Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821), Karl Marx (1818–1883), Friedrich Engels (1820–1895), and V. I. Lenin (1870–1924). From its very inception, in fact, ideology has been associated with highly abstract philosophy and forceful, even brutal, political repression.
Behind the term “ideology” are the familiar features of politics: ideas and power. Philosophers have not been conspicuous for their participation in politics, but through the actions of others they have been influential at times. Improving the connection between philosopher and politician to extend this influence was one of the main concerns of Antoine Louis Claude Destutt, Comte de Tracy (1754–1836), one of the Enlightenment philosophes. De Tracy coined the term “ideology” during the wild revolutionary decade in France when ideas inspired many thousands to test their powers in politics and to put their immediate material interests, and even their lives, at risk. Although the substance of de Tracy’s thought drew on the specific philosophies of Étienne Bonnot de Condillac (1715–1780) and John Locke (1632–1704), among others, his work was explicitly directed toward political action. He assumed that criteria for the truth and falsity of ideas could be established and definitively employed, and that there was a point to doing so. That point was overtly political.
De Tracy and his colleagues aimed to promote progress in all areas of human endeavor, theoretical and practical, by reforming elite and middle-class opinion. Their Institut de France was established by the Convention in 1795 to disseminate higher learning as the savants of the revolution defined it. Their work began with three assumptions: that progress in social life is desirable; that progress comes only from correct ideas; and that incorrect ideas must be resisted, especially in the schools. In opposition to the traditions of the Catholic Church and to the personal authority of anointed monarchs, de Tracy and his colleagues in the Institut favored the ideals of the new science associated with Francis Bacon (1561–1626), Galileo Galilei (1564–1642), René Descartes (1596–1650), and other thinkers who espoused rational inquiry into the natural and social world. The rationalism of the Institut was especially hostile to religious thought if conceived mystically.
In 1796 a British commentator reported that de Tracy had read a paper at the Institut in which he proposed to call the philosophy of mind “ideology.” Five years later, in his Elements of Ideology (1801; translated into English by Thomas Jefferson for an edition of 1817), de Tracy summarized the results of his logic within a “plan of the elements of ideology … to give a complete knowledge of our intellectual faculties, and to deduce from that knowledge the first principles of all other branches of our knowledge.” Without these first principles, “our knowledge” could “never be founded on any other solid base.”1 With correct ideas would come a correct psychology or theory of human behavior, and with that the justification for such political prescriptions as intellectuals might devise and enlightened politicians might enforce.
De Tracy’s system, while sweeping, was disarmingly simplistic, dismissive of skepticism, and surprisingly concise. Even at the time it must have raised some strong doubts among philosophers. Indeed, the association of ideology with intellectual shortcuts, oversimplification, and distortion seems inherent in de Tracy’s original conception. That de Tracy also associated his ideology with a political program and authoritarian politics provides further clues to the way the concept has functioned since his day.
There are three important features of de Tracy’s conception of ideology: (1) the explicit linkage between logic, psychology, and politics, set down in a “table” of simple propositions and backed up with more extensive observations; (2) the assumption that intellectuals discover the truth and that well-advised political authorities implement policies to match; and (3) the claim that logic, psychology, and politics, as linked, are coincident with science and history, properly understood.
In 1797 Napoleon Bonaparte, the leading general of the revolutionary army, became an honorary member of the Institut, and his fellow “ideologues” supported the coup d’état by which he seized power in 1799. With their boundless faith in reason, the “ideologues,” de Tracy among them, expected to achieve the same success in psychology, morality, social and economic relations, and politics that the new “natural philosophers” had achieved in studying planetary and terrestrial motion, optics, and mathematics. Such was their certainty that they committed themselves to an administrative structure to promote their ideas and to discourage what they termed prejudices—and with that, they necessarily engaged in politics. As their concept of truth presupposed the authority of the intellectual (validated by the “correct” assumptions and methods), so their politics created no great obstacles to authoritarian rule—provided, of course, that the authority had proper intellectual guidance. There was little in the doctrines of the “ideologues” to favor the unenlightened intellect or to afford it any great role in decision-making. Because politics was supposed to be subject to the new science, democracy with its popular decision-making would have little to recommend itself to the Enlightenment intellectual unless it were properly guided. Tutoring rulers was obviously the easier and more immediately efficacious task. With Napoleon a member of the Institut, furthermore, the “ideologues” could expect enlightenment and progress to spread all the more quickly throughout France and beyond its borders. The forces of reaction were to be swept away by the enlightened use of political power as the resources of the state were made available to the intellectual elite.
The crucial event in the development of the concept of ideology came when Napoleon turned against the “ideologues” and decisively reversed their interpretation of the proper relationship between intellectuals and rulers, philosophers and politicians. Around 1812 he dismissed de Tracy’s work and the work of the Institut de France as “ideology, that sinister metaphysics.” This hostility to the “ideologues” apparently reflected a shift in Napoleon’s political tactics, from alliance with the rationalists of the Institut against religion and the Church to the reverse. Eradicating what the “ideologues” saw as prejudice was politically costly, and Napoleon sought to increase his personal power by making peace with the Church and allying himself with other conservative forces.2
About thirty years later, the German Communist Karl Marx seized on “ideology” as a term of abuse. He criticized German intellectuals whose philosophy and politics displeased him by dismissing them as “ideologists,” proponents of “the German ideology.” He and Friedrich Engels co-authored a manuscript of that name which remained unpublished as a whole until 1932, although sections of the large work appeared in excerpts from 1903 onward.3 In other published works that circulated during his lifetime and in his private correspondence, Marx used the term “ideology” in ways that drew on the more extensive airing he had given the concept in The German Ideology.
Ideologies and ideologists arise in class-divided societies, according to Marx. In particular, “the class which has the means of material production at its disposal consequently also controls the means of mental production.” Thinkers are “producers of ideas,” in other words, while ruling classes regulate “the production and distribution of the ideas of their age.” Thus “the ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas: i.e., the class which is the ruling material force of society is at the same time its ruling intellectual force.” Within the ruling class the division of labor divides mental from material tasks, so that
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Citation styles for Ideals and Ideologies
APA 6 Citation
Ball, T., Dagger, R., & O’Neill, D. (2019). Ideals and Ideologies (11th ed.). Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/2193870/ideals-and-ideologies-a-reader-pdf (Original work published 2019)
Ball, Terence, Richard Dagger, and Daniel O’Neill. (2019) 2019. Ideals and Ideologies. 11th ed. Taylor and Francis. https://www.perlego.com/book/2193870/ideals-and-ideologies-a-reader-pdf.
Ball, T., Dagger, R. and O’Neill, D. (2019) Ideals and Ideologies. 11th edn. Taylor and Francis. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/2193870/ideals-and-ideologies-a-reader-pdf (Accessed: 15 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Ball, Terence, Richard Dagger, and Daniel O’Neill. Ideals and Ideologies. 11th ed. Taylor and Francis, 2019. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.