Kenneth Minogue contends in his book: Alien Powers – The Pure Theory of Ideology that Western civilization is in the throes of a conflict over a right understanding of the human condition. In Western societies, individuals follow customs or conduct projects of which others may dislike or disapprove and the result may be conflict.
However, Western society is predominantly peaceful in spite of potential (or actual) conflict because individuals master internalized rules of law and morality. Poverty, inequality, and disappointment are inevitable consequences of open participation in a risk based society even when it is free from iniquitous societal distortions (e.g., American slavery).
Ideologists say these consequences result from hidden structural flaws that can only be remedied through the destruction of the prevailing system. One must attain the perfection of social harmony. If material possessions cause envy, then all possessions must be jointly owned. Rather than insisting on moral decency to curb envy, ideologists will abolish ownership altogether.
This same approach, rooted in externals, is applied to all inequality and disappointment. Transcendent principles (e.g., morality) are not applicable to unruly minds. Once harmony is achieved there will be no need for the transcendent; all humanity will become one in thinking and affections.
Minogue suggests the ideological approach is ascendant in our society while the transcendent is declining. But how is ideology commonly defined?
Ideology /ˌīdēˈäləjē,ˌidēˈäləjē/ noun: ideology; plural noun: ideologies
1. A system of ideas and ideals, especially one that forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy.
“The ideology of republicanism.”
Synonyms: beliefs, ideas, ideals, principles, ethics, morals; doctrine, creed, credo, faith, teaching, theory, philosophy; tenets, canon(s); conviction(s), persuasion; informal: -ism
1b. The ideas and manner of thinking characteristic of a group, social class, or individual.
“A critique of bourgeois ideology.”
“The party has to jettison outdated ideology and give up its stranglehold on power”
1c. Archaic: Visionary speculation, especially of an unrealistic or idealistic nature.
2. Archaic: The science of ideas; the study of their origin and nature.
Origin: late 18th century (sense 2): from French idéologie, from Greek idea ‘form, pattern’ + -logos (denoting discourse or compilation).
Not the most illuminating definitions. But this is one of Minogue’s points. We use the word too generally. Minogue’s contention is that there is a generally applicable pure theory of ideology best realized to date in Marxist ideology and its offspring.
The ideological end state (or terminus), typified by its Marxist form, harkens back to rule under the Egyptian Pharaohs or Chinese Emperors. Those rulers were worshipped as God (which they were not) and the populace, generally denied individuality, performed service to the ruler and his coterie (or vanguard). These dynasties persisted substantially unchanged for millennia. Ideology is anti-western in this sense: individualism is the problem and the vanguard in power is the solution.
If you think it through, all political persuasions and any grievance focus can be made into an ideology. That’s Minogue’s thesis. Once you decide there is only one universal way for all to proceed, you are on your way to becoming either a god or his (or her) slave.
Eric Arthur Blair (pen name: George Orwell, 1902 – 1950) parodied the outcome of what is described above in his novel Nineteen Eighty Four (1949). The following video is from a 1984 movie version of the book; it summarizes the main theme:
Over the past year or so, my other posts have dealt with politics in an effort to understand what America is experiencing. The articles are titled:
Also, over the next few weeks, I plan to post: “Portrait of an Ideologist,” “Ideology’s Characteristics,” and “The State and End State.”
Finally, I concur with Orwell’s assessment of his novel Nineteen Eighty Four: “The moral to be drawn from this dangerous nightmare situation is a simple one: Don’t let it happen. It depends on you.”