The Idea of Ideology

 

When did “ideological” become a criticism?

If you are not ideological, then you are blowing in the wind. Your thoughts are shallow and your actions are whimsical.

An ideology is a cohesive set of assumptions and goals that guides one’s judgments and decisions. These ideas direct and motivate one to consistent actions. Without a foundation of core goals and principles, a person is likely to contradict himself and fall prey to fleeting passions.

So what do people mean when they dismiss opposing views as “just ideology” and dismiss opponents as “ideologues?” Are they playing a rhetorical game to fool uncritical minds? Or do they actually believe that they themselves do not adhere to any ideology?

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  1. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    Its the later.  They are deluded fools that fail at self-awareness.

    • #1
  2. Ed Driscoll Contributor
    Ed Driscoll
    @EdDriscoll

    Progressives, liberals, leftists, or whatever they’re calling themselves today don’t believe they have an ideology or a philosophy. For them, their philosophy — whatever it is at the current moment — is empirical reality. It’s only their opposition (i.e. us!) that has an ideology. This is the Orwellian double-track thinking that the MSM, despite leaning to the left on every issue and being, as Glenn Reynolds calls them “Democratic operatives with bylines,” used for years in an attempt to convince their critics — and maybe themselves as well — that they were “objective.”

    • #2
  3. Asquared Inactive
    Asquared
    @ASquared

    Aaron Miller: When did “ideological” become a criticism?

    The correct answer is with Napoleon.

    Jonah Goldberg discusses this issue at length in Liberal Fascism.

    Aaron Miller: An ideology is a cohesive set of assumptions and goals that guides one’s judgments and decisions. These ideas direct and motivate one to consistent actions. Without a foundation of core goals and principles, a person is likely to contradict himself and fall prey to fleeting passions.

    Agreed.  This paragraph could have been pulled from Ayn Rand’s essay, “Philosphy, Who Needs It”

    In another space, I get irate at people who call themselves “pragmatic centrists” (which I believe is another phrase coined by Napoleon to differentiate himself from the evil “ideologues”.)  Everyone considers themselves “Pragmatic Centrists.”  The problem is, to have a perspective on whether a given program will work, you have a set of beliefs about human nature, in other words, you have to have an ideology.

    • #3
  4. Asquared Inactive
    Asquared
    @ASquared

    I guess word counts are still not being enforced.  Too bad for all those ideologues at the Thatcher and Reagan level.  It must hurt a little to see us lowly Coolidge level people be allowed to post at length.

    Out of respect for my betters, I will do my best to stay within my agreed upon word limits.

    • #4
  5. user_1184 Member
    user_1184
    @MarkWilson

    I think a lot of people do not realize they have an ideology because they do not understand two important things.

    First, they do not understand what an ideology really is.  They think it is a prepackaged belief system that is impervious to facts.

    Second, they do not understand themselves.  They are not aware of the thousands of assumptions they take for granted when forming an opinion about something.

    I think the more you are surrounded by people who agree with you, the less likely you are to realize you have an ideology.

    • #5
  6. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur
    @AlbertArthur

    Asquared: Jonah Goldberg discusses this issue at length in Liberal Fascism.

    And The Tyranny of Cliches.

    • #6
  7. Songwriter Inactive
    Songwriter
    @user_19450

    Albert Arthur:

    Asquared: Jonah Goldberg discusses this issue at length in Liberal Fascism.

    And The Tyranny of Cliches.

    Which is a really fun read, by the way.

    • #7
  8. user_1938 Member
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    I forgot that part in Liberal Fascism. It might be time to refresh my memory.

    • #8
  9. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Napoleon used it to refer to a specific set of his political opponents, using the word as a synonym for “extremist” or “dogmatist”.

    Karl Marx defined the word as “the religious, legal, cultural, and political systems that reinforce and justify the position and power of the ruling elite”, which is still a negative connotation, but also different from how Napoleon used it.

    Wikipedia’s entry for how the meaning of the word has changed over time depending on who was using it is pretty good, IMHO: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideology

    • #9
  10. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    Silly Aaron, our leaders now are practical pragmatists not ideologues.  They are only interested in what works……that’s why when a mistake is made they quickly reverse course!

    • #10
  11. The Mugwump Inactive
    The Mugwump
    @TheMugwump

    I believe in something more important than ideology.  My foundational ideas are known as principles.  Whereas the opposition is entirely focused on the acquisition and maintenance of power, my principles rest on a pedestal known as truth.  The sloppy sophist who denounces me for being ideological is attempting to truncate the debate because “what works” (an arguable assertion at best) isn’t necessarily righteous.

    • #11
  12. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Sometimes it’s just used when you need a negative word to attack your opponents without calling them hypocritical or corrupt.  When you need to concede they really mean it but want to argue that makes them all the more dangerous, you call them ideological.  If it weren’t this word, it would be another one.

    I have always felt that in common usage there is a distinction between “ideology” and other related terms such as “philosophy”, “conviction”, or “worldview”.

    While it’s not in the dictionary, I think the popular negative idea of an ideologue is of someone who is so committed to one idea (or narrow set of ideas) that he recklessly does harm in pursuit of that idea.  His worldview lacks coherence and balance.

    For example, an ideologue might, in pursuit of equality (largely a noble goal), recklessly ignore the harm he does to other important aspects of society as he goes ruthlessly after every instance of real or perceived inequality.  That’s dangerous, and different than having a core set of goals, or standing on principle.

    • #12
  13. Peter Robinson Contributor
    Peter Robinson
    @PeterRobinson

    If you are not ideological, then you are blowing in the wind. Your thoughts are shallow and your actions are whimsical.

    Just lovely, Aaron!

    • #13
  14. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Aaron Miller:When did “ideological” become a criticism?

    Um… it’s possible Russell Kirk (he of “conservatism is no fixed ideology” fame) and Michael Oakeshott started it. Neither one was very fond of ideology, which they saw as trying to shoehorn habitual, practical life into a falsely rationalistic theoretical framework.

    So we don’t have to look outside of conservatism to find people willing to hate on ideology.

    • #14
  15. user_1938 Member
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    There are certainly those on the Right as well who believe principles can get in the way of pragmatism.

    It is possible to err by failure to balance and prioritize worthy values, or by failure to apply them well to specific circumstances. But even in compromise one must remain cognizant of one’s goals and unalterable conditions of behavior.

    Not all should be negotiable.

    • #15
  16. kylez Member
    kylez
    @kylez

    While it’s not in the dictionary, I think the popular negative idea of an ideologue is of someone who is so committed to one idea (or narrow set of ideas) that he recklessly does harm in pursuit of that idea.  His worldview lacks coherence and balance.

    That’s a monomaniac, or fanatic. Often found on the left.

    • #16
  17. user_22932 Member
    user_22932
    @PaulDeRocco

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: Um… it’s possible Russell Kirk (he of “conservatism is no fixed ideology” fame) and Michael Oakeshott started it. Neither one was very fond of ideology, which they saw as trying to shoehorn habitual, practical life into a falsely rationalistic theoretical framework.

    Yes.

    Words like “ideology” have varying meanings depending upon context. But when I denounce people as ideologues, I’m specifically referring to their adherence to an intellectual abstraction regardless of how it plays out in reality. In that sense, leftists are by definition ideologues, while conservatives may be but tend not to be. And in that sense, the antithesis of ideology would be something like “culture”. If one is lucky enough, as we are, to live in a well-functioning culture, then reflexive adherence to that culture puts one in touch with a greater wisdom than adopting some ideology that has no basis in experience.

    So there is more to guide one’s behavior than “ideology”. In an organic culture, one is hardly “blowing in the wind.” What the original poster is referring to, I’d prefer to call “principles”, which I would define somewhat differently from “ideology”. Principles boil down and simplify experience, therefore providing guidance in dealing with new experience, but do not demand absolute adherence when new experience reveals their limitations or faults.

    • #17
  18. user_1126573 Member
    user_1126573
    @

    I think people use the term ideologue pejoratively because history is repleat with true believers, constant as the morning star and self-sacrificing as saints, who are devoted to the death to an ideology and have wrought unspeakable damage because of it. Nazism and communism and islamic extremism are ideologies after all. Consistency and self-discipline aren’t virtues when employed too confidently in service of “cohesive sets of assumptions and goals” which don’t, and indeed cannot possibly, account for the myriad of unknowable vagaries that constitute reality.

    Conservatives believe in free markets because we believe it an act of hubris to think any group of people are smart enough to figure out the complexities of human interaction and endeavor that drive a growing economy. But yet many on the right think that they’ve got an airtight ideology that, if only championed with enough vigor and fought for with enough dedication, could “restore” the glory of our exceptional society. I’m sorry but I cringe at that type of thinking, and the red-meat true believers that spout it. Ideology is in fact a very narrow aperture through which to view the world due to the very real limits of human perception and understanding. For the same reason I resist central planning from technocrats, I resist devout ideological approaches from the right.

    Have principles and propose and explore ideas based upon them, but don’t be foolish enough to believe that consistency and seriousness of purpose are proof of the value of your ideology. Give me humility and skepticism, I’ve only academic fascination for ideologies.

    • #18
  19. x Inactive
    x
    @CatoRand

    Asquared:

    Aaron Miller: When did “ideological” become a criticism?

    The correct answer is with Napoleon.

    Jonah Goldberg discusses this issue at length in Liberal Fascism.

    Aaron Miller: An ideology is a cohesive set of assumptions and goals that guides one’s judgments and decisions. These ideas direct and motivate one to consistent actions. Without a foundation of core goals and principles, a person is likely to contradict himself and fall prey to fleeting passions.

    Agreed. This paragraph could have been pulled from Ayn Rand’s essay, “Philosphy, Who Needs It”

    In another space, I get irate at people who call themselves “pragmatic centrists” (which I believe is another phrase coined by Napoleon to differentiate himself from the evil “ideologues”.) Everyone considers themselves “Pragmatic Centrists.” The problem is, to have a perspective on whether a given program will work, you have a set of beliefs about human nature, in other words, you have to have an ideology.

    Extremely well said.  I’ve no need to comment now.  You said it all.

    • #19
  20. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    My Leftist to English dictionary contains the following definitions:

    Fact (n) – An opinion held by a leftist.

    Lie (n) – An opinion held by a conservative.

    Damn lie (n) – Anything broadcast by Fox News.

    • #20
  21. Mark Thatcher
    Mark
    @GumbyMark

    For a Progressive someone who has ideas they do not like is an ideologue with the secondary attributes of racism and sexism.

    For a Progressive someone who has ideas they like is an activist with the secondary attributes of empathy and a belief in social justice.

    • #21
  22. Asquared Inactive
    Asquared
    @ASquared

    Songwriter:

    Albert Arthur:

    Asquared: Jonah Goldberg discusses this issue at length in Liberal Fascism.

    And The Tyranny of Cliches.

    Which is a really fun read, by the way.

    Ugh.  I think I got his books confused.  I think he discussed Ideologue and Pragmatic Centrist in Tyranny of Cliches, not Liberal Fascism.

    I apologize for any confusion I may have caused.

    • #22
  23. MMPadre Member
    MMPadre
    @

    When you acquire an education, you may talk about ideology and the nature of ideological systems. Eric Voegelin wrote comprehensively on the subject. But beware, he often uses other big words with Greek roots.

    • #23
  24. CuriousKevmo Member
    CuriousKevmo
    @CuriousKevmo

    Larry3435:My Leftist to English dictionary contains the following definitions:

    Fact (n) – An opinion held by a leftist.

    Lie (n) – An opinion held by a conservative.

    Damn lie (n) – Anything broadcast by Fox News.

    Heh…this is awesome.  I picture a small little book, maybe 3″ x 6″, bound by a couple staples that I keep in my back pocket and pull out when subject to one of those liberal bloviations that passes for debate with them.

    My stepson considers himself a “truth seeker” — all of his opinions are based on facts and hard science.  Its all so obvious if the masses would just listen to him.  Everyone in the past had it wrong.

    In reality he is the most ideological progressive I know.

    • #24

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