Tuesday, October 28, 2014

"To be a citizen is to have an ideology"

One of the commenters at Crooked Timber has been on a crusade lately against "ideology," not against any particular ideology but against some phantom in his head that he sees as bad and to which he attaches this word. I've never read Karl Mannheim or done any deep study of the notion of ideology, but the word has no negative connotations for me. I think virtually everyone has, in some sense, an ideology, whether it's conscious or not, sophisticated or not, elaborate or not.

I'm reminded of something Judith Shklar wrote in a festschrift for Stanley Hoffmann, describing the latter's attitude toward ideology and ideologies:
He sees [ideologies] not only as inevitable, but as necessary functions of democratization and of democratic public life once it has been institutionalized.... Ideology [in Hoffmann's view] is as positive as it is a necessary part of political action. To be a citizen is to have an ideology. Without ideology there would have been no resistance to Nazism, no heroism of the few who had a faith that led them to risk their lives to save the persecuted, and no will to defend human rights.
(Judith N. Shklar, "Teaching Ideologies with Stanley," in Ideas and Ideals: Essays on Politics in Honor of Stanley Hoffmann, ed. L. B. Miller and M. J. Smith, Westview Press, 1993, p.62)


Anonymous said...

It's pretty much impossible to discuss such with anyone who has the fantasy that the world can be seen 100% objectively. A fantasy often conjoined with the idea that there is a 100% reliable source for this objective worldview.

I suppose it's people's parenting or something that makes them unable to grow up in this regard.

LFC said...

That could have been the source of the commenter's objection to the word "ideology," though it was hard to tell, frankly. I sensed he equated "ideology" or "ideological" with rigidity and dogmatism and/or fanaticism, which might be one connotation of the word, but not one of its core meanings, I don't think... not troubling to take time to go to a dictionary rt now.