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Lecture 11

Lecture 11 - What is Ideology

Political Science
Course Code
POLS 1000
Martin Breaugh

of 5
Lecture 11
No coincidence that political parties appears at the same time of extension to the right
to vote and dropping of property qualifications for running office
Arrival of the many on the political scene, political parties are ways to channel and
coalesce these new democratic energies
Political parties organizations that seek to acquire and maintain political power, also
based upon commonly shared ideas and/or interest
Representative government is dominated by political parties
Existence of political parties have modified our political imagination
2 main characteristics of political parties:
o Permanent structured organization
o Offer an integral reading of political problems
Each of these characteristics are problematic, have effects on how politics is done
Tendency to eliminated spontaneous political action (part of democratic experience in
Integral reading of political problems: issue parties will present a platform that discusses
a totality of political problem
Stuck adhering to the totality of party’s platform
As an activist you are actually limited in your realm of thinking, limited to partisanship
Real problem: politics becomes predictable
Partisanship turns people away from politics, do more to limit political possibilities than
to open up new ones
What is ideology?
Its emergence
Long history of emergence of term itself can be dated back to the renaissance (1460-
1560) and early modern period (1500-1750).
Renaissance represent a radical break from the middle ages, characterized by 2 changes
o Change in social forces
Longevity of the middle ages has to do with the fact that social forces
(what kind of people/social group exist, in the middle ages, there are 3:
peasants, clergy, ruling nobility) in play remain stable or unable to act
for a very long time
Sheer poverty and horrible living conditions will curtail possibility of
engaging in any actions
Peasants need to survive, can’t change anything, nobility and clergy will
not seek to modify the status quo
Permanence and stability is guaranteed by the social forces
End of middle ages, an emergence of new social forces that brought
change: merchant class, bourgeoisie
o Change in outlook
All developments in renaissance will reinforce and accelerate the
development of the merchant class, bring important social and cultural
Merchants earn a living by making and transforming things solely from
material profit
Practical and it seeks immediate and concrete results for its actions
(profit) is important
Change the way knowledge and action is considered
During the middle ages, knowledge sought to understand truth for the
sake of God, truth in itself did not have to have practical results
Renaissance: truth have practical results, able to produce useful actions
Knowledge couldn’t be separated from the desire to be practical
Huge influence throughout modernity
E.g. modern science seeks to be practical and attempt to
improve our everyday life
Rise of the merchant class will bring changes to how ethics is seen and
philosophy is done
Ethical level, the criteria for determining whether something is good will
be its utility
Work itself will become an ethics
In philosophical terms it will no longer be necessary to strive to make
society into an ideal social order
From renaissance, political philosopher will seek the best possible
The best possible regime is one that takes into account human
possibilities and limitations, human beings
Philosophical knowledge will be used to transform and to better the
lives of the many
Abandonment of an ideal political order does not entail the
abandonment of the ideal of progress or betterment
Best possible order still means that we want to transform the world into
a better place for all
Just that transformation will taken into account what we need as
human being and what we are capable of
Ideologies will participate in the new perspective of the world, will fully
partake in cultural transformation brought forth by the renaissance
Political parties are more power driven than idea driven
Ideologies will be practical and concrete (outlook), seek to be useful
(ethics), seek the best possible ways to make the world a better place,
take into account human needs and capacities
Ideology itself is born during French revolution, coined by Enlightenment philosopher,
Antoine Destutt de Tracy (1754-1836). Quite significant.
Age of Enlightenment was a widespread cultural and philosophical movement sought to
demonstrate to reason individuals could decide for themselves what was in their best
interest liberalism
Reason was to be the primary authority in our lives
All of the above ideas will be found in enlightenment thought
Enlightenment philosopher: hate medieval philosopher, call them traditional,
otherworldly nature of medieval philosophy, Enlightenment philosopher renew the city
of man
Tracy felt philosophy itself was tainted by the medieval otherworldly nature
o Suggested that we should use ideology, ideology “ideas” “logos”, science
o Science of ideas
o Would be a practical study of ideas
o Term itself would be immediate success, widely used, come to designate a small
but influential group of thinkers known as the Society of Ideologist (1795)
o Thinkers would be convinced that knowledge should be practical, seek to bring
change through education
o You should allow the many to examine these ideas and participate in the
dissemination and critical examination of these ideas
o Their political positions will put themselves against Napoleon.
Napoleon will call them dreamers, utopians, makers of ideas. He will hate them so much
that in a famous speech in 1812, Napoleon will ban the teaching of both moral and
political science. Effective smear campaign.
Ideology will fall into disrepute, no longer a good thing to consider an ideologist
Tracy was seeking a form of concrete and practical knowledge that ideas will truly exist
in society
Napoleon will widely distort the meaning and sense of the word and have lasting effect
30 years after birth of the term, Marx and Engels will pick the terms up and analysis
critically the question of ideology in The German Ideology (1845-1846, pub 1932)
o Set up the theoretical foundations for the concepts of ideology
o Influence will be lasting
o At the most basic level, an ideology will be an interpretation of the movement
of society given by a particular social class/force
Movement of society, where we are going, related to a specific social
force that will drive this movement
Ideology will try to explain the movement of society and even justify the
movement of society