Ideology and Politics


John Schwarzmantel

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    Preface and Acknowledgements

    This book attempts to offer a broad survey of the state of political ideologies today, with special reference to the context of contemporary liberal-democratic societies. Two introductory chapters try to paint a general picture of the ideological scene and then seek to indicate the nature and current difficulties of those ideologies which have hitherto been the dominant ones. The book is then divided into two main parts. Part One analyses what are here called the ‘old’, ‘traditional’ or ‘established’ ideologies of modernity, conventionally placed on a Left–Right spectrum of political debate. These are the ideologies of liberalism, socialism, conservatism and nationalism. These chapters try to explain why these ideologies are all in a state of crisis when faced with a society more fragmented and diffuse than the society in which they originated. Part Two discusses what are here called ‘new’ or more ‘molecular’ ideologies of feminism and environmental or green politics. It then proceeds to analyse the appeals of identity politics as well as the attempts to respond to such identity politics by developing ideas of community, citizenship and multiculturalism. A subsequent chapter discusses current radical ideologies of protest expressed in the alternative globalisation movement. The aim here is to offer a characterisation of such ideologies and see where they fit in, if at all, to the familiar Left–Right map of ideological debate. A concluding chapter argues against the view that the current scene is one of ‘the end of ideology’ or of ‘post-ideological politics’. It seeks to advance the idea of a ‘counter-ideology’ emerging to challenge what is at present the dominant perspective of neo-liberalism in which market relations and quantitative criteria of output and measurable product are presented as the only acceptable ones.

    At the end of each chapter there is a short selection of books or articles relevant to the themes treated in that chapter. This selection is meant to indicate material useful to those readers wishing to pursue those particular topics further.

    The material dealt with here covers large themes to be tackled within the limits of one book. I hope it will be useful in offering a broad survey and in indicating the nature of current debates over the role of ideology in politics and indeed in making a modest contribution to these debates. I think these are important issues, given the relative paucity and narrow limits of political discussion, at least in the confines of official party politics and electoral competition. Anything that widens the scope of political debate is, in my opinion, to be welcomed.

    I am very grateful to Lucy Robinson, David Mainwaring and Sally Hoffmann of Sage Publications for their encouragement and assistance. I derived great benefit from the comments of a number of readers on the planned outline of the book, and am especially grateful for the extensive and thoughtful remarks of one of these readers who provided many helpful suggestions. I would also like to acknowledge a general debt to three practitioners of social science (one of them sadly no longer with us) whom I have had the great good fortune to know personally and whose work has been an inspiration and illumination to me, even when I did not always agree with their particular conclusions. Even though none of these three mentioned has had any direct input into the present book, I wish to express my debt to the work of Zygmunt Bauman, David Beetham and Ralph Miliband as my mentors and models of what work in social and political science should be like.

    JohnSchwarzmantelLeeds, June 2007
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