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September 03, 2012

Is Ideology the Chicken? Or the Egg?

Michael Oakeshott on ideology as an abstraction of reality:

Oakeshott also spoke of the “ideological style” in politics. This style is dissatisfied with the unplanned, undesigned order which has come to be through a combination of chance and choice over a long period of time and which is understood through the familiarity those who participate in it acquire. Such order will be misunderstood if judged according to an independently premeditated model of what it “ought to look like.” Oakeshott argues that this ideological vision can never in fact be independent; it is constructed by abstraction from actual experience, offering what appears to be a coherent design only because it sets aside all the complexities with which, if it is “put into practice,” it will inevitably have to deal and which will immediately begin to reveal its inappropriateness:
If, however, we consider more closely the character of a political ideology we find at once that….So far from a political ideology being the quasi-divine parent of political activity, it turns out to be its earthly stepchild. Instead of an independently premeditated scheme of ends to be pursued, it is a system of ideas abstracted from the manner in which people have been accustomed to go about the business of attending to the arrangements of their societies….political activity comes first and a political ideology follows after…(“Political Education,” RIP, 51)

Posted by Cassandra at September 3, 2012 11:41 AM

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