Master of Arts (MA)
Faculty of Arts
The exponents of the decline-of-ideology thesis have failed to provide a serious analysis of the political, economic, and ideological trends of the period. They were wrong in their predictions that Marxism and radical ideologies would lose their power to motivate. They were also wrong in their predictions that the two great ideological systems were converging. Not only did they fail to provide an analysis of the political, economic, and ideological trends of the period, but they also failed to provide a serious analysis of ideology as a concept.
In an attempt to define ideology, I trace its appearance and usage in early, philosophical writings to such modern interpretations of the world as seen in the nineteenth and twentieth-centuries philosophers: Marx, Mannheim, and Lukacs. A definition is presented: “Ideology is any more or less systematic set of ideas and thoughts which have been converted into beliefs explaining man’s attitudes towards life and his existence in society and specifying a pattern of political action responsive to, and commensurate with, such ideas and thoughts.”
Another reason why attention is focused on the interpretation of ideology as presented by the above theorists is to demonstrate the validity of four propositions: First, ideology was part of a philosophical conception of politics critical of all pre-modern conceptions of the political arrangements under which society was organized and not any justification of the existing order of things. Second, all later ideologies are attempts to resolve the basic theoretical and practical problems posed by the original theory of ideology. Third, the contemporary ideological climate of thought is mainly the result of the vulgarization of the concept by Marxist theorists who attempted to provide an analysis of ideology. Fourth, the views held by the exponents of the decline-of-ideology thesis are similar to those who have provided the basic ideas for the formulation of the concept.
The entire convergence thesis is based on the static assumption about the momentary state of world politics and economics, and the thesis tends to disregard more fundamental differences among social institutions and attitudes. There is a conceptual confusion which tends to obscure the many-sided reality of the contemporary world. The convergence theory should be dismissed because it does not provide any evidence that ideologies are declining. It simply lends justification to the accusation that the exponents of the decline thesis do not write as social scientists but as ideologues.
Ideology has been seen as declining as a result of the emergence of a post-industrial society in which scientific knowledge and technology play a central role. This society is also characterized by high and widespread levels of economic well-being and affluence which lead to the disappearance of dissatisfaction. In short, all the dimensions of the post-industrial society are non-political. But these writers have not elaborated the political implications of their concept. No systematic attention has been given to the nature of the post-industrial society.
Implicit in the writings of the exponents of the decline thesis is the assumption that there is an ultimate movement towards a static equilibrium of the social forces and a denial of moral and human ideals in the post-industrial society. But they have misconstrued what happens to man’s political interests, behavior and attitudes towards politics as society becomes more affluent. Several plausible hypotheses are examined with respect to the attitudinal change that may occur in the post-industrial and affluent society.
Nikolakakos, George, "A Critique and Analysis of the Decline-of-Ideology Thesis" (1979). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 1588.