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Coordinated by Gheorghe STOICA

Ideology under the Analysts’ Scrutiny and Patterns of Democracy

Gheorghe Lencan STOICA

University of Bucharest

 

Selami Ahmet SALGÜR

 University of South-East Europe Lumina

 

Abstract: The authors seek out to investigate the concept of ideology from a philosophical perspective. This study attempts to answer the very difficult question whether one can talk about “ideologies’’ after the end of the Cold War. Starting from the sources of this concept and from the definition provided by its inventor, Antoine Louise Destutt de Tracy, that of “science of ideas”, the authors consider that, irrespective of the negative connotations associated with the concept in time, one should continue discussing it. 

Keywords: ideology, hegemony, diversity of ideologies, “totalitarian” ideologies.

 

 

1.       INTRODUCTION

 

How could someone believe that when living in the first decades of the 21st century it is no longer of topical interest to speak about ideologists or ideologies? The world is witnessing an era of great changes and transformations, society has become globalised, or downright “liquid”, to cite the words of Zygmunt Bauman. Democracy itself has turned into “post-democracy”, and capitalism is also undergoing endless changes and has entered the stage of “post-capitalism”. Therefore, how can one imagine there is still room for ideology? Let us remember for instance that only a few years after 1989-90 history of the world has changedto such an extent that nothinghas remainedas it was before. At that time, a political scientist of Japanese descent, and we have in mind Francis Fukuyama, stated after a sophisticated Hegelian argumentation that today’s world is only… liberal. Therefore, an ideology was however admitted, but it could be only a liberal one (more precisely a neoliberal one, we should say). Other ideas or other conceptions would have been pointless. Socialists or social democrats would have been prone to let themselves contaminated by social issues, social state and social rights, and consequently would have been too closely linked to “communism”. Yet something extremely important is too easily forgotten, namely the fact that for more than five decades between social democrats and communists there was a fierce confrontation.

Even nowadays in Russia this phenomenon is felt as a genuine relic of those days. Otherwise how to explain the fact that in none of the elections organised after the fall of the USSR social democrats never exceeded the threshold of 0.5%? However, in Western Europe ideological diversity asserted itself altogether only half a decade after the ’89-’90 revolutions. In Great Britain, but also in France or in unified Germany, as well as in Spain, Italy, Poland, Greece or Portugal, the socialists of democracy or social democrats reached the power through free and democratic elections. Moreover, in 1994, in Italy, Norberto Nobbio published a famous book entitled Left and Right, which was highly successful with its huge circulation of more than 200,000 copies printed, all the more since it is a thoroughly ideological work. From a political viewpoint, out of all the UE member states, only in two of them left-wing or centre left-wing parties were not in power in the early 2000s. At that time, the EU counted 12 member states (the same number as that of the stars on the blue EU flag).

What has happened since then? What has become of Fukuyama’s theory? Does ideology or ideologists belong to the past? In this article, we attempt to shed some light on such a controversial issue.

It is widely acknowledged that the term of ideology first appeared in Napoleonic France, in 1796, in the context of the turmoil and aftermath of the French Revolution, as a product of the Enlightenment. Destutt de Tracy is among the first thinkers who launched this term, alongside Volney and Cabanis, and its meaning referred to knowledge as a sort of science, being therefore “a science of the ideas”. In the context of that age, the meaning of this term was rather ambiguous, more often than not ideology having also a pejorative connotation which was plainly asserted as such by Napoleon Bonaparte. Since the very beginning, ideology signified a complex of concepts explaining the world from the perspective of a social group’s interests. The acquired knowledge had an exhaustive character, since, according to the widespread thesis of that age, “science is our religion”. Hence the disputable interpretations which ensued, as totalising explanations could offer but a specious account of reality, yet a mobilising and justifying one for a social group or another. In the same period, the term of progress also asserts itself, and will often share, especially in the Marxist vision, in substantiating the concept of ideology. Due to this fact and in spite of its negative connotation, for numerous masses of people, particularly in the 20th century, ideology constituted an important tool through which people could assert their identity and awareness, and take political action. Actually, in Marx’s and Engels’ vision, the significance of ideology results clearly from their book, The German Ideology, published in the ‘30s of the last century, where the authors identify ideology with falseconsciousness. However, there is also a scientific ideology, which is none other than that ideology which acts in favour of progress, therefore to the benefit of those who work. In this respect, Marxism regards ideology as a necessary process, through which a ruling class presents its own interests as universal interests, and consequently also expresses its own ideas as the only rational and universal ones. Starting from such theses, institutional “objectifications” with a total character can sometimes be reached by dint of exaggerations and absolutisations, aspect which was ended in 1989. Yet certain critical valences and explanatory dimensions remain valid even nowadays, firmly denying today any magnification of the Stalinist era and communist “practice”. A special analysis and approach of ideology can be traced in Gramsci’s work, where the author depicts the close relation between social reality, ideological superstructure and economic superstructure. According to Gramsci, ideology is that place where “people organise themselves, create the ground where they move, acquire the consciousness of their position, and fight, etc.”[1] The importance of ideologies, argues Gramsci, resides in the fact that it “organises” and “activates” the masses, sometimes the latter having a similar “influence” to the very “material forces”. However, in a confrontation with Buharin, Gramsci declares that the role of ideologies is much more important. Hence the particular significance Gramsci attaches to the ideological and institutional superstructure. Consequently, the fight to win the hegemony is something more important than a mere “battle of ideas”. These ideas formulated in Prison Notebooks were written before Marx’s and Engels’ The German Ideology was published, therefore Gramsci ignored the content this book.  

 

 

2. ESSENCE AND CONTENT OF IDEOLOGIES: KNOWLEDGE AND MOBILISATION

 

Much has been said and written about ideologies over time, in different periods of humankind’s history, therefore it is worthwhile examining various aspects such as the essence, functions and content of ideologies. First of all, we should see what we understand today by ideology. There are many opinions and definitions regarding the content and the significance of ideologies. According to Ferruccio Rossi Landi[2], there is a multitude of definitions of ideology, he himself referring to no less than eleven conceptions or visions which might help us, each one in its turn, clarify this concept. Such conceptions indicate the angle from whose perspective is shaped the content aiming at the system of ideas which justifies a viewpoint or another. However, in its turn, the respective system of ideas has an inner logic, and is formally characterised by non-contradiction and completeness. But let us see the eleven visions envisaged by Rossi Landi: a) mythology and folklore; b) illusion and self-delusion; c) common sense; d) falsehood and obscurantism; e) pride and self-conscious deceit; f) false consciousness in general; g) philosophy; h) vision of the world (Weltanschauung); i) intuitionabout the world; j) system of behaviours; k) feelings.[3]    

The dominant traits detected by Rossi Landi define only too well even nowadays’ diversity of ideologies. Such a standpoint explains quite clearly the content of ideologies, as well as the form they take even today. There is a fierce confrontation between them in the wake of which they assert not only their right to exist, but also one of them proclaims itself the sole genuine and just ideology. Such is the case of religious, scientific, neoliberal, and neoconservative ideologies, all manifesting themselves far and wide at the present time. However, if we refer, as Landi did, to the respective traits, we can infer that for the function of ideology it is essential to summarise these three substantial aspects without which they would be unconceivable: 1) ideology as “false consciousness:”; 2) as “vision” of the world (Weltanschauung) and 3) as “philosophy”. That is the reason why philosophical debates “lapse” or “grow” into ideological confrontations, being sometimes present even in the case of “technocratic” or “analytical” philosophies, etc.

There are sometimes situations which seem today unconceivable when certain “totalitarian” ideologies engendered catastrophic consequences – such being the case of Nazism, fascism, and Stalinist communism. They exacerbated certain “truths”, starting from certain “anthropological” errors (Nazism and fascism), or in the case of Stalinism by exaggerations such as “Marxist philosophy is true because it is just”, etc.

In modern or even post-modern days, ideological debates have their starting point in “more subtle”, “more complex” confrontations, and in certain cases even in “axiological neutralities”. The impressive profusion of ideologies is a consequence of the changes occurred in the social or historical reality, of mutations and differentiations, accelerations and conflicts assailing contemporary man. Ideology offers him an answer to all these problems, answer which might seem at times disagreeable, demobilising or orienting him, stimulating and even justifying his actions. As regards the innumerable debates about “ideologies”, thought-provoking seems Karl Mannheim’s conception, who published in 1929 a book entitled Ideology and Utopia, a work which stirred vivid debates, thus simulating the involvement of lots of sociologists and political scientists such as R.K. Merton, P. Sorokin, T. Parsons, Rokeach, J. Floud, E. Shils, etc. They concurred, for instance, that the whole world of ideas is a product of collective life or at least of part of it, admitted that there are no “perennial values”, and tried altogether to demonstrate that the very fundamental principles of ethics, or certain classical concepts such as duty, sin, happiness, etc. have been affected (and can still be any time affected), their meaning being corrupted, and even their significance being at times modified according to their new relation with society and the new situational changes. Karl Mannheim further argues that ideologies can be total or specific. For example specific ideologies can be analysed psychologically and correspond to certain contradictions which are more or less in tune with a real situation, representing the real knowledge of the interests of those who support them.

Total ideologies, whose analysis is possible with epistemological and social researches, are a form of disposition and orientation of the thought deriving from a social and historical structure.

On the other hand, especially today, the ever broader practice of having frequently recourse to science, technique and computers in order to solve social, economic and political issues led according to certain analysts to the decline and death of ideologies.                       

 

 

3. ARE WE REALLY WITNESSING TODAY THE END OF IDEOLOGIES?

 

The thesis of the exhaustion or even the end or collapse of the role and functions of ideologies has long since been circulated. One of the first contestants was the French conservative philosopher Raymond Aron, whose ideas were very popular about sixty years ago. At the same time, more than thirty years ago, the ex-president of the United States, quite appreciated in his days, and we refer certainly to Ronald Reagan, used to think of himself as being the most ideological president. Communism, said Reagan, is a “genuine” realm of evil, assertion which had a thunderbolt effect on the old administrative and dogmatic system of Eastern Europe. But Aron’s thesis was promoted on a larger scale in Milan, during a symposium heldunder the slogan “The Future of Liberty”. Following the path put forward by Aron, the points at issue were discussed by political scientists and sociologists such as C. W. Mills, D.H. Wrong, H. D. Aiken, J. Meynaud, I. L. Horowitz, J. LaPalombara, M. Harrington, etc. In the aftermath of the 1968 student strikes in Paris, and previously mainly the Frankfurt School (with its paramount representatives H. Marcuse, Erich Fromm, T. W. Adorno or M. Horkheimer) fiercely criticise those ideologies perceived as alienating and promoting consumerist and wasteful societies. But “the end of ideologies” almost always had in view the disappearance of those opposing ideologies which were duelling with the ideology that was trying to dominate the one it confronted in a life and death battle. In fact, “the end of ideology” begins precisely when Marx’s philosophy comes to the fore, by proclaiming German classical philosophy as being based on “false conscience”, and since then philosophy has manifested itself as a sort of corsi e ricorsi, and has almost without fail resurrected from its ownashes. A person who chooses a particular ideology should actually be aware that he/she makes a reassuring choice (i.e. it is a sort of security), capable of soothing his/her multifaceted frustrations. It is a well-known fact that ideological thought is made up of a series of structuring elements within relationships, holistically conditioning each other and presenting itself as a whole. That is why when an ideology subsides, for the individual who adopted it everything breaks apart. Moreover, the winner’s illusion opens up a brand new world before him. Today’s radical Islamists live through their terrorist actions this kind of reassuring delusion. Consequently, in spite of its assuring form, in certain cases the ideological edifice looks like a “brutal” action, and a sort of ode to the idea of causality which can be traced back to Napoleon’s age. An “ideologist” (a supporter of the science of ideas), Laplace, asked by the emperor “But where is God in all this?”, answered “Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis”. Things looked the same way eighty years ago, in the Stalinist era, when the diamat, that is dialectical materialism, used to dictate and decide the fate of genetics and cybernetics. This sort of ideologies is no longer viable nowadays, being outright fruitless. Yet last century’s outstanding ideological platforms are still worldwide present, though in their dispute the tension reaches the climax. As above stated, in the wake of the ’90 and ’91 events, Fukuyama believed that liberalism had an undisputable perenniality (exacerbating a “model” of society), a concrete form of social organisation. However, at the same time another thinker can object that liberal ideas “are in fact a huge ideological castle, justifying subjective options”.

The current “end of ideologies”, stated Professor Umberto Cerroni in the early ‘90s of the last century, meant, on the one hand, the collapse of “the reflection on objects without knowing them, and, on the other hand, it was a consequence of the general progress of science in a very complex world in which the individual is warned that the world can only be known by dint of uninterrupted efforts based solely on investigation and (scientific) analysis.[4] Therefore it is superfluous to overbid in a sense or another. And in defiance of the prevailingly negative meaning assigned to the term and concept of ideology, thanks to it, in the 20th century large masses of people found a raison d’être and justified their actions with a view to reaching a great ideal. It is only in this way that in the last century ideology helped “democracy” to assert itself as a model, a pattern, which prevailed in almost three quarters of our planet.

4. IDEOLOGY AND PATTERNS OF DEMOCRACY

In the early ’90 the famous professor of political science who for more than half a century analysed and scrutinised democracy, and we have in mind professor Giovanni Sartori, posited that the democratic model and mainly “market economy” make their way in the four corners of the world. It is only in the Arab world that democracy has not yet become a prevailing institution. However, in 2011 the world became acquainted with the outstanding event known under the name of “Arab Spring”. President Obama was considered as an efficient incentive in determining this sort of process. In his turn, the ex-president of USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev, congratulated Obama declaring that the respective process is but a continuation of what he had initiated thirty years ago, process known as the perestroika. Today things seem no longer as enthusiastic as more than two years ago. In Egypt, but chiefly in Syria, the process undergoes not only a stagnation, but we witness also dangerous involutions. In China neither, nor in Asia in general, the way things go leaves no room for optimism, and sometimes the impressive economic growths occur precisely in those places where authoritarianism seems to have the upper hand. Such is the case for instance of China, but also of other Asiatic countries, and most poignantly of Russia. Was Professor Sartori right once more? – we may ask ourselves. In any case, the explanation is to be found again in the sphere of ideologies, and from their confrontation one “model” or another wins and comes to the fore. Therefore we may even infer that ideology is the pattern of democracies. Who else but ideologies, even nowadays, can settle a dispute and stimulate debates whose role is to draw people’s attention on one point of view or another. To keep on advocating that ideologies are worthless is obviously paradoxically in a world in which “religion returns in the political space with an unconceivable vigour in the middle of the last century”.[5] People want to believe in something, “to build (and live in) communities based on moral norms and values”, concludes our author. The world of democracy is finally founded on a choice within a political framework. A deeply rooted false belief still persists, namely that politics is a practical matter. A thoroughgoing analysis developed and enriched by great political philosophers and thinkers reveals that “a good practice is a good theory”. And it is precisely to reach such a target that philosophy restlessly invites us, with its pursuit of ethics and aesthetics, and not ultimately of ideology. And philosophy, political thought and particularly ideology have been struggling to pave the way for the democratic model. It is ideology itself that has offered us “patterns”, a profusion of patterns, “Patterns of Democracy”, as Arend Lijphart would say.       

 

 

5. CONCLUSIONS

In our argument, we have attempted to advance new ideas and theories, some of them resumed and reinterpreted in the novel circumstances emerged after the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. This thematic issue of our journal entitled Ideologies and Patterns of Democracy aims to provide a new framework for the discussion of these ideas today. The editors of this issue have attempted to cover as many aspects of the suggested theme as possible. Therefore, from a conceptual perspective, the issue has been divided into two parts. The first part contains two sections. Here, Lavinia Stan, Dragoș Dragoman and Antoine Heemeryck present analyses of the contemporary Romanian society. In the second section, Gelu Sabău, Florin Grecu and Alexandru Matei present topics of analysis from the period of the two world wars and the communist period. Sabău’s and Grecu’s contributions present a transversal image of the main ideas and concepts that made up the theoretical framework of the interwar period. Alexandru Matei’s article offers a perspective on the mechanisms of communist propaganda meant to influence the masses by audio-visual media. The second part of this issue contains presentations of regional, theoretical and international topics. It is divided into three sections. The first section contains two articles signed by Jasmin Mujanović, Balić Lejla and Izmirlija Midhat and they deal with the topic of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The second section includes the articles of Gustavo Gozzi and Roxana Olteanu; the authors discuss the process undergone by islamic countries from the “Southern shore” of the Mediterranean Sea on their way to democracy and the EU’s evolution in its 60 years of existence. In the third section that ends this issue, Ioana Cristea Drăgulin and Michele Prospero publish two theoretical articles that foreground the contributions of two great Italian thinkers of the previous century – Antonio Gramsci and Benedetto Croce – and Sándor Karikó offers us an analysis of the concept of social equality. 

The series of articles is opened by Lavinia Stan. Starting from the chronological criterion, the author aims to present an overall image of the most important political events in the country in 2012. The author has analysed the relation between the chosen president and the government, that share, according to the Constituion, responsibilities and competences that often overlap and the impact of the Constitutional Court’s involvement in deciding the fate of political actors in conflict. Dragoș Dragoman’s article discusses the role of the elites in the democratic transformation of the Romanian society after Romania’s joining the EU.  The main topic of the article is that after winning the elections, the political elites tend to control the political system by attempting to shape institutional realities according to their own will, in order to consolidate their own power. Antoine Heemeryck makes a descriptive presentation of the point of views supported by representative NGOs that promote the contemporary societies’ efforts for democratisation and their articulations in the social and political environments. 

Gelu Sabău’s article analyses the Romanian interwar debates between Constantin Stere and Petre Pandrea. The topic discussed by them is the model of modernisation that Romania was supposed to adopt.  This study is relevant in that it highlights the two great paradigms that started from the ideas of the 1848 promoted after the 1848 Revolution and those presented by the Junimea journalists starting from the sixth decade of the 19th century.  These are two important options for modernisation: the first promoted the introduction of Western models of civilisation, to be found in Stere’s work, while the second reflected the local ideas that supported localism and organicism, as in Pandrea’s thought. The article published by Florin Gecu is a natural continuation of the study presented by Gelu Sabău. The author explains how local ideas of organicist orientation were put into practice, after the institution of the authoritarian monarchic regime after 27 February 1938.  The juridical concepts, the economic, political and social regulations were promoted via propaganda in order to introduce an ideological monopoly. Alexandru Matei’s article presents an image of the role of ideology in the so-called democratisation of the communist state. The study presents the activity of the Office of Studies and Polls of the Romanian Radiotelevision during communism, which worked directly with the institutions of official propaganda. The author’s conclusion is that the aim of communist propaganda to influence the masses by means of state television and radio was a failure.  Their popularity and visibility in the ’70 of the previous century was generated by entertainment TV shows and not by ideological shows.

Jasmin Mujanović’s article presents a historical analysis of the tensions between popular mobilisation and project of state consolidation initiated by the dominant elites from Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH), from the 19th century till present. Balić Lejla and Izmirlija Midhat present the social reality of Bosnia-Herzegovina based on minimal consent after the end of the armed conflict. The authors remark that one’s belonging to an ethnic group maintains social division and prevents a real democratisation of the political regime.

In his article, Gustavo Gozzi presents the process of Europenisation undergone by the countries from the “Southern shore” of the Mediterranean, the difficult relation between Islam and democracy as well as possible mechanisms that the Arab world might take over for adopting democratic regimes as a result of the Jasmine Revolution of Tunis.  Roxana Olteanu makes a review of the period of over 60 years of EU existence, analysing topics such as: the legitimacy of the European construction, federalism, intergovernmentalism, European identity at national level, etc.  

Ioana Cristea Drăgulin presents a study about Antonio Gramsci’s concept of ideology. The importance of this contribution is given by the theoretical value of the analysis and the novelty it brings into the Romanian space of ideas. Antonio Gramsci, one of the most important Italian theoreticians of the 20th century, did not benefit from the attention of the Romanian specialists in the decades after 1989. In the first part of the study, the author presents the theoretical references of the concept of ideology and the second part of the study is dedicated to the analysis of key elements of Gramsci’s notion of ideology. In his article, Michele Prospero analyses fundamental elements of the Italian liberalism in the Risorgimento period. The author notices that the lack of a real European culture gave Italian liberalism a conservative orientation. According to the author, Benedetto Croce is the theoretician who best explained the impact of Italian liberalism upon individuals, society and the state, which led to a clear separation between individuals and the state. Sándor Karikó ends this issue dedicated to Ideologies and Patterns of Democracy  with an article on “social equality”.  Starting from the idea that “social equality” is a primary and precious concept, the author suggests that it can be maintained by the promotion of democratic values through education.


Bibliography

 

BERTI, Enrico, CAMPANINI, Giorgio, Dizionario delle idee politiche, AVE, Roma, 1993.

CERRONI, Umberto, Cultura della democrazia, Metis, Chieti, 1991.

GRAMSCI, Antonio, Quaderni del carcere, Editioni Einaudi, Torino, 1975.

MIROIU, Mihaela (coord.), Ideologii politice, Polirom, Iași, 2012.

ROSSI LANDI, Ferruccio, Ideologia, IDEDI, Milano, 1978.

                       




[1] Antonio GRAMSCI, Quaderni del carcere, Editioni Einaudi, Torino, 1975, pp. 868-869.

[2] Ferruccio ROSSI LANDI, Ideologia, IDEDI, Milano, 1978, p. 16.

[3] Umberto CERRONI, Cultura della democrazia, Metis, Chieti, 1991, p. 173.

[4] Ibidem, p. 176.

[5] Mihaela MIROIU (coord.), Ideologii politice, Polirom, Iași, 2012, pp. 26-27.