European Ideologies: A Survey of 20th Century Political Ideas

European Ideologies: A Survey of 20th Century Political Ideas

European Ideologies: A Survey of 20th Century Political Ideas

European Ideologies: A Survey of 20th Century Political Ideas

Excerpt

When Emerson wrote,

Things are in the saddle
And ride mankind

he had no prophetic intimations of the twentieth century. In our day it has surely become clear to every thinking person that mankind is now, whatever it was before, governed by ideas, activated by ideologies, and ridden by myths. And there is no such world- shaking ideology as that conceived by those who scornfully applied the term to all other doctrines except their own, and who themselves claim that ideas are nothing but the reflections of the "material," the "real," the economic forces. In our day, ideas have become the great instruments of power. Our proliferating idea-systems work on two levels. They are the springs of collective behavior, giving purpose and direction to groups and peoples and dividing them one from another. On the other level they are used by the men of power, who to win their ends must possess one art above all others, the manipulative art of the propagandist. Thus myths are converted into the techniques of control, as the editor amply reveals in the introductory chapter.

Accordingly, no area of knowledge has greater significance to- day than that which explores the idea-systems of our age. What we shall do with this whole apparatus we call civilization, what goals it shall serve, whether it shall be a means of liberation or of tyranny, even whether this civilization shall survive at all, depends on our changing responses to the appeals these idea- systems have for us. Yet there is no area of available knowledge so little explored, so little subjected to scientific analysis. We know relatively little of the development of these idea-systems, of their relation to changing conditions, of the validity of their compelling claims, of their consequences on our lives when they . . .

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