Ideologies and Political Theory: A Conceptual Approach

Ideologies and Political Theory: A Conceptual Approach

Ideologies and Political Theory: A Conceptual Approach

Ideologies and Political Theory: A Conceptual Approach

Synopsis

Ideologies play a crucial role in the way we understand and shape the political world. However, no one has been able to explain the nature of ideologies themselves. In this important new book, Freeden offers a ground-breaking approach to the subject. Drawing on the political experience of Britain, France, Germany, and the USA over the last two hundred years, the author provides an in-depth examination of all the key political ideologies: liberalism, conservatism, socialism, feminism, and green political thought.

Excerpt

The study of ideologies is torn between various approaches that have emerged out of different conceptualizations of ideology, causing disarray and confusion among scholars. Appearing mainly as a peculiar and frequently unsavoury expression of distorted and power-serving political thinking, and thus as a point d'appui from which a transformative exposition of social thought and practice can be launched, or as a simplistic classificatory label for broadly based political belief-systems and the historical traditions in which they unfold, ideologies lag in the status stakes behind the high prestige of political philosophy, whether analytical or critical. A central aim of this book is to challenge the current predominant attitudes to ideologies and their scholarly analysis. Its argument will not follow Marxisant schools whose critical notions of ideology constitute attempts to transcend its illusory nature. To adopt that critical disposition is to deflect attention from the product itself and to deflate its status and value both as an intellectual phenomenon and as a means through which social understanding may be attained directly. The thinking encapsulated in ideologies deserves examination in its own right, not merely for what it masks. It should no longer be pigeon-holed as an impoverished and inferior relation of analytical and normative political philosophies. Rather, ideologies are forms of political thought that provide important direct access to comprehending the formation and nature of political theory, its richness, varieties, and subtlety. The academic investigation of ideologies, it will be claimed, must be accorded equal ranking with the study of political philosophy.

The current state of affairs, with its exaggerated disjuncture between the two, gives rise to concern. As products, both political philosophy and ideology are genres of political thought that display strong similarities in their morphology and that may overlap considerably in many of their normative and recommendatory features. As academic modes of construing the social world, the current distanciation of political philosophy as a subdiscipline-- in particular, its Anglo-American varieties--from a serious consideration of concrete ideologies has significantly depleted the . . .

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