The Urban Plantation: Racism & Colonialism in the Post Civil Rights Era

By Robert Staples | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
Pan-Africanism as Ideology and Utopia

IDEOLOGY AND UTOPIA

Most social movements have ideologies that serve to orient and justify their actions. Sociologists define an ideology as a relatively authoritative, closed and explicit belief system that commands obedience from adherents, covers a wide range of situations and is organized around one or a few pre-eminent values.1 Black social movements have been conspicuous for the lack of an ideology or the prostitution of ideologies to serve a multiplicity of different and conflicting goals. Under the banner of nationalist ideology there are groups advocating socialism and capitalism, violent revolution and cooperation with the system. These same movements have been more heavily reliant on the charisma of a leader than an ideology. Whatever the leader said was the ideology, not a guiding set of principles that were binding upon all members of a particular group.

We also have to distinguish between ideologies and a social movement. The ideology is an articulation of ideals that set goals and guidelines for aspirations and policies. A social movement is the dynamic implementation of actions designed to reach those objectives. In some cases we have ideologies but not social movements. The ideology of black separatism is a good example. While there are a number of black separatist organizations, few are engaged in the active process of securing separation from whites for their members or the masses of black Americans. Similarly, many of the advocates of a black capitalist philosophy are themselves not private entrepreneurs but salaried employees. While there may be extenuating reasons for this seeming contradiction, it does illustrate that ideologies are statements of ideals and not necessarily related to ongoing social movements.

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