Responding by telegram to an obituary in the New York Journal, Mark Twain announced that ‘the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated’ (1897). One would certainly not be misguided to follow Twain’s advice with regard to the beleaguered concept of ideology, whose death-knell has prematurely tolled for over half a century. As Andrew Heywood wickedly proclaims, ‘history [and with it ideology] has ended on a number of occasions in the last few centuries’ (1992, 278). Despite the over 2100 books pertaining to ideology that one discovers on an unscientific search of amazon.com, theorists as diverse as Francis Fukuyama, John Horgan, Katie Roiphe, and Slavoj Žižek trumpet that we now live in a ‘post-ideological’ age. Although none of the above would claim that world turmoil has ceased, many would posit (at least during the 90s) that the struggle over the mechanism for change has been replaced by debate over pragmatic solutions to local problems. For example, echoing — and often citing — the work of earlier ‘end-of-ideology’ theorists such as Raymond Aron, Daniel Bell and Seymour Martin Lipset, conservatives such as Fukuyama and Milton Friedman confidently announce that Marx’s formulation regarding historical inevitability was incorrect: free-market capitalism, not socialism, was the final step in the process of historical evolution. The decline of communism in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe marks the culmination of ideological struggle.1 While conflicts will continue to exist, democratic capitalism contains the ‘solutions’ for such problems within itself. For such theorists, ideology per se is as outmoded as a whalebone corset.
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- The ‘Post-Ideological’ Era?
James M. Decker
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