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Notes on the Concept of End of Ideology


by Pooja Articles

The concept of end of ideology debate implies that at the advanced stage of industrial
growth, a countrys social-economic organization is determined by the level of its
development, and not by any political ideology. Edward Shils reported it as The End of
Ideology. This has been argued on two occasions. The first occasion was in the 1950s
when an argument was put forward as the end-of-ideology thesis. The second occasion
has produced the end-of-history thesis which first appeared in 1989, and is still the
subject of fierce debate.
The best known proponents of end-of-ideology thesis are: Seymour Martin Lipset (1922-)
(Political Man, 1959) and Daniel Bell (The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political
Ideas in the Fifties, i960) For the first time, Lipset offered the version of end-of-ideology
thesis that was later espoused by Daniel Bell, Edward Shils, and Raymond Aron.
For Lipset, post-war societies in the West eliminate the functional need for ideologies since
they have solved the fundamental political problems of the industrial revolution that
generated these ideologies. Daniel Bell pointed out that in the Western World there is
today rough consensus among intellectuals on political issues: the acceptance of a
Welfare State; the desirability of decentralised power; a system of mixed economy and of
political pluralism. In that sense to the ideological age has ended. Ralph Dahrendorf found
that formerly capitalist societies have become post-capitalist societies.
In these societies conflicts are confined within the borders of their proper realm, and do not
influence politics and other spheres of social life. Daniel Bell in his The End of Ideology
(i960) asserted that they are prone to similar development irrespective of their ideological
difference. In his Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics (i960) Seymour M. Lipset
observed that democracy is not only even primarily a means through which different
groups can attain their ends or seek the good society; it is the good society itself in
operation. Intellectuals now realise that they no longer need ideologies or Utopias to
motivate them to political action.

W.W. Rostow, in his The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-communist Manifesto (1960)
built a unidimensional model of economic growth which was applicable to all countries
irrespective of their political ideologies. J.K. Galbraith, in his The New Industrial State
(1967), identified certain characteristics of advanced industrial societies which
corresponded to the thesis of end of ideology.
These are: centralisation, bureaucratisation, professionalisation and techno-cratisation.
Every countrys techno-economic structure is shaped by the level of its industrialisation.
The bureaucratic and technocratic elite have merged in the advanced industrial societies.
In some advanced countries, politics is boring. Politics seemed to have been transformed
from vivid clash over ideology to dull technical discussion about means for promoting goals
questioned by none. This process is often referred to as the end of ideology or as
depoliticisation of politics.
Depoliticisation implies a transformation of political ideologies into a set of more or less
distinct administrative technologies based on a widespread consensus as to what kind of
goals one should try to attain. Even if ideological differences are de-emphasised in a
depoliticised political community. Idea of depoliticisation was spread by Herbert Tingsten
between 1946-1960. Whether depoliticisation prevails in a country depends upon a clearcut notion of ideology.
Within a few years, with the advent of the New Left, the theory looked doubtful. There was
no more revival of ideology, but the most well-off and privileged youth of the richest
Western countries demanded an end of materialism which was the essence end-ofideology thesis.
The modern version of the end-of-ideology thesis does not argue that all ideology had
come to an end, but claims that one ideology, the right one, has finally, absolutely and
permanently, won the conflict of ideas and would dominate human thinking in perpetuity.
This view is known as the end-of-history thesis. It has been put forwarded by Francis
Fukuyama (The End of History and the Last Man, 1992).