The term "ideology" can cover almost any set of ideas, but its power to bewitch political activists results from its strange logic: part philosophy, part science, part spiritual revelation, all tied together in leading to a remarkable paradox--that the modern Western world, beneath its liberal appearance, is actually the most systematically oppressive system of despotism the world has ever seen. Alien Powers: The Pure Theory of Ideology takes this complex intellectual construction apart, analyzing its logical, rhetorical, and psychological devices and thus opening it up to critical analysis. Ideologists assert that our lives are governed by a hidden system. Minogue traces this notion to Karl Marx who taught intellectuals the philosophical, scientific, moral, and religious moves of the ideological game. The believer would find in these ideas an endless source of new liberating discoveries about the meaning of life, and also the grand satisfaction of struggling to overcome oppression. Minogue notes that while the patterns of ideological thought were consistent, there was little agreement on who the oppressor actually was. Marx said it was the bourgeoisie, but others found the oppressor to be males, governments, imperialists, the white race, or the worldwide Jewish conspiracy. Ideological excitement created turmoil in the twentieth century, but the defeat of the more violent and vicious ideologies--Nazism after 1945 and Communism after 1989--left the passion for social perfection as vibrant as ever. Activist intellectuals still seek to "see through" the life we lead. The positive goals of utopia may for the moment have faded, but the ideological hatred of modernity has remained, and much of our intellectual life has degenerated into a muddled and dogmatic skepticism. For Minogue, the complex task of "demystifying" the "demystifiers" requires that we should discover how ideology works. It must join together each of its complex strands of thought in order to understand the remarkable power of the whole.
The revival of ideology, which began early in the second half of the last century, has led to reconsideration of the following questions: What underlies the pattern of the rise and decline of the ideological mode of thought? What leads young intellectuals to search for an ideology? What accounts for the changes in ideological fashion over time and nation, and shifts from one set of philosophical tenets to another? Who indeed are the ""intellectuals?"" Studies of ideology have tended to range themselves for or against particular viewpoints, or have concerned themselves with defining perspectives. The purpose of this book is to examine the common causal patterns in the development of various differing ideologies. Feuer finds that any ideology may be said to be composed of three ingredients: The most basic and invariant is some form of Mosaic myth. Every ideology also has its characteristic philosophical tenets spreading from left to right, which conform to the cycle of ideas; and, finally, an ideology must be taken up by some section of the population who can translate it into action. Intellectuals in generational revolt find in some version of the ideological myth a charter and dramatization of their emotions, aims, and actions. Since each generation of intellectuals tends to reject its predecessors' doctrines, a law of intellectual fashion arises the alternation of philosophical doctrines. Ideology has inevitably made for an authoritarian presumption on the part of master-intellectuals and marginal ones and assumes their antagonism to objective truth and science. It is Feuer's contention that only when intellectuals abandon ideology in favor of science or scholarship will an unfortunate chapter in the history of human unreasonbe overcome.
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