Thursday, January 15, 2015

Conservatism and Ideology

Most contemporary Americans see conservatism as one of the main competing political ideologies competing for the allegiance of the American voter.

The word ideology, like conservatism, lacks a concise, widely accepted definition.

Originally the term referred quite literally to the "science of ideas." The context meant ideas that constituted part of a political program that required action from it supporters and anticipated opposition from its opponents.

Karl Marx later used the term to describe how people see the world differently based upon their social class or position in society. Specifically, he tried to instill "class consciousness" in a working class that suffered from false consciousness--its embrace of the ideology imposed upon them by the capitalist ruling class. The influence of this conception of ideology can be seen today even among non-Marxists. Instead of accepting political views at face value and analyzing them based upon their overt meaning, some analysts--especially journalists  television personalities--simply disregard those views. Instead, they attempt to interpret those political views based upon some supposed "special interest" or social position in society, i. e., race, class, etc.

Others use the term as a synonym for world view--a person's comprehensive set of propositions about the world and his role in in.

I prefer that first, most commonly understood definition--a conservative plan for political action.

Unfortunately, those professionally engaged in pushing and ideological program--politicians and their retinue of supporters--are notoriously inconsistent. For them, power matters more than programs or principles.

And, unlike those "eternal verities" that make up one's world view,  political programs vary based upon historical circumstances. Even such fundamental cleavages over the roles of government often play themselves out differently based upon the time and place. For example, as we shall see, conservatives have supported "big government" as much as they have "small government."

What mattered was the end to which "big government" has been directed.

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