fighting ideology

William S. Lear rael at
Sat Apr 10 15:28:07 PDT 1999

On Saturday, April 10, 1999 at 13:08:24 (-0400) Doug Henwood writes:
>William S. Lear wrote:
>>On Saturday, April 10, 1999 at 00:41:44 (-0400) Doug Henwood writes:
>>>In his New York Press column this week, Chris Caldwell quotes "French art
>>>scholar and political scientist Alain Besancon," in his book Le Malheur Du
>>>Siecle, as saying:
>>>"In battling ideological regimes, the main thing is to refuse - without
>>>discussion - the description of reality that it proposes. You have to stick
>>>to this line until the bitter end. Once you put your finger into the
>>>gearworks and grant that their description has an 'element of
>>>truth''re lost, and your political will can only respond with a
>>>falsified intelligence.... In ideology, the 'element of truth' that
>>>provides the seductive power is precisely the place of falsification - and
>>>the biggest falsehood of all."
>>In other words we must retain a Manichean model of reality, with
>>Absolute Evil on one side (theirs) and Absolute Good on our side
>I don't see that at all. I accept Angela's observation that there is no way
>to exist outside of ideology. That concession made, however, I can think of
>a very practical example of why this is such an appealing analysis: lesser
>evil politics. The Democrats are in no way the lesser evil. But liberal
>ideologists - Nathan, you here? - can make some pseudo-credible arguments
>to the contrary. The moment you accept that there's an element of truth to
>lesser evilism, you're lost. In fact, it's precisely at those moments of
>appeal that the power of ideology is at its most sinister: that's precisely
>the lure that seduces even people who should know better into the vortex of
>compromise and betrayal.

There is a difference between an "element of truth", and "pseudo-credible arguments". Further, recognition of the former does not imply acceptance of all the ideas bound up with it.

What are we supposed to do, *deny* that there are elements of truth and retain the Manichean Image? Or do we grant that there are elements of truth but nevertheless reject the ideas because they are hateful, misguided, etc.?

This of course does not imply an abandonment of rationality when evaluating the "elements of truth". There is an "element of truth" to Milton Friedman's arguments about inflation and the money supply (it's true, there is a correlation, however crude). My recognition of this does not make me a Monetarist.

Finally, who says we must accept these arguments as framed? Why in the world would we want to argue about who is the "lesser evil"? Should we not make sweeping judgments like this and take things on a case-by-case basis?


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