Introduction to Political Theory

(Marvins-Underground-K-12) #1
can be non-evaluative or purely factual in character; second, it fails to see that
ideology can be transcended, not by avoiding morality in politics, but by moving
beyond the state.
Why should the state be linked to ideology? In our view, the state is best defined
as an institution claiming a monopoly of legitimate force – a claim that is
contradictory and implausible. In claiming a monopoly of legitimacy, supporters
have to denigrate those who challenge this monopoly, presenting their own values
as an exclusive system. Inevitably, a statist focus distorts realities. This problem is
exacerbated by the fact that the state not only claims a monopoly of legitimacy,
but a monopoly of force, and the use of force to tackle conflicts of interest acts to
polarise society into friends and enemies, those who are respectable and those (an
inexplicably violent minority) who are beyond the pale. This gives ideas an absolutist
twist that is characteristic of ideologies, and explains why ideologies are problematic
in character. This is unavoidable where the objective of a movement is to win (or
retain) state power. The Movement for Democratic Freedom seeks to unite
conservatives, liberals and socialists against the tyrannical rule of Robert Mugabe
and his ZANU-PF party, and it cannot avoid an ideological character. In the same
way, gay rights activists who organise to protect their interests and call upon the
state to implement appropriate policies are acting ideologically.
However, movements are not purely ideological, where they seek not only to
transform the state, but to move beyond it altogether. Take feminists for example.
Feminists do not normally believe that punishing aggressive men through the courts
will solve the problem of male domination, although they may support it as a short-
term expedient. In the longer term, they would argue that we need to change our
culture so that force is seen as an unacceptable way of tackling conflicts of interest,
and that we must resolve conflicts in what we have called a governmental way –
i.e. through negotiation and arbitration and not through force. This longer-term
aim is non-ideological because it rests upon trying to understand why violence arises
and how we can move beyond it. It involves a politics beyond the state and, in
seeking to face reality in all its complexities, it is moving beyond ideology as well.
The notion of monopoly and the use of force that are inevitable when the state is
involved, limit the realism of ideas and make them ideological.


Crick, B. (1982) In Defence of Politics2nd edn, Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Giddens, A. (1994) Beyond Left and RightCambridge: Polity Press.
Gray, J. (2002) Straw DogsLondon: Granta.
McLellan, D. (1995) Ideology2nd edn, Buckingham: Open University.
Mannheim, K. (1936) Ideology and Utopia,English translation, London: Routledge & Kegan
Partridge, P. (1967) ‘Politics, Philosophy and Ideology’ in A. Quinton (ed.) Political
PhilosophyOxford: Oxford University Press, 32–52.

What is ideology? 169
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