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The Study of Ideology in Politics and International Relations

Dates:
  • Mon 23 May 2016 09.00 - 18.00
  • Tue 24 May 2016 09.00 - 18.00
  Add to Calendar 2016-05-23 9:00 2016-05-24 18:00 Europe/Paris The Study of Ideology in Politics and International Relations

The purpose of this workshop is to explore the meaning and utility of the concept ideology. Particularly, we will reflect on the relation between a holistic understanding of ideology that was developed in various branches of neo-Marxist thinking one the one hand, and a narrower understanding that is used in more positivist research on the other hand. Are they fundamentally separate ideas or just gradually different? Can they be reconciled, or are they incommensurable? Was it fruitful to abandon the holistic conception of ideology in mainstream Political Science and International Relations, or is there promise in a revival of a more fundamental understanding or critique of ideology? If yes, how can such approaches communicate their importance to the mainstream of the field?

However, what do we think of when we speak of ideology? In 1989, Francis Fukuyama proclaimed the end of history and thereby also the end of ideology as a relevant analytical category. The big struggle between capitalism and communism had allegedly ended with the victory of the former. Subsequent political conflict was presumably post-ideological. This has been a pervasive idea that influenced academic and non-academic thinking about politics and international relations over the past decades. In the wake of this, the concept of ideology has played a marginalized role in the mainstream of these fields, and a role that arguably conflicts with its initial purpose.

For example, the term ideology does figure in research on political behaviour or party politics. Yet, their definition of the concept covers only the least common denominator and does depart substantially from the more fundamental understanding of ideology found in various (neo-)Marxist approaches. In mainstream Political Science, the concept was translated into positivist empirical research by referring only to explicitly held beliefs about the world. Generally, the aim is to situate actor’s beliefs in an ideological space (for example a left-right scale) and use this positioning as a potential explanation for their behaviour.

This stands in opposition to an earlier understanding of ideology that goes back to Marx and others. There is a wide range of critical, post-structuralist, neo-Marxist, and other scholars who have developed the notion in many different directions (for example, Slavoj Žižek, Michel Foucault, Theodor Adorno, etc). What they have in common is that ideology is not a variable amongst others, but a pervasive category that precedes many other variables. It is a precondition for actors to navigate and act in the social and political world, both on the structural and individual level.

Seminar Room 3, Badia Fiesolana DD/MM/YYYY
  Seminar Room 3, Badia Fiesolana

The purpose of this workshop is to explore the meaning and utility of the concept ideology. Particularly, we will reflect on the relation between a holistic understanding of ideology that was developed in various branches of neo-Marxist thinking one the one hand, and a narrower understanding that is used in more positivist research on the other hand. Are they fundamentally separate ideas or just gradually different? Can they be reconciled, or are they incommensurable? Was it fruitful to abandon the holistic conception of ideology in mainstream Political Science and International Relations, or is there promise in a revival of a more fundamental understanding or critique of ideology? If yes, how can such approaches communicate their importance to the mainstream of the field?

However, what do we think of when we speak of ideology? In 1989, Francis Fukuyama proclaimed the end of history and thereby also the end of ideology as a relevant analytical category. The big struggle between capitalism and communism had allegedly ended with the victory of the former. Subsequent political conflict was presumably post-ideological. This has been a pervasive idea that influenced academic and non-academic thinking about politics and international relations over the past decades. In the wake of this, the concept of ideology has played a marginalized role in the mainstream of these fields, and a role that arguably conflicts with its initial purpose.

For example, the term ideology does figure in research on political behaviour or party politics. Yet, their definition of the concept covers only the least common denominator and does depart substantially from the more fundamental understanding of ideology found in various (neo-)Marxist approaches. In mainstream Political Science, the concept was translated into positivist empirical research by referring only to explicitly held beliefs about the world. Generally, the aim is to situate actor’s beliefs in an ideological space (for example a left-right scale) and use this positioning as a potential explanation for their behaviour.

This stands in opposition to an earlier understanding of ideology that goes back to Marx and others. There is a wide range of critical, post-structuralist, neo-Marxist, and other scholars who have developed the notion in many different directions (for example, Slavoj Žižek, Michel Foucault, Theodor Adorno, etc). What they have in common is that ideology is not a variable amongst others, but a pervasive category that precedes many other variables. It is a precondition for actors to navigate and act in the social and political world, both on the structural and individual level.


Location:
Seminar Room 3, Badia Fiesolana

Affiliation:
Department of Political and Social Sciences

Type:
Workshop

Contact:
Martina Selmi (EUI - Department of Political and Social Sciences) - Send a mail

Organiser:
Prof. Jennifer Welsh (McGill University)
Joao Tiago Do Ó Labareda (EUI - Department of Political and Social Sciences)
Malte Hergaden (EUI - Department of Political and Social Sciences)
Patrice Wangen (EUI - Department of Political and Social Sciences)

Speaker:
Professor Sinisa Malesevic (University College Dublin)
Dr Jonathan Leader Maynard (University of Oxford)

Attachment:
The Study of Ideology_Programme
 
 

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