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Ideology as a Descriptive Tool in Political Theory

Political Methodology
Political Theory
Normative Theory
Political Ideology
Łukasz Dulęba
Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan
Łukasz Dulęba
Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan

Abstract

In recent debate on the current status of political philosophy, many critics emphasize lack of historical awareness of the universal values standing for normative arguments. For Raymond Guess, normative perspective defines politics as “applied ethics”. Others, like Michael Freeden, who feels “strong affinity” with non-ethical realism, warn of “impossibility of reaching an end point in an argumentative chain”. According to those critics, if political theorists want to practice ideal political theory, they should, acknowledged three main factors which should be re-examined in contemporary political philosophy: the problem of inaccurate ahistorical explanation, failure to ethical justification of political process and recognition of ideological capability in the ideal theory. My aim here is to propose a study of ideology, as a descriptive framework of analysis which examines discourse of political arguments, paradigms, languages, conventions, and debates of shared doctrines and political assumptions. The conceptual approach of studying ideologies consists of what is absent in both realist and idealist perspectives: for former, analytical framework and for latter, historical awareness. Analytical framework should establish hierarchy and importance of political arguments, and the historical approach may bring contextual understanding of the (socially and historically) rooted definitions. Some of the contemporary studies of ideology abandoned its critical elements in favour of accepting the totality of its political agenda. This holistic approach can be traced both in Marxists tradition (but not in Marx and Engels works itself): Louis Althusser and Antonio Gramsci writings, as well as in Karl Mannheim and recently in Freeden’s work. The totality of ideological thinking recognizes, that there is no life outside ideology, as a structure of social discourse. This assertion makes studying ideologies feasibly descriptive as a tool within political theory. I argue that the proposed perspective can be more useful and, more practical in explaining, what is set to be a task of political theory.