Monday, July 22, 2024

Is Ideology Reprehensible?

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Ideology has come to influence billions over time, but the million dollar question that needs attention- is ideology reprehensible?

Ideology is defined as a set of beliefs, ideas and objectives of how a society, institutions should be run.

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The end point of any ideology is how to organize the life for the citizens  in a disciplined manner.

It can be utopian or highly practical depending on the societal, political, historical and cultural considerations.

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Ideology is not a new principle. It dates back to the days of Sophists in ancient Greece and the times of thinker Kautilya in Mauryan India.

It typically seeks to unlock the philosophical and scientific underpinnings of how human nature works, how it can be conditioned to reflect various conceptions of good life.

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Ideology is based on morality, ethics and statecraft.

Force for Good

Ideology is based on various hues and shades.

In that context, ideology can appear to be a force for good.

However, any assertion needs evidence. This assertion too has some examples- capitalism is a fine example of such an ideology.

Capitalism is based on the premise that the wealth of any country is concentrated in the hands of a few individuals. The economic system of a country will be organized by the private sector, the government will interfere very little in the regulation of the economic functions of the state.

This approach is known as ‘laissez faire’ which is found in the book The Wealth of Nations written by the father of economics Adam Smith.

Over the years, capitalism has developed a political side-liberalism and democracy.

Liberal democracy is based on the premise of a country being run by its citizens who embody ‘vox populi’.

Democracy based on the principle of popular sovereignty was found earliest in Britain, especially after the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

Notwithstanding the many ills and atrocities that were committed in the name of capitalism, it is indeed a humane ideology.

This is due to the contribution of John Stuart Mill in developing the idea of welfare capitalism on one hand.

On the other hand, John Locke of Britain & Alexander Hamilton of USA championed a truly inclusive liberal democracy.

Especially, John Locke who is known as the father of classical liberalism a true champion of democracy.

Today, capitalism and liberal democracy are followed by almost all countries of the world. In fact, Francis Fukuyama, professor of political economy at Cornell University argued about democracy being the best form of government.

He, stated this in his magnum opus ‘The End of History & The Last Man’. India, too follows, the ideology of neo-liberal economics now.

‘Measles of Humankind’

To quote a portion of Albert Einstein here is a matter of deep thinking.

Ideology, can indeed be a cause of measles of humankind.

This is especially appropriate in the case of communism and Islamism. Yes, it may appear odd that Islamism has been included in this category.

Well, every ideology requires disciplined followers, organized schools of thought with a clear line of vision.

Islamism is, despite having strong political undertones is, such an ideology.

Coming back to the issue, communism and Islamism has over the years killed millions of people, especially communism.

Stalin’s forced collectivization & industrialization, purges of dissidents in the Gulag killed some ten to fifteen million Russians.

Mao’s botched up policies of great leap forward, cultural revolution led to famines which killed between twenty to thirty million innocent Chinese.

Such claims are certainly not preposterous, Steven Pinker in The Better Angels of Our Nature, Norman Lowe in Mastering Modern World History, the psychologist Jordan Peterson have backed it up with strong statistics & facts to indict communism.

Islamism is another ideology. While it hasn’t claimed millions, it has claimed thousands of lives.

It is this ideology that manifests itself in the ideas of terror groups like ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Taliban etc. The neuroscientist Sam Harris describes it as ‘mother lode of bad ideas’.

In fact, Samuel P Huntington went to highlight it as a considerable cause of concern for the world.


It is, therefore, very clear that ideology is both a good and negative force. It is, hence, a bit difficult to consider it as morally and ethically reprehensible.

Ideology is a strong moving forces in human history. Perhaps, the efforts of intellectuals and its followers should be to make it more humane, guided by reason and rationality.




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