George Walford: Synopsis of Beyond Politics

This undated and previously unpublished work was discovered among the papers of the George Walford.

SYSTEMATIC IDEOLOGY – A study of the Structure, origin and evolution of ideologies

  1. Introduction
    Ideology, usually seen as a distorting influence, is best understood as a normal part of social life. Karl Marx’s class theory of ideology is the only one to win much acceptance; further experience since his time has shown that it accounts only for some of the minor ideologies, not the major ones we shall be studying. Social development has not followed the course expected by the socialists and communists and in seeking the reason for this we discover the fundamental importance of ideology.
  2. The Political Series
    We start where ideology is most familiar; in politics. The main-sequence political movements in Britain distinguished by the general ideas they respectively hold. When arranged in a certain order they form a significant series, ideas which are small and weak in the movement standing at one extreme growing bigger and stronger in moving along the range. As these ideas develop so the successive movements become smaller and less influential. The same series, under different names but exhibiting substantially the same features, appears throughout the advanced world, and it includes the very large group of non-political people as one of its terms.
  3. From Politics to Ideology
    The general ideas held by the different movements occur in definite sets, all those who support each movement holding the same set; this constitutes them a group and distinguishes that group from others. These sets of ideas govern political behaviour but operate mainly below the level of awareness, people rarely knowing clearly what their own set comprises. This means they are best termed not “general ideas” but assumptions. The sets have become known as the ideologies of the movements, but it is not only in politics that the set of assumptions, the ideology, governs behaviour. It does so every time we act with purpose, in whatever field. Each of the major ideologies linked with a distinct pattern of behaviour, an ethos; this more readily recognisable than the underlying set of assumptions, and providing a descriptive name for the ideology, one which does not imply limitation to political matters.
  4. Ideology Beyond Politics
    We all enter adult life with the same ideology. Some people go on to develop another. In doing this they repress but do not eliminate the original one; it continues to influence their behaviour although in ways they consider unimportant. Some of these go on to develop a third ideology, some of those yet another, and so on, the previous ideology being retained in each case and continuing to influence behaviour although under repression. The primal ideology, that of the non-political people, inclines its adherents rather away from work than towards it. Each ideology beyond that inclines its adherents towards a particular complex of activities, one complex including government, agriculture, traditional education, production and institutional religion, another including the hard sciences, accountancy, logic and nonconformist religion.
  5. The Beginnings
    The major ideologies have emerged in the course of social development. For much the greater part of the time humanity has existed the only mode of life was that of the hunter-gatherers, and this expressed the primal ideology. As their title implies, these people did not produce their own food. In their communities work (in the sense of a joint productive enterprise) was unknown, and they did not have government either.
  6. From Village to Empire
    Government and agriculture (entailing work) appeared together some 10,000 years ago, and the other members of the complex of activities associated with the second ideology quickly followed. This ideology accounts for social development from the first appearance of institutionalised control (by “big men” and chieftains) to the great empires of recent times.
  7. After the Empires
    The next major ideology, after preliminary appearances in the English Civil War and elsewhere, became established as a social influence with the French Revolution. It is responsible for the movements which led the colonies to throw off imperial rule and for the transition (not yet complete) from imperialism to a world-wide system of independent states each respecting the independence of the others. The communities living by the first ideology gathered their food; those of the second lived by agriculture and herding, using human and animal muscle-power; the next ideology brought science, with machinery and science-based industry.
  8. The Eidodynamics
    The remaining ideologies in the series (roughly speaking, those which appear in politics as socialism, communism and anarchism) have not succeeded in establishing forms of society which express their principles; they remain influences and aspirations. These movements expect the general body of the people to adopt the ideologies favoured by the reformers and revolutionaries in place of those they now hold, but there are no good grounds for this expectation. Confirmation of this found in comparison of the pattern followed by social development with that of progress in science, as presented in Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific evolutions.
  9. The Origins of Ideologies
    Purposeful action has to be adapted to the circumstances but we never know in full detail and with complete certainty what these may be. We are obliged to make assumptions and then to adapt our behaviour to circumstances as we assume them to be. This is why different groups living under the one set of social conditions behave differently; they are making different assumptions. By explaining how the principal sets of assumptions, the major ideologies, arise, systematic ideology helps us to understand why the main social groups behave as they do.
  10. The Evolution of Ideology
    The major ideologies emerge as results of a non-genetic evolutionary process, each of them forming part of the environment to which its successor is adapted and its continued existence therefore being needed for the continued existence of that successor. This is why all the earlier major ideologies including the primal one, that of the hunter-gatherers, persist today as working parts of our social structure. Each major ideology depends upon its predecessor, the primal ideology depends upon the living animal and that in turn upon the inorganic world. Ideology is a continuation of the system of universal evolution which began with the fundamental particles of matter.
  11. Conclusion
    The alarmists would have us believe that we stand on the brink of disaster. If they are right, this is not the result of failure; our worst problems arise from uncontrolled success. In order to achieve control we need to understand how our society operates. The groups (political, occupational, religious, educational and so on) which constitute it are expressions in practice of the major ideologies. As we come to understand these and the relations between them we come to understand our society and to know, at least within broad limits, what changes can be undertaken with a reasonable expectation of success. Ideological evolution continues, but with increasing understanding we can expect to bring it under control.

Continue reading Beyond Politics by George Walford (1990):
Preface | Introduction | Politics as Ideology | The British Political Series | The World Political Series | From Politics to Ideology | Ideology Beyond Politics | The Beginnings | From Village to Empire | After The Empires | The Eidodynamic | The Origins of Ideologies | The Evolution of Ideology | Conclusion | Appendices | Notes & References | Select Bibliography | Index | Synopsis