Joshua Feldman: Reconceptualising (systematic) Ideology in the Wake of Political Psychology

Joshua Feldman: Reconceptualising (systematic) ideology in the wake of political psychology: Positivism, classical conditioning and the Tree of Knowledge (ToK) System

Winner, 2016 George Walford International Essay Prize.

For man’s intellect, though it has mastered a great deal of the universe which is its environment, has not mastered itself… Hence the need for systematised knowledge of the ideological field, a science of ideologies – a science which must of necessity revolve around the central problem of understanding man’s mental development, of understanding understanding. [1]
– Harold Walsby, The Domain of Ideologies

Since its conception, the theory of systematic ideology has been closely entwined with psychology. Distancing himself from the economic determinism of Marx – who wrote about ideology in purely capitalistic terms – Harold Walsby instead placed emphasis on subjective intellectual and emotional growth, shifting the focus from the structures of society to those of the mind. Drawing heavily from behaviourism and psychoanalysis, Walsby reconceptualised ideology from the ground up, tracing its development from the birth of an individual through to their political awakening. In his hands, ideology was no mere corollary of socioeconomic circumstance, but a profound expression of our sense of self.

Nevertheless, although Walsby predicated his theory on the findings of Pavlov, Freud et al., he was insistent that ideology deserved its own field of study, with distinct methodologies and modes of practice. He argued that the basic unit of analysis – ideology itself – was irreducible to its psychological components, since it observed its own rules, patterns and intraspecific relationships. Thus, in the same way that chemistry cannot be explained in terms of physics, or biology in terms of chemistry, ideology – he suggested – cannot be explained in terms of psychology alone. It merited a new academic discipline – a bona fide science of ideologies – that could properly account for its psychosocial complexity.

On first consideration, it may seem that Walsby’s vision of ideological science has not been realised: it is rarely, if ever, recognised as its own field of study, and there are no ‘ideological scientists’ to speak of. However, the emergent field of political psychology is a close equivalent, similarly dedicated to understanding politico- ideological ideas and behaviour from a psychological perspective. Ideology may not form the exclusive focus of political psychology, but this is of little practical significance: we now have a discipline that fulfils the original aim of Walsby’s work – to provide a serious and scientific approach to ideology that overrides economic determinism to account for the role of human psychology.

This essay is split into three parts. Part I considers the historical and theoretical context of systematic ideology to explain how Walsby came to use psychology as an explanatory model. Part II looks at Walsby’s theorisation of ideology in detail, demonstrating the strong influence of behavioural and psychoanalytic research. Finally, Part III examines the distinction between ideological science and psychology, with special reference to Gregg Henriques’ Tree of Knowledge (ToK) System – a visuo-spatial depiction of the relationship between the academic disciplines. In this context, the essay concludes that political psychology is the modern equivalent of ideological science, maintaining its distinction from systematic ideology, which is properly a theory of ideology rather than the study of it.

I. Empirical ambitions: Systematic ideology, meta-ideology and the scientific method

The theory of systematic ideology was born in part out of frustration with the perceived impracticability of true left-wing governance. Writing as a defector from the Socialist Party of Great Britain (SPGB), Walsby lamented the repeated failure in Britain and abroad to establish a cultural hegemony characterised by leftist ideals: “Despite the fact that the socialist, communist and anarchist theories were formulated and disseminated in their modern forms nearly a century ago… in no country anywhere in the world, so far, has there ever been a government (elected on the basis of universal suffrage and free choice of political party – the multi-party system) with a mandate for carrying out the fundamental principles of any of these theories”. [2] Walsby’s qualificatory remarks emphasise that a left-wing government had never been elected democratically (i.e. with the will of the majority), alluding by exclusion to states such as the Soviet Union, where left-wing agendas were imposed by a politically active minority. Although critics could point out a number of seeming exceptions – including Britain’s contemporaneous Attlee government, which nationalised major industries and set up the National Health Service (NHS) – Walsby’s observations foreshadow the ubiquity of neoliberalism and echo Francis Fukuyama’s famous hypothesis that the universalisation of Western liberal democracy marks “the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution”. [3]

For Walsby, the apparent failure of leftist ideology to politically reify is not merely the result of historical happenstance but the inevitable consequence of our collective inclination towards right-wing thinking. The “vast majority of people”, he explains, express “that section of opinion which regards economic individualism, private enterprise and initiative in industry, and private ownership of the means of life, as inevitable, necessary or desirable – and which is opposed, either implicitly or explicitly, to the idea of common ownership and its implications”. [4] Accordingly, it is only a “small minority of people” who hold “that section of opinion which regards a classless, stateless, social system (based on common ownership and democratic control of social production) as inevitable, necessary or desirable, and which is explicitly opposed to the present system of private ownership”. [5]

The imbalance between left- and right-wing ideologies formed a cornerstone of Walsby’s theory of systematic ideology, though it was not officially referred to as such until the publication of George Walford’s companion guide 30 years later. Systematic ideology can be summarised as the idea “that the characteristics that make up the major ideologies come in sets; that those sets of characteristics form a series; and that the ideological series forms a system”. [6] According to Walsby, there are two main ideological sets: the eidostatic and the eidodynamic, roughly corresponding to right- and left-wing ideology respectively. Eidostatic ideology is characterised by political collectivism, economic individualism and positive identification with human beings (‘the group situation’), while eidodynamic ideology is characterised by political collectivism, economic individualism and positive identification with the non-human material world (‘the cosmic situation’). [7]

Walford later inferred that the eidostatic and eidodynamic each contained three major ideologies, which he listed along with their political counterparts: within the eidostatic were the protostatic (fascism), epistatic (conservatism) and parastatic (liberalism), and within the eidodynamic were the protodynamic (socialism), epidynamic (communism) and paradynamic (anarchism). [8] In his introduction to Ideological Commentary – a political journal committed to the study of systematic ideology – Walford renamed the six major ideologies according to their defining principle: expediency (protostatic), domination (epistatic), precision (parastatic), reform (protodynamic), revolution (epidynamic) and repudiation (paradynamic). [9] Aside from naming conventions, the only quality that all of these groups share is their claim to political truth. [10]

While it could be argued that this model is simply a remodelling of the traditional left–right (or right–left) political spectrum, a distinguishing feature of systematic ideology is its proposition that the major ideologies become increasingly rare as you shift from the extreme eidostatic (expediency / protostatism) to the extreme eidodynamic (repudiation / epidynamism), thereby forming an ideological pyramid that is weighted in favour of the values of political collectivism and economic individualism (see Fig. 1). Walsby’s explanation of this phenomenon is, at least, twofold: one, we all begin life in the eidostatic phase and it takes “vertical intellectual growth” to transition to the eidodynamic phase, a transition that is reliant on an education that many people do not have access to; [11] two, each major ideology encompasses that which precedes it in the series, meaning that the protostatic is always present despite the range and proliferation of ideological expression. [12]

exploringideopyramid

Fig. 1: The ideological pyramid, reprinted from Walford’s introduction to Ideological Commentary. Walford notes the pyramid is not to scale since it “exaggerates the size and influence of the upper levels”. He suggests along with Walsby that the major ideologies would be better represented by a hyperbolic curve.

The implications of the systematic-ideological model for eidodynamic thinkers are discouraging: the ideology of ‘the masses’ is forever weighted against them, and the implementation of a truly left-wing democracy is a Sisyphean task. For Walsby, the next stage of intellectual development is therefore to release oneself from ideological thinking altogether and study the nature of ideology itself: “The intellectual is thus, by his growing scepticism, increasingly brought to the position of having to turn his attention to the ideological limitations of the mass group – to interest himself in ideological forms and the process of ideological development”. [13] Meta-ideology, or metadynamic ideology as it was later termed by Walford, is therefore the politico- philosophical foundation of Walsby’s theory – the ideology, if you like, of systematic ideology. Those who conform to it identify with none of the major ideologies exclusively, seeing them instead from a functionalist perspective as essential constituents of human society.

If metadynamism is the ideology of systematic ideology, positivism is its epistemological equivalent, allowing the theorist to study the ontology of the phenomenon through an objective lens while divorced from the emotionally charged debates that traverse the political spectrum. Throughout The Domain of Ideologies, Walsby demonstrates a preoccupation with the scientific method, highlighting “the need for the development of a science of human social consciousness” (my emphasis). [14] He laments the “definite prejudice… which regards the constituents and relations of the ideological domain as intrinsically capricious and chaotic in their essential nature”,15 arguing that it can – and should – be subject to the same mode of investigation as the natural sciences; “ideological science”, as he terms it, must be a “rational, objective study”, divorced from the irrational, subjective nature of ideology itself.16 Of course, Walsby was not a scientist, mapping out his theory with the discursive style of a critical theorist. For the scientific evidence required to substantiate his theory, he therefore needed to look elsewhere – so he turned one of the most promising academic disciplines of his time, psychology.

II. Paradigm shifts: The roles of behaviourism and psychoanalysis in Walsby’s conceptualisation of ideology

Before Walsby enunciated his theory, the discourse surrounding the concept of ideology was thin. As Walford explains in his introduction to Beyond Politics, the most influential contribution came from Marx and Engels, who presented it “as an influence imposing false consciousness upon the workers, dissuading them from revolution”. [17] Key to Marxist thinking on ideology was the base–superstructure concept, summarised in the preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy: “In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations… namely [the] relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure, and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness.” [18] In brief, the economic base determines the ideological superstructure, so ideological diversification reflects competing class interests. Although it is only orthodox Marxists who postulate a strictly one-way relationship between base and superstructure, the theory still implies that ideology is a predominantly politico-economic (n.b. not expressly psychological) phenomenon that is explainable in structuralist terms.

In his foreword to The Domain of Ideologies, Walsby rejects the economic determinism of orthodox Marxism to theorise a more equilibrial relationship between the individual and society. At first, he acknowledges Marx, Engels and social theorist Lewis H. Morgan for their “important discovery… of the enormous conditioning influence exercised… by the changing economic environment of men upon the contents of their thought”. [19] But he goes on to say that this discovery was “so far- reaching and fruitful” that it led to an “over-emphasis and over-estimation of the economic factor”, which “overshadowed and thrust into the background… the typical, inherent forms or modes of men’s thought and the influence of these upon society”. [20] Walsby therefore pays deference to the famous base–superstructure model of society, but his criticisms of it are twofold: the model overstates the influence of economics on ideological development in disregard of pre-existing psychologies, and it understates the influence of these psychologies on society at large.

Sidelining Marxism as an explanatory model, Walsby reconceptualises ideology in overtly psychological terms, defining it as “the complete system of cognitive assumptions and affective identifications which manifest themselves in, or underlie, the thought, speech, aims, interests, ideals, ethical standards, actions – in short, in the behaviour – of an individual human being”. [21] In contrast to Marx, he describes ideology in relation to the individual rather than society, arguing that it transpires from psychological or at least psychosocial factors rather than the economic base. Indeed, the degree to which Walsby’s description echoes the subject matter of psychology is remarkable: take for example my dictionary’s definition of the discipline as “the scientific study of the human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behaviour in a given context” (my emphasis). [22] What is novel about Walsby’s conceptualisation, however, is his suggestion that ideology is specifically a combination of cognitive assumptions and affective identifications, which he elsewhere describes as “the bricks and mortar of which an ideology is composed”. [23] To explicate his definition, he draws from the work of two key thinkers – Pavlov and Freud – who offer the respectively psychobiological and psychoanalytic foundations of his theory.

Pavlov of course is the godfather of classical conditioning, the Russian physiologist who described the learning process by which we come to have a strong response to previously neutral stimuli. After noticing that his dogs salivated after exposure to anything they associated with food (a bell, the lab assistant), he coined the idea of the conditioned or conditional reflex – an automatic response to a previously neutral stimulus after its repeated association with another, unconditioned stimulus. Pavlov built on his findings to develop what is now known as Pavlov’s typology, a model of higher nervous activity postulating that behavioural differences have direct neural correlates. [24] Thus, although Pavlov did not write explicitly about ideology as Marx did, he became for Walsby the implicit voice of authority on the subject, his theories of behaviour having the potential to explain the neurophysiological mechanisms by which we come to associate with particular ideas and ideologies over others.

The first pillar of Walsby’s definition of ideology – cognitive assumptions – is bound by the discourse of classical conditioning. In his essay ‘The Process of Assumptions’, Walsby attempts “to trace some connection or correlation between the assumptive process and the physiology of an individual organism”, reciting Pavlov’s experiments and the concepts of conditioned and unconditioned reflexes. [25] He also echoes Pavlov’s typology, suggesting that “these various physiological processes and, mechanisms concerning the conditioned reflex, involved [sic] in the higher mental activities of all human beings: for example, in learning the meaning of spoken words, in the growth of understanding, in the concentration and diffusion of attention, in the formation of aims, ideas, intentions and so forth”. [26] Although Walsby acknowledges that “it would be an obvious error to attempt to identify the conditioned reflex with the process of assumption”, he concludes that “the assumptive process is necessarily involved in the establishment and operation of the conditioned reflex”; in other words, cognitive assumptions precondition conditioning itself, because they establish certain ideas about how the world works (e.g. that the sound of a bell signals the delivery of food because it has repeatedly in the past). [27] Assumptions, Walsby therefore concludes, “because they are the necessary conditions of all intentional behaviour, are implicit in all expressions of meaning, purpose, design and intelligent action; they underlie, as implications, all statements of fact, expressions of opinion, belief and understanding”. [28] Thus, as assumptions are a prerequisite of conditioning – which is itself a prerequisite of behaviour – they form part of the chain of ideological expression.

The second element of Walsby’s conceptualisation of ideology, affective identifications, is an extension of the first and similarly predicated on psychobiological principles. It refers to our emotional ties with “a whole range of things: from general assumptions, abstract principles and ideas, to concrete facts, forms, symbols, and even particular objects or persons”; [29] thus, while cognitive assumptions are subconscious, purely abstract phenomena, affective identifications represent their extension into the volitional, behavioural realm. In his explication of the concept, Walsby again exhibits a preoccupation with its neurophysiological origins. After reinstating the Pavlovian-typological idea that “the cerebral hemispheres and the mechanism of the conditioned reflex play a great part in the existence and expression of emotions”, he argues that affective identifications consolidate cognitive assumptions – or, as he puts it, “fixate the main assumptive structure”. [30] This explains why Walsby describes identifications as the ‘mortar’ of ideology – for him, they bind and reinforce the assumptions that vindicate its claim to truth.

Although Walsby’s conceptualisation of ideology largely depends on Pavlov’s findings regarding the influence of classical conditioning on the learning process, he also draws some influence from psychoanalysis, particularly when relating the more abstract or phenomenological aspects of his theory. For example, Walsby uses the psychoanalytic concepts of introjection (the unconscious adoption of the ideas or attitudes of others) and projection (the unconscious transfer of one’s desires or emotions to another person) to describe the process of assumptions, which he summarises as an ‘exchange’ between “(a) the introjection of a limitation or determining influence of some kind, and (b) the projection of independence or, what amounts to the same thing, the projection of self-dependence or self-determinism”. [31] In other words, the act of assuming entails a kind of psychodynamic equilibrium, whereby “the total amount of energy involved in the projection, the total energy expended… is equivalent to the loss of independence – i.e. the loss of freedom from the limitation of stimulus”. [32] Although Walsby’s writing on this matter is obtuse, we may infer the following: every time we make an assumption, we restrict our range our thinking and become more close-minded; but that close-mindedness, that restriction, paradoxically allows us to act with more freedom because we are relieved of the burden of self-reflection.

Further to the concepts of introjection and projection, Walsby also borrows the psychoanalytic idea of repression to elaborate his theory. In his chapter on child development – of course a favourite topic of Freud’s – Walsby suggests that “a negative identification is simply a ‘repressed’ positive identification”, and that “the strength of the negative identification is therefore proportional to the strength of the repression”. [33] Again, therefore, he describes a sort of mental equilibrium, an exchange of energies that characterises the ideological process. Walsby then distinguishes between external repression, “the repression of an external or objective limitation upon the egoistic assumption of self-determinism”, and internal repression, “the repression or limitation of the absolute assumption itself”. [34] The absolute assumption, we should note, is “the assumption that one is fundamentally self-determined (or indetermined, independent, unlimited, unconditioned or free)”. [35] Walsby’s distinction between external and internal repression therefore replicates the dynamic between the ego and the superego: while external repression allows the ego to express itself freely, uninhibited by societal constraints, internal repression – as an agent of the superego – forces the self to cooperate.

At times, however, Walsby seems ambivalent towards psychoanalysis as a tool for understanding ideology. Indeed, while Walsby freely draws from Pavlov for the “factual material in connection with the problem of assumption and the derivation of the assumptive process”, [36] he seems less confident about Freud’s contribution. This uncertainty comes across most strongly in his chapter about affective identifications: “Emotional identification is, of course, familiar to psychoanalysis. But our conception of it differs somewhat from the psychoanalytic notion in being, as we believe, a more determinate conception, and in being considerably modified by our understanding of the process of assumption, from which identification is fundamentally derived.” [37] The key word here is ‘determinate’, as it reveals Walsby’s privileging of the positivism as an epistemological approach with practicable results; although Freud features heavily throughout the Domain of Ideologies, he lacks the scientificity that grants Pavlov such authority.

Whatever the respective influence of Pavlov and Freud, Walsby’s transmutation of ideology from a socioeconomic to a psychological phenomenon awards it newfound significance: “An ideology, which previously was a more or less empty, abstract husk or shell, largely removed from the life of the individual and actual mental events, has now become more a conception of a living, growing thing, and intimately connected with the mental life of every human being; our conception of an ideology has, from a vague concept of something relating to a mere arbitrary collection of abstract ideas, fixed and remote from the living person, become an actual, growing, changing state of each human being’s mental organisation”. [38] Here as elsewhere, Walsby breathes life into ideology as something intimately connected with yet distinct from human psychology; an “empty, abstract husk” has transformed into a “living, growing thing”. In fact, by heralding it with such fanfare, Walsby primes the reader for his over-arching argument – that ideology is broader than the parameters of psychology and deserves its own field of study.

III. The birth of a new discipline? Ideological science, political psychology and the Tree of Knowledge (ToK) System

Throughout The Domain of Ideologies, Walsby is preoccupied with the relationship between ideology and other objects of study, particularly the human mind. Although he argues that ideological structure and development stem from psychobiological principles, he repeatedly asserts the integrity of ideology as a point of academic interest: “[there is] an independent, self-determined ideological domain… a domain, realm or class of phenomena which, because it exhibits its own characteristic laws, processes, mechanisms, interrelations and interactions peculiar to itself, has therefore a large measure of independence”. [39] For Walsby, therefore, psychology is not a sufficient explanatory model because ideology is not reducible to its psychological constituents – it occupies a higher, more complex plane of social reality. Thus, he proclaims “the need a science which must first begin, at least, with the study of the ideology of the individual, the unit of the group; a science which is as distinct from psychology as psychology is from biology, and biology from chemistry, and chemistry from physics”. [40] Although Walsby never settles on a name for his proposed academic discipline, we will stick to one of his suggestions – ideological science.

Walsby’s vision of ideological science as predicated on but distinct from psychology is reminiscent of scientific philosophy that stretches back at least to the time of August Comte. In thinking about the relationship of sociology to the other sciences, Comte developed a hierarchy of the natural and social sciences that were ordered according to the complexity of the phenomena under investigation. [41] Thus, mathematics – dealing with “the general gauge by which the position of every science is to be determined” [42] – sits at one end of the hierarchy, followed by astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology and sociology. Inversely related to the complexity of the phenomena is the knowledge base of each respective field, meaning that mathematics has the largest knowledge base and sociology the smallest. Finally, we can read from the hierarchy that each level of knowledge informs the next, with mathematics informing astronomy, astronomy informing physics, and so on.

Of course, Comte’s hierarchy of the sciences was developed before the time of academic psychology, so it is of limited use to us here. More pertinent is Gregg Henrique’s Tree of Knowledge (ToK) System, published in 2003. [43] In principle, the ToK is very similar to Comte’s hierarchy, ordering academic disciplines according to their relative complexity, but it differs in a few key respects. First, it accounts for psychology, which sits between biology and the social sciences. Second, it divides knowledge according to four dimensions of complexity (Matter, Life, Mind, Culture) rather than an equally gradated plane, corresponding to four classes of objects (material objects, organisms, animals, and humans) and four classes of science (physical, biological, psychological, and social) respectively. Third, the model describes ‘theoretical joint points’ where each of these dimensions meet – Quantum Gravity, The Modern Synthesis, Behavioural Investment Theory and the Justification Hypothesis – attempting to explain how one level of matter gives rise to another (see Fig. 2).

Gregg Henriques’ Tree of Knowledge (ToK) System

Fig. 2: Gregg Henriques’ Tree of Knowledge (ToK) System

Sitting at the intersection of mind and culture, animals and humans, the psychological and the social, the Justification Hypothesis (JH) is most pertinent to our discussion of ideology – not only, as it turns out, because of its position on the ToK, but because of the hypothesis itself. The JH consists of three postulates: one, there is a systematic relationship between the conscious and unconscious, whereby conscious processes act as a “justification filter” for unconscious motives; two, the human ego evolved as the “mental organ of justification” to counterbalance our cognitive-linguistic capacity to interrogate human behaviour; three, the first two postulates explain the rise of “large- scale justification systems” that coordinate the behaviour of human populations by distinguishing right from wrong. [44] Examples of such justification systems include law, religion and ideology itself.

The ToK System and the JH in particular are useful tools for helping us visualise and evaluate the relationship between ideological science and other academic disciplines. For Walsby, of course, ideological science would sit somewhere above psychology on the ToK, but its exact location is unclear: although Walsby repeatedly emphasises that ideology supervenes on psychology, he does not explain its relationship with the social sciences, simply arguing that it is a science in itself. However, we can conceptualise ideology as occupying the same position as the JH, sitting at the junction between the psychological realm of Mind and the sociolinguistic realm of Culture; while ideology is influenced by cognitive, neurological, even genetic factors, it also operates at a social and symbolic level, involving groups, political parties and iconography as well as individual thought processes. Furthermore, as a large-scale justification system, ideology is deeply entwined with the justificatory behaviours that Henriques described, providing a framework by which we can judge others’ actions and vindicate our own.

The question remains, however, whether ideology deserves its own science. We have agreed with Walsby that ideology is predicated on psychological principles, and we have elaborated on his position that it represents an extension into the social realm, but neither argument provides sufficient rationale for the formation of a new discipline. So what does? Before answering this question, we should first acknowledge that there is no established framework – no international academic committee – that determines whether or not a particular topic merits its own field of study. Academic disciplines arise organically not only according to natural demarcations between subject matters but according to the academic climate of the time. In the 1970s, for example, there was a proliferation of new interdisciplinary subjects focusing on specific themes – such as employment studies, human sexuality studies and urban studies – and in this vein a department for ‘ideological studies’ is more than plausible. [45]

However, topic-based hybrid disciplines such as these tend to be restricted to the domain of the humanities, where the emphasis is on analysing the discourse surrounding a particular issue rather than empirical discovery. Interdisciplinary sciences do exist – for example biochemistry and geophysics – but they exhibit highly specialised methodologies, whereas the various interdisciplinary humanities-based subjects all rely on the same methods of comparative research and semiotic analysis. If we take the presence of specialised methodology as the main prerequisite for the birth of a new science, then Walsby’s model of ideological science does not qualify, as its mode of enquiry is simply a combination of psychological and politico- scientific approaches. Nevertheless, Walsby was right to emphasise ideology as worthy of study, prefiguring the development of an interdisciplinary field that could account for its psychosocial complexity – a field that has now taken shape in the form of political psychology.

Dedicated to understanding political behaviour from a psychological perspective, political psychology is the closest recognised discipline to ideological science, the difference of course being that ideology is of partial rather than exclusive interest. Nevertheless, political psychology has made countless contributions to our understanding of ideology at an individual and social level, fulfilling Walsby’s vision of a discipline that approaches the topic seriously and scientifically. As it would take another essay to fully demonstrate the influence of political psychology, suffice it to say that research increasingly suggests that ideologies reflect motivational processes; in other words, they are not so much a product of rational political analyses but a manifestation of unconscious fears and desires. Indeed, political psychologists Jost, Ledgerwood and Hardin proposed in 2008 that ideologies may function as prepackaged units of interpretation that spread because of basic human motives to understand the world, avoid existential threat and maintain valued interpersonal relationships. [46] They also demonstrated the human tendency to shift ideological convictions according to the collective belief system of a particular group, lending credence to Walford’s idea that an individual can exhibit multiple ideologies simultaneously. [47]

The emergence of political psychology should not be seen as the death of Walsby’s vision but as the reification of it. Throughout The Domain of Ideologies, Walsby emphasises the need for a “science of human social consciousness”, in the hope that it would abate “the increasing ideological problems imposed by human nature”. [48] Today, there are hundreds of political psychologists around the world working for exactly that purpose. There are dedicated political psychology research groups at the University of Birmingham, the University of Surrey and – most prestigiously – the University of Stanford. There is also an International Society of Political Psychology (ISPP), which emphasises the psychological mechanisms and origins of ethics and morality. [49] Indeed, it is no longer a question whether ideology is worthy of academic study: its pervasive psychological and social influence is testatment enough. Walsby, without even knowing it, was a political psychologist himself, the forerunner of “a science of ideologies – a science which must of necessity revolve around the central problem of understanding man’s mental development, of understanding understanding.” [50]

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