Richard Tatham: Review of The Domain of Ideologies

The publication of Harold Walsby’s Domain of Ideologies raises certain acute and complex problems for those interested in the scientific discoveries set forth.  One’s first impulse is to describe it as one of the most significant contributions to the thought of our time.  In a number of ways it bears the stamp of genius, and – so far as the present writer is aware – it is the first published attempt to describe and classify into evolutionary stages the logical-emotional “outlooks” of the ideological field, and particularly the political attitudes belonging to them.  One must hesitate, especially in treating of scientific matters, to bestow lavish and unrestrained praise, but for all that it does seem legitimate – when looking at the matter as objectively as possible – to regard his area of research, and his initial contribution to it, as of comparable importance with, say, the work of Darwin and Freud.

Yet it is this very consideration which brings to mind the problems I have mentioned above, namely that the intrinsic worth of any advance in human knowledge is no guarantee at all of its ready acceptance among scientific and general intellectual circles.  It could well be the opposite.  Freud himself is a significant case in point.  The fact that so many decades elapsed before hostility towards his ideas had given way to some semblance of tolerance and recognition is but one aspect of the matter.  The other aspect is that in any case both the hostility and tolerance seem to have derived – and still do derive – much more from a rather superficial smattering of Freudian terminology instead of from any deep insight into the ideas themselves.  It is a curious social phenomenon, which should repay analysis, this familiar quasi-intellectual process by which a body of knowledge becomes duly “respectable.”  One feels that prodigious exposition may be of little avail in the matter compared with, say, an invitation to tea at Buckingham Palace.

Now the need for comprehensive insight into the field of ideology is most pressing, if human society is indeed to escape utter annihilation, and it is most likely that the discoveries formulated in the Domain of Ideologies will be of little avail if one sits back complacently and awaits their recognition through the weary and notorious channels of tradition.  This is not to contend, of course, that one must arbitrarily dispense with the acknowledged scientific examination of their validity: they must at all times be available to criticism, though in turn one must distinguish criticism which is rational, and based on factual evidence, from that which is mainly emotional, and based on ideological predisposition.  However, so long as these conditions are observed, those who have achieved some insight into the new field of science, and who sense the abortiveness of seeking its purely theoretical recognition, have the positive alternative of action based on it.

from Science and Ideology 1, March 1948