George Walford: Ideological Development

The order in which the major ideologies have been presented, running from protostatic to metadynamic, is not an arbitrary one. This is the order in which they succeed each other in the development of the individual. We all begin life as protostatics, some remain in this phase and others become epistatics. Some remain in this phase and others become parastatics, and so on through the series. With each step some of the limitations of the previous phase are overcome and some new limitations are incurred, and each step involves the attempt to repudiate the assumptions of the previous phase. [1] Walsby traces the origins of this process in the early experiences of the growing child [2] but we shall confine our attention to its appearance in political and societal behaviour.

When we first emerge from family life into direct contact with the general social system we have little or no historical perspective. We are aware that things are happening around us, people moving and events occurring, but we have no reason to assume that the general structure of society is changing. Neither, of course, do we consciously assume it to be static; the question does not directly arise. But our behaviour in this phase implies that we make the static assumption. When young we do not readily think of our parents as having once been children, and still less are we able to accept that the conditions of childhood in their youth may have been different from those we have known. We all begin societal life with the static assumption, we first encounter the world as protostatics.

Many of us retain this primary, more or less unqualified, identification with the static principle throughout our lives, continuing to behave as though the general structure of society never changed. Others find that as their experience grows they are obliged to accept that significant changes in this structure do occur; changes, for example, in laws and economic relationships. To this recognition there are two possible responses; the list confirms the person in his protostatic identification, the second takes him into the next phase of development.

The first of the two possible responses to the recognition of change is to maintain identification with the static principle but now to engage in active defence of it. Those who exhibit this response no longer merely take the static principle for granted. Rather do they assert that the static principle is the right one, that the dynamic principle is evil and to be resisted. This response, this active assertion of the protostatic ideology, leads toward efforts to eliminate the assumed causes of change – Jews, immigrants and agitators for example. Here we have the root of the connection between the protostatic ideology and autocratic or totalitarian movements; these all strive for elimination of iniiuences assumed to be making for change. (I emphasise that not all protostatics behave in this way. It is also possible for the protostatic not to recognise the existence of significant change, to maintain his passive identification with the static assumption, and observation shows this to be a common stance. The protostatic ideology is not to be equated with Nazism or with Fascism).

The protostatic may recognise the existence of significant societal change or he may not. If he does recognise it he may change from a passive mode to an active one; he may start trying to prevent change and to eliminate the assumed causes of it. In either case he maintains his identification with the protostatic ideology. But there is another response open to him. He may recognise the existence of societal change and accept it, come to regard it as something real and necessary. In this case he ceases to be a protostatic and moves to the next phase of ideological development.

The person surrendering his identification with the protostatic assumptions does not, however, leap directly to full acceptance of the dynamic principle. He has taken only the first step on a long journey. The change in his ideology is a minimal one, extending only to the recognition that it is well to be somewhat flexible in the matter, that to maintain the static principle rigidly is often to ensure its defeat, and that it can best be defended by admitting, under careful control, some small element of dynamism. The protostatic becomes an epistatic, he comes to identify with the major ideology which appears in the political field as Conservatism, accepting such changes as are in accordance with tradition, or will serve to avoid greater changes, and displaying towards the static-dynamic issue, as in other connections, a willingness to compromise.

The epistatic phase is not the end of the process. Some do remain in this phase but others move on to the parastatic ideology. The process can be followed (although with some complications) through the whole ideological series to the metadynamic phase, but enough has been said to enable us to bring out the point with which we are immediately concerned. This is that the presence, in the ideology of a person, of a modified form of the static assumption, implies that he was previously identified with an unmodified form of it. The nature of the epistatic ideology implies that those identified with it were previously identified with the protostatic. When the major ideologies are arranged in the order: protostatic, epistatic, parastatic, protodynamic, epidynamic, paradynamic, metadynamic, then the presence of a person at any point in the series shows him to have passed through the preceding phases.

One point which arises here is that we see ideology to be more than a complicated way of putting things that could equally well be expressed in political terms. It is, obviously, not the case that every Anarchist has been a Communist, every Communist a Labour Socialist, and so on. What ideological theory tells us is that every person identified with any ideology in the series from protostatic to metadynamic has been previously identified with the preceding ones in the series. He may or may not have expressed any of these identifications in the political field.

[1] This attempt is never wholly successful; see Section XIV below.
[2] Domain of Ideologies Part II Chapter 7.

Continue reading An Outline Sketch of Systematic Ideology (1977):
The Walsby Society | Introduction | Ideology and the Left | The Field of Ideology | Assumption and Identification | Definition of an Ideology | Ideological Groups | The Major Ideologies | Ideological Development | Intellect | The Group Situation | The Cosmic Situation | Political Individualism and Collectivism | Economic Individualism and Collectivism | Personal Ideological Structure | Social Ideological Structure | Conclusion | Papers on Systematic Ideology