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Title: Ideological uses of the past
Author: Grimes, Alistair
ISNI:       0000 0001 3520 858X
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1984
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The thesis is divided into four parts. Each part deals with one aspect of ideological thought. The first part attempts to define the area for study by indicating how the terms ideology and ideological will be understood, and some reasons for dissatisfaction with previous attempts to define the term. It then considers the objection that any attempt to examine the concept of ideology must itself be a rival ideological version of events. This objection is examined by contrasting philosophy as an activity with ideology and offering reasons for holding that they are a) different activities b) philosophy does not underpin a particular ideological model. Thus, it is possible to offer a disinterested study of our subject. The second part examines the relationship between history and ideology. It attempts to show that history is an autonomous enterprise and that it offers a special and particular understanding of the past. In contrast, it is suggested that there are other ways of understanding the past (of which ideology may be one) but that we can distinguish between them and the historical understanding of the past by looking at the appropriate context. The third part looks at three particular ideologies - Marxism, Liberalism, and Conservatism. It attempts to illustrate the part played by the past in these ideologies and to thus make concrete the argument of part II that ideologiets are interested in the past, but not in history. The argument looks at the relationship between the past and the other aspects of each ideology, for example, the view of human nature, of political activity and of social change. It is suggested that the important feature of the past for ideologists is the practical information it can provide, rather than the knowledge it can generate at a theoretical level. The vision of the past which Marxists, Liberals and Conservatives have is determined by these other elements, such that even if we wanted to, examining the Marxists view of the past, as history, would be to distort it. Having contrasted ideological understanding of the past with an 'academic' understanding in the shape of history, part four looks at the relation? ship between ideology and religion. The purpose here is to see whether understandings of the past which are not academic (they are termed 'practical' here) are of the same type. The conclusion is that there are as many differences between two 'practical' entities such as ideology and religion, as there are between ideology and 'academic' disciplines. Thus the 'shape' of ideology is thrown into relief from two sides, that of 'academic disciplines' and that of 'practical activity'. The fourth part continues by raising the question of disagreements between ideologists and poses some questions about their capacity for resolution. It is argued that disputes between ideologists are not like disputes or arguments between scientists of philosophers, because they lack appropriate criteria. A more illuminating parallel, it is claimed, is with moral disagreements, where fundamental values rather than 'facts' are at stake. The thesis seeks, by looking at how ideologists understand the past, and by relating that understanding to the other aspects of ideological thought to try and make clear the status of ideologies in relation to other areas of thought. It concludes that though ideologies do not offer us an objective or theoretically illuminating understanding of events, they should not be dismissed as a mere parasite on political activity. They are closer to religion and to morality than to science, philosophy or history, without being identical to them. Thus, to dismiss them as if they were the poor relations of academic enquiry may be to misunderstand them.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: History