The politics of the book

Of course there is no correct definition of a word. Definitions can be in more or less widespread use, more or less enlightening, more or less useful, but they are not correct or incorrect. (Of course, one can be mistaken about a definition: if someone thinks that the common definition of "dog" is "a cream-filled pastry," and he uses the word that way, he has made a mistake and he will be misunderstood. But, if he says "Let me define 'dog' as 'a cream-filled pastry,'" it is odd, but not wrong.)

So if one wants to define "ideology" as "a person's political views," well, there you have it. But I think that there is a more useful definition, one that differentiates a political ideology from mere political views. That definition has been elaborated by Russell Kirk, Eric Voeglin, and Michael Oakeshott, among others. Here is Paul Franco on Oakeshott on ideology:

"But by far the most significant characterization of rationalist politics for Oakeshott is that they are ideological politics, 'the politics of the book.' The rationalist's belief in the sovereignty of technique translates in politics into the belief in the superiority of an ideology over a tradition or habit of behavior. The superiority of an ideology, like that of a technique, is thought to lie in its being self-contained, 'rational' through and through. But this we know not to be true. An ideology, far from being self-contained or independently premeditated, itself presupposes a tradition of behavior and is merely an abridgment of it." -- The political philosophy of Michael Oakshott, p. 112


  1. Seems related somehow


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