Ideology Never Ends: An Interview with Daniel Chirot

Chirot_468wAlmantas Samalavicius in Eurozine:

AS: Recently there has been a revival of leftist ideologies and discourses all over eastern Europe. Younger intellectuals have set out to reanimate the “Left” with a set of western discursive practices (multicultural, feminist, queer critique and the like). Do you think such “revivalism” has any potential?

DC: The “end of ideology” proposed by Daniel Bell a half century ago was exaggerated even then. In fact, not long after that book, which was based heavily on the death of the old Left as a dynamic ideology, a new kind of Left surged, and by 1968, it was very clear that ideology was far from ended. I once asked Bell if he had abandoned the idea of the end of ideology. His answer, which was no answer at all, was that this was like asking him when he had stopped beating his wife. In other words, whether or not he did (and there is no evidence he did!), once the question was posed that way, he could not answer without seeming foolish. Later, with the fall of European communism, Fukuyama and others made the same claim. But ideology never ends. Yes, of course, there will be a resurgent Left, though it is more likely to take the form of protest against the unfairness of the existing economic order. We see this slowly forming in the United States. A large part of the population wants a fairer taxation system, greater toleration of gays and racial minorities, and greater investments in education. But there is also a very active Right that does not want these things. What are called the “culture wars” in the United States is actually another form of a quite traditional left-right struggle. In Europe, both the Right (think Viktor Orban or the anti-immigrant parties in places like the Netherlands or Denmark) and the Left, particularly in southern Europe, are going to get much stronger. Economic crises have a way of doing that, and the one we have now is not going to go away so quickly.