Date of Award
Union College Only
Bachelor of Arts
ideology, agenda, thesis, economics, politics, state, structure, pragmatism
For my thesis, I have considered Daniel Bell’s end of ideology thesis in the context of the works of C. Wright Mills. Bell suggested that although ideologies still had some general appeal, the influence of ideologies as political instruments and economic ideals had essentially become exhausted. The modern state, Bell believed, had eluded the classical problems of industrial societies simply because it had evolved into a post‐industrial society, whereby political compromise, the welfare state, and corporations‐ all buttressed by technical reasoning and interest groups‐ could channel social expectations into political realities. By no means did Bell simply assume that America was exempt from class tensions, but he did assert that the structure of the state, fostered from a legacy of pragmatism and liberalism, had provided the necessary channels for social problems and economic inequalities to be addressed institutionally and, more importantly, without radical reform of the underlying system. Thus, the west, as embodied by the United States, had provided for Bell the template for the post‐industrial state, a place where class struggles and political exploitation were diffused by economic prosperity and political bargaining. Mills, on the other hand, addressed the political apathy and national conformity that marked the post‐war era, when Mills believed that a patriotic celebration dulled, or even silenced, the radical elements of a liberal democracy. Whereas figures like Bell assumed that pluralism and social mobility were reinforced by a competitive marketplace, Mills believed the compounded demands of the people were crowded out by a select, often self‐perpetuating elite, who in turn used their power to manipulate the masses into self‐serving agendas, whether it was buying products or contributing to a military‐based economy. When considering Bell’s thesis in the context of Mill’s arguments, one must ask if Bell was simply presupposing the end of ideology in the west, or if he was proposing that there should be an end of ideology in the west. Even if there was indeed an end of ideology in west, what of the east and the rest of world? More than any previous time in history, the post‐war period was a time where national politics were irrevocably bound up in international affairs. However, with the exception of Soviet Russia, Bell steered cautiously clear of most international events, and his criteria for “democracy” and “prosperity” was largely self‐referential to the American experience. Most US citizens did in fact have more economic opportunities and political freedoms than the Soviets, but was America’s pursuit of democracy truly void of all ideological passions? More importantly, since national politics became increasingly bound up in international concerns and responsibilities, did the “progress” of the United States, whether it was material prosperity or alleviated class tensions, come at the expense of political and economic freedoms abroad?
Nichols, James A., "The end of ideology debate : Daniel Bell, C. Wright Mills, and the intellectual climate during the 1950s" (2010). Honors Theses. 1199.