Front Page Titles (by Subject) III: Social Science Paradigms and Ideology - Literature of Liberty, Summer 1982, vol. 5, No. 2
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III: Social Science Paradigms and Ideology - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Summer 1982, vol. 5, No. 2 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Social Science Paradigms and Ideology
Evolving social paradigms and the distorting role of ideology are thematic undercurrents in the following set of summaries. In the first summary, historian William H. McNeill forecasts the growing importance that the developmental and subjectivist paradigm will play over the next twenty years of social science scholarship. The theme of ideology is introduced in Prof. Kendall's following analysis of the truth-distorting consequences of ideology. Ideology is next charged against the ‘new’ history by Keane and Femia on the respective grounds of Quentin Skinner's alleged positivist or objectivist epistemology and his extreme ‘historicism.’ Montesquieu's religious ideology is analyzed by Masterston and set against Montesquieu's scientific and deterministic sociology. Needleman and Jung offer analysis of existentialism and phenomenology to illuminate the importance of the Cartesian subject-object split in modern thought and political theory. This same question informs McNeill's, Kendall's, Femia's, and Keane's methodological discussion of current paradigms of social theorizing.
The Developmental Paradigm of Social Science
“Trends of Scholarship in the Social Sciences, 1980–2000.” In A Rededication to Scholarship: Papers Presented at the Dedication of the New Central Library, University of Cincinnati. Edited by James K. Robinson. Cincinnati: The University of Cincinnati Press, 1980, pp. 35–45.
In what direction are the social sciences tending to develop under the sway of newly emerging paradigm shifts? In the 30–40 years following World War II, the dominant paradigm, shared by such ascendant idea-clusters as Freudian psychology and Keynesian economics, was the “systematic” approach (systematic in the sense of seeking propositions universally applicable to human personalities and economic relations, respectively). Opposed to this systematic approach is the developmental emphasis: “the idea that time really matters in a deep and fundamental sense, so that what is possible at one moment in an evolving network of relationships is not possible before—or after.” The evolution of the system as a whole is affected in ways unforeseeable by human action in the present.
Among the more “developmental” sciences—anthropology, sociology, history, and political science—some succumbed during the 1920s and 1930s to a scientistic cult of fact-gathering and the “inductive method,” but this positivistic anti-theoretical faith has been dimmed since World War II by three kinds of developmental awarenesses: (1) Our subjective mind and sensibilities make “facts” relativistic to the observer and undermine the quest for an unattainable scientistic certainty; (2) The time dimension and our ability to understand human experience affect the way we observe as well as our conclusions; (3) The evolving vocabularies which social scientists use as observers powerfully affect what they see. These developmental perspectives seem more congenial than the statistical and mathematical aspiration to the “systematic” quest for universal truths and prognostication.
Methodological debate between systematizers and the developmental sciences seems likely to become “a major axis of growth” for the rest of this century. A second possible line of development would involve an effort to bring the social sciences in contact with the implications of man's biological nature. In particular the biological model of ecology may be useful for thinking about humans and their social relationships. In an ecological fashion, idea systems react to their environment, stabilize in new “niches” to form an equilibrium maintained by our symbolic culture within a larger ecological context.
Social science can never emancipate itself from ideology—the idea structure compatible with and sustaining some social structure. We should be aware, however, that the concepts of the social sciences that we accept and believe in will be a crucial factor in defining and determining ourselves and our society's future. It may be possible, through a natural competition for survival among ideas, that liberal, pluralist societies which tolerate diverse ideas can better grow and adjust to altered conditions.
Ideology, Relativism, & Truth
“Ideology: An Essay in Definition.” Philosophy Today 25 (Fall 1981): 262–276.
Ideology, often used as a smear word against rival schools of thought, is poorly understood. This contributes to the problems of epistemological relativism (that is, the claim that all knowledge is relative) in the study of man and society, problems discussed in the sociology of knowledge. To understand ideology we must first define it clearly. The author inquires into existing usages of the term “ideology” to clarify its definition and answer the objections of relativism. Kendall's ideas are parallel to the work of Paul Ricoeur's hermeneutical philosophy. One of his targets is answering the Marxist “critique of ideologies,” which contributes a negative emancipation from interest-motivated ideologizing without restoring us to a right relationship with being.
Four basic usages of “ideology” occur in the writings of social scientists: (1) Most textbook definitions are vague and all-inclusive definitions of ideology as the sum total of the ideational or mental components in society. Even in this crude understanding, we find the contrast between “subjective” mental activity in contrast with some more “objective” type of cognition. (2) The Marxist perspective contrasts ideology as thought that is non-autonomous defense of class interests with a concern for truth. (3) Mannheim contrasts ideological with utopian thought. Utopian thought imagines possibilities which may be actualized but are suppressed by current social institutions and so transcends limits which ideology imposes on human possibilities. (4) A final usage is illustrated in Daniel Bell's “end-of-ideology” school, which contrasts an allegedly unknowable and subjective “absolute” truth or ultimate end (ideology) with the objective cognition represented by the pragmatic approach concerned with means, solutions to technical problems, rather than ends.
Two dimensions of a formal definition emerge from these four usages: (1) Ideology as cognition in which the perception of boundaries or limits (hence possibilities) in reality is distorted; and (2) Ideology as subjective cognition. These formal criteria are clarified and explored by the author, and he finally reaches a more adequate definition: “Since truth is the adequation of the intellect to the object, and an object is an object by virtue of its form, ideology, negatively, is thought not oriented to truth, and positively, is thought grounded in a hatred of truth.”
This refined definition of ideology is next applied to two problems of the sociology of knowledge: the problem of relativism of knowledge and the problems of the relation of the truth of an idea to its genesis.
Mannheim intended the sociology of knowledge to function as a critique of ideology, but his positivistic background made him unable to defend his own thought from the charge of being itself ideological. The author asserts that his approach, by cognitively and ontologically defining the distinguishing criteria of truth and ideology, makes his analysis non-relative and testable.
In one sense the genesis of an idea is unrelated to its truth. But in the case of an ideological scholar, who does not ground his ideas on their correspondence with reality but with other commitments, the truth or falseness of an idea he commits himself to is accidental rather than essential. In such ideological cases, we get at an idea's essence only if we see it as an effort to distort the truth (the intellect's representation or intention of the form of the object) and search for its ideological genesis.
The ‘New’ History's Presuppositions
“On the ‘New’ History: Quentin Skinner's Proposal for a New History of Political Ideology.” Telos 47 (Spring 1981): 174–183.
Quentin Skinner, author of The Foundations of Political Thought, 2 vols. (Cambridge, 1978), exemplifies the socalled “new history” of political ideology. Keane maintains that the entire new history project is feeble in its interpretative presuppositions and conservative in its uncritical, antiquarian consequences.
One central but fatal presupposition of the new history project may be termed the intentionality claim: historical interpretation is judged synonymous with explications of what past authors were self-consciously intending in their utterances. This intentionality claim pre-supposes two debatable points. First, it is a fantastic claim, in the light of self-deception and depth psychology, that agents always have privileged access to their own intentional utterances. Next, the subjectivist new history eclipses the semantic autonomy of texts.
The new historians' task is to interpret a past that reproduces the immediately given intentions of actors within their context of an ensemble of conventions of political argumentation. This embraces a positivist copy model of interpretation which presupposes the very objectivism the new historians decry. There can be no “presuppositionless” understanding of the speech and actions of others. We can understand the past, however, by what may be called a “negotiation model of historical interpretation.” The positivist presupposition of selfless researchers who are removed from their “object” of interpretation fails to consider that “subject” and “object” must be conjoined by an initial shared linguistic universe if interpretation is to be possible. Interpreters co-determine or “negotiate” the meaning of past utterances. The meaning of texts always goes beyond the author's intentions owing to unintended consequences and multiple interpretations.
Skinner's history of political ideology “unwittingly celebrates the power of the past over the present. It prefers antiquarian explication over critical evaluation.” But the past is rife with “power, interest and self-deception.” As historians we must be critical and not remain bogged simply considering an author's intention rather than questioning his relation to hegemony, oppression, and ideological self-deception.
More favorable interpretations of Skinner's Foundations are: the reviews by Judith Shklar and Julian Franklin in Political Theory 7 (November 1979): 549–558; and the comments by J. G. A. Pocock in Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory 3 (Fall 1979): 95–113.
Historicism & The History of Ideas
“An Historicist Critique of ‘Revisionist’ Methods for Studying the History of Ideas.” History and Theory 20, no. 2 (1981): 113–134.
What are the correct procedures to adopt to arrive at an understanding of a past work of philosophy or political thought? During the past decade, a “revisionist school” within the field of intellectual history—whose nucleus includes Quentin Skinner, J.G.A. Pocock, and John Dunn—have attacked traditional approaches to the history of ideas, decrying a “lack of historicity in the treatment of linguistic artifacts” (writings) from the past. In particular, this revisionist school excoriates the prevalent notion that “the whole point of studying ‘great’ works of philosophy is to extract the ‘timeless elements’ or ‘dateless ideas’ with universal (and therefore contemporary) application.
The revisionists argue that in order to understand a historical text, we must recover the historical context and particularity of the author's intended meaning. They claim that in the sphere of political-social reality, thought has (1) no universal truth, (2) no independence of its cultural-linguistic context, (3) no significance for the present, (4) and no meaning beyond its author's intentions. Although this ‘intentional’ approach is a variant of classic historicism, it goes far beyond this type of historicism. A study of Antonio Gramsci's historicism shows that only the first claim is entailed by historicism or justifiable in its own terms. The revisionists' program would prevent us from understanding our own political ideas as they are founded upon our philosophical traditions.
Professor Femia challenges the revisionists' critique and methodology from Gramsci's “absolute historicism” perspective. Concentrating on an analysis of Skinner's famous article, “Meaning and Understanding in the History of Ideas” (History and Theory 8 (1969): 3–53), Femia dissects the fallacies which he discerns in the revisionist approach to the history of ideas. Following Gramsci, he argues that: (1) ideas may enshrine much that is of permanent value, even though they are themselves untrue or obsolete; (2) thinkers do indeed work within intellectual traditions, which, to some extent, transcend particular historical-linguistic contexts; (3) all history is “contemporary history,” dictated by the interests of the historian; study of the past is valuable only insofar as it casts light on present problems and needs; and (4) it is neither necessary nor desirable, from historicist perspective, to understand a body of thought purely or even primarily in terms of the author's conscious designs.
The author presents an analysis of historicism from Vico through Dilthey and the nineteenth century to Gramsci and contemporary writers, and places Skinner in an “extreme variant” of this tradition, since Skinner sees all statements as inescapably bound up in their unique historical-linguist context which they cannot transcend without anachronism. Past ideas cannot, in effect, transcend translation into the language of disparate cultures. But if history is a series of disconnected events, what is history? The revisionists' error derives from a positivist theory of knowledge which rests on a complete disjunction of subject and knowledge, as if facts impinge upon passive consciousness which has no activity of its own.
Mentalities as Cultural History
“The History of Mentalities: The New Map of Cultural History.” History and Theory 20, no. 3 (1981): 237–259.
The “history of mentalities,” a field of intellectual history, considers the attitudes of ordinary people towards everyday life, including ideas concerning childhood, sexuality, family, time, and death. This approach is closely identified with the French Annales school. But whereas the Annales historians concentrate on the material factors conditioning man (economic, social, and environmental influences), the historians who investigate mentalities examine the psychological realities underpinning human conceptions of intimate relationships and basic habits of mind.
The history of mentalities has parallels with the history of ideas and culture. Idealist cultural historians, such as Burckhardt and Huizinga, saw problems of culture as problems of world-views and their interpretation within the social and political contexts. This idealist approach to cultural history lost its appeal since its methodology arbitrarily limited it to studying high culture, and tended to view the common man as a passive recipient of ideals forged elsewhere. By contrast, the history of mentalities went beyond the idealist historians to consider the culture of the common man. This newer approach shifted the focus from world-views to the “structures” through which such conceptions are conveyed (such forms that regularize mental activities: customs, rituals, linguistic codes, aesthetic images). Describing these structures of ideas helps to map the mental universe which characterizes a particular culture. This new focus is on the history of mind rather than the history of ideas.
Historians who first developed guidelines for the history of mentalities were Lucien Febre and Marc Bloch (founders of the Annales School in the 1920s) who were concerned with collective systems of belief. Later, Philippe Ariès and Norbert Elias identified and developed theories on early childhood. Finally, Michel Foucault, who was most thoroughgoing in applying structuralist methods, considered the psychology of social deviants and nonconformists.
This mode of interpretation provides a way of examining those aspects of life and cultural history which the linear approach cannot address, such as the pressure of conformity, the sense of accelerating time, and the preoccupation with self. It provides a perspective on the civilizing process. What is called progress might, from the mentalities perspective, be easily labeled control. Thus political liberty was won at the price of a pronounced psycho-social discipline. Paradoxically, man as creator creates structures which limit his capacity for free expression.
Foucault's History: Power/Knowledge
“Foucault's History of the Present.” History and Theory 20 (1981): 32–46.
In The Birth of the Clinic, The Order of Things, and Discipline and Punish, Michel Foucault writes a “history of the present” by showing the connections between the “archaeology of knowledge” and criticism.
In The Birth of the Clinic, Foucault is principally concerned with the changes in human perception evident at the end of the eighteenth century and the relation of these changes to the fundamental “structures” of experience. Underlying the history of medicine is the moral and political attempt to link the development of science with the development of bourgeois freedom.
In The Order of Things, he cites “archaeology” as a method of uncovering the fundamental paradigms of cultures and their systems of thought.
Finally, in Discipline and Punish, Foucault considers discourse a domain of power relations and thus establishes a link between knowledge and power. A “history of the present” is a self-conscious field of power relations and political struggle.
Montesquieu's Faith in Rights and Liberty
“Rights, Relativism, and Religious Faith in Montesquieu.” Political Studies 29 (June 1981): 204–216.
Credited with refounding sociology, Montesquieu (1689–1755) is also admired for his doctrine on the institutional context of liberty. “In his character of libertarian he supported his attitude to liberty with a doctrine of natural law and a rather undeveloped doctrine of natural rights.” Masterson discusses the tensions between these two strands of Montesquieu's thinking, “the scientific strand which attempts to analyse, explain and predict human behaviour and the prescriptive stand which declares human duties and fights for human rights.”
Montesquieu believed in natural law and rights, notably the right to liberty. Yet he advanced physical explanations of individual behavior and a mixture of physical and social explanations of cultural differences in moral and aesthetic attitudes, religious belief, and the capacity to sustain liberty. Such explanations conflict with the assertion that human beings can know and follow universal natural laws. Despite his explanations of religious beliefs, Montesquieu resolved the intellectual and emotional tensions between his doctrines by recourse to his own religious beliefs—for a working knowledge of moral principles—and the notion of a freely acting, immaterial soul, although his science seems to leave it almost no room for action.
Montesquieu was not always a strong individualist since he was deeply religious in the fundamentals of his thought. He stressed God's laws rather than any secularized version of the rights of man. There can be no doubt, however, about his commitment to liberty or of his readiness to criticize political and legal institutions from the point of view of freedom, as he did in the Persian Letters and The Spirit of the Laws. Opposed to servitude, Montesquieu viewed liberty as the foundation of happiness. He believed that political liberty depended on divisions of power between individuals, institutions, and social classes, but his scientific theories stressed the difficulties of reforming society and institutions. When thinking as a physical or social scientist, Montesquieu was a causalist and relativist and thus at odds with his role of moral critic advancing ideas of natural law, right, and natural liberty. He, nevertheless, was sincerely opposed to that form of determinism known as “Spinozism” and sought to escape its logic through religious faith and the notion of an immaterial soul giving free will and the capacity to act either morally or immorally. Only religious faith protected Montesquieu's moral doctrines from eradication by his own deterministic science. Montesquieu's science limited the range of human knowledge and of man's ability to choose: this effectively implied the impossibility of a critical morality of natural duty and right. His own scientific causalist and relativistic views on the social origins of religion should, logically, have undermined his faith, but he arbitrarily exempted Christianity from his scientific explanations. Likewise, his religiously based belief in an immaterial soul allowed him to assert free will even against the unbearable consequences of his scientific principles.
Existentialism: Nature & Freedom
“Man's Nature and Natural Man.” In Consciousness and Tradition. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Co., 1982, pp. 12–22.
Existentialists claim that man's freedom consists in the fact that man has no nature: “man's essence is to determine his essence, man's nature is to choose his nature, man is condemned to absolute freedom.” This stance is opposed to those philosophic and religious thinkers who believe that man has a determinate essence to which he must conform his will and understanding if he is not to go against the grain of his purpose in the universe. But “if man has no nature, what can he hope for?”
The existentialists are correct in their critique of the modern materialist world view of natural science, which arose with the mind-body split of Descartes and the “pure corporeality” of Galileo. Methodologically, the modern scientific world view sought to banish the self out of the world in order to investigate the world. It equated the real with what is knowable. “And since our ideal of knowledge came to be mathematics, it was not too long before we began to suspect that this self, or subject, since it was not mathematically knowable in any full sense, was not entirely real. At most, it was merely the pale knowing subject, very much a ghost in a universe of blind, purposeless, homogeneous corporeality.” The existentialists are right in their revolt which asserts against scientific materialism the full reality “of the free, conscious, vital, purposing self.”
The existentialists, however, attack Descartes while remaining strictly within his fold. Epistemologically, they are “nothing less than Cartesian anti-Cartesians.” For existentialists, consciousness, mind, “is not viewed as something which intends an object; consciousness is this intention.” They, in effect, agree with the subject-object split of the Cartesians, merely stressing more the claims of the creativity and constituting nature of consciousness over the inert passivity of objects. In the existentialist perspective, “A man's life is like a ship that can and does constantly change not only its destination, but its flag, its crew, its captain, its origin, and its cargo as it sails through the mathematically structured blind sea of the Cartesian res extensa.” Man's consciousness, or his intentionality creatively fashions, with complete freedom, whatever reality he chooses. Whereas the Cartesian scientist denies the reality of the passenger (consciousness), the existentialist denies the reality of the surrounding ocean (objects). “Man is a purposing being in a purposeless universe. . . .” His imagination may creatively picture life in the ocean, but he is crossing a “truly dead sea.”
But in admitting the shortcomings of the existentialist, we need not return to “some shopworn, naive idea of natural man, bestial, evil, ontologically fixed. Nor need we revive a view of human nature “that either fails to see man's animality or else buries him in it to such a degree that his consciousness and reason are at best only minor epiphenomena.” Needleman's thesis holds that from the point of view of mature religion, the existentialist is right in holding that “natural man has no nature,” but this “natural man is not free. On the contrary, he is a slave.” If we replace the existentialist's world view (in which consciousness exists wholly outside the pale of the rest of reality) with a more coherent world view that sets the processes of thought, desire, and sensation within a vast, ordered, and organic whole, then we see that “freedom would presumably manifest itself not by change, but by permanence” in the sense of a determinate structure of self and universe organically interrelated.
Phenomenology and the Social Sciences
“Preface” and “The Nature of Phenomenological Thinking.” In The Crisis of Political Understanding: A Phenomenological Perspective in the Conduct of Political Inquiry. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1979, pp. xiii-xvii, 1–13.
Phenomenology—a new paradigm in man's understanding of himself as both knower and actor—has come of age in the social sciences, long after its founding fathers (Martin Heidegger, Edmund Husserl, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty) have spelled out its revolutionary implications for philosophy. Since the seminal publication of Alfred Schutz' Der sinnhafte Aufbau der sozialen Welt in 1932 (which was translated as The Phenomenology of the Social World in 1967), it has taken four decades for phenomenology to reach its maturity in the social sciences. The 1973 publication of Phenomenology and the Social Sciences edited by Maurice Natanson in two volumes represents this new direction and turning point in contemporary philosophy of the social sciences. Adding to this phenomenological momentum was the inauguration in 1978 of Human Studies: A Journal for Philosophy and the Social Sciences, edited by George Psathas. Jung's present volume is the first systematic treatise on the phenomenological philosophy of political science.
Jung's study is a critique of political theorizing in contemporary political science. Treating phenomenology as reflexive, self-conscious thinking that seeks the “origin” of knowledge or truth in the everyday, experiential life-world (Lebenswelt), the author seeks an alternative way of theorizing to the prevailing theories of politics which have been dominated by ontological objectivism and epistemological scientism—particularly by political behaviorism. The model Jung develops is the phenomenological thought of Merleau-Ponty, “a ceaseless interrogation on an inseparable link between existence and meaning in all their ramifications.”
Phenomenology is a response to the crisis of political understanding due largely to the failure of the paradigm of objectivist scientism to take into account the subjectivist, experiential dimensions in political inquiry. Husserl's Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology identified the roots of this crisis as the fact-minded, meaningless epistemology of positivism and naturalistic objectivism. Phenomenology, by contrast, is a “movement” focused on a critique of human knowledge, an inquiry into the limits and possibilities of human cognition in terms of experiential evidence. In Socratic fashion it conceives of philosophy as a perpetual beginning in wonder, and it seeks knowledge (episteme) by plunging into the world of doxa, or everyday experience.
The crisis of humanity is foremost the crisis of thinking. Adolf Eichmann's horrendous callousness reveals the “banality of evil” as thoughtlessness. To remedy this crisis, phenomenology cultivates thinking as the spirit of questioning in accord with the natural order of things. We can discriminate authentic thinking (what Heidegger called “meditative thinking”) from inauthentic thinking (“calculative thinking”). Inauthentic thinking is characteristic of technocratic, instrumental thinking whose roots stretch back to Plato, Descartes, Galileo, and Hegel. Inauthentic thinking, unlike meditative thinking, divorces the intentional subject from the object of knowing. Such an objectivism is a ‘scientism’ since it claims that the human or social sciences can be studied in the same way as the natural sciences, that is, through causal explanations and prediction. Phenomenology, however, aims at a “reflective liberation” by being self-critical. This self-scrutiny, or practicing the phenomenological “reduction” (epoche) is not escapism; it seeks to be a bridge between the solitude of radical reflection and the community of human action. Truth, as implied in the Delphic motto “Know thyself,” dwells in the self-examination undertaken when we reflect upon our own thinking—even political thinking. We need to withdraw from political activity in order to engage in the most political and searching of activities: reflexive thinking.
Jung provides an extensive bibliography on phenomenological political thinking and discusses phenomenological ontology, the critique of behavioralism, scientistic positivism, and “the cybernetic model of man in political science,” together with analyses of C.B. Macpherson and Leo Strauss.