There’s all this rubbish at the moment about people moving beyond ideology. At the Jobs Summit, attendees were harangued to ‘leave your ideology at the door’.
Everything I’m hearing out of the Summit says they haven’t. The business leaders want weaker work rights, lower tax, and subsidies. The few workers’ representatives that were invited want higher wages, stronger work rights, and training allowances.
An ideology is “a systematic body of concepts especially about human life”, it is rooted in ones idea of what how life ideally ought to be and how things need to change to get there. Broadly, there are two groups of ideologies, the Left that believes in collective strength, fairness, equality, and the Right that believes in individualism, the right to act in one’s own interest, the right to possess whatever you can win. The society and economy we live in, while ultimately supported and constrained by the natural world, is the product of the competition and compromise between these two fundamentally different ways of viewing the world.
Everyone has an ideology, whether they can articluate it or not, and that ideology informs, shapes what they think is the correct answer to any political question.
The people at the Jobs Summit haven’t put their ideologies to one side because they can’t. People can’t view problems ‘objectively’ because there is no objective reality, we can only ever view things through the prism of our ideologies.
So, what is really being said when people are told to drop their ideologies? Well, it’s a lot like journos and their ‘objectivity’; you can’t not have an ideology but if your ideology looks like the prevailing ideology most people won’t see it as anything but objective and fair. In reality, being ‘objective’ actually means ‘not being radical, reflecting the status quo’, in fact, being conservative. That has a certain resonance to it because conservatism is, after all, an anti-ist ideology, without set ideas of its own it merely tries to prevent change, to conserve the status quo. Conservatism is a right wing ideology because, in the main, it attempts to block the Left’s attempts at change but it is also opposed to the radicial Right.
And, so, this is the real message that attendees of the Jobs Summit were given: “this is a conservative show, mildly pro-business, mildy anti-government spending, nothing radical. If you have different ideas, especially left-wing ideas, keep them to yourself, you’re being ideological”.