Jewish World Review Oct. 4, 2010 / 26 Tishrei, 5771
Ideology vs. Principle
By Paul Greenberg
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Dear Critic,
It was wholly a pleasure to get your pointed question about a phrase I used the other day about those who "tend to confuse ideology with principle."
What's the difference, you asked, and would I know?
You have a point, for one man's ideology can be another's principle. Someone whose politics we don't much like we call an ideologue, while someone we agree with is of course a person of principle. But your point has its limits, for there's a reason one word is usually offered as criticism and the other as praise.
Ideology is a modern term (for ours is an age of ideology), and we even know just where, when and by whom it was first used:
Think of the mobs during the Great Cultural Revolution in
Naturally enough, the Frenchman who would coin the word ideology had been imprisoned during the Reign of Terror, a victim of ideology himself. The history of words, like history itself, is just full of delicious if not always pleasant ironies.
By now, only professors may use the term ideology in its original meaning -- as a guiding group of ideas or worldview. In general usage, it's come to mean something more rigid and intolerant.
It is easier to illustrate the difference between ideology and principle than to define it. Just compare the writings of
By their fruits ye shall know them: Compare the French Revolution, which became the historical template for modern revolutions, with a quite different one -- the American Revolution. One would culminate in a Reign of Terror followed by Napoleon's dictatorship, the other in a republic and the Constitution of
For an example of ideological rhetoric that enflames the passions while narrowing the mind, it would be hard to find a better example than the campaign waged against the nomination of
There were sound reasons of principle to oppose (or support) the judge's nomination to the court, but this was just an ideological diatribe.
It's not a pretty sight, ideology in action. Some scenes from American political conventions are hard to forget. Much as I might like to. For example:
There was the
Or consider the scene at the 1992
That performance of Brother Buchanan's provided a stark contrast with a farewell address delivered during that same convention by an aging but still strikingly handsome and eloquent
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