The concept of ‘end of ideology’ debate implies that at the advanced stage of industrial growth, a country’s social-economic organisation is determined by the level of its development, and not by any political ideology. Edward Shils reported it as ‘The End of Ideology’.’ This has been argued on two occasions. The first occasion was in the 1950s when an argument was put forward as the ‘end-of-ideology’ thesis. The second occasion has produced the ‘end-of-history’ thesis which first appeared in 1989, and is still the subject of fierce debate.
The best known proponents of ‘end-of-ideology’ thesis are: Seymour Martin Lipset (1922-) (Political Man, 1959) and Daniel Bell (The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties, i960) For the first time, Lipset offered the version of ‘end-of-ideology’ thesis that was later espoused by Daniel Bell, Edward Shils, and Raymond Aron.
For Lipset, post-war societies in the West eliminate the functional need for ideologies since they have solved the fundamental political problems of the industrial revolution that generated these ideologies. Daniel Bell pointed out that in the Western World ‘there is today rough consensus among intellectuals on political issues: the acceptance of a Welfare State; the desirability of decentralised power; a system of mixed economy and of political pluralism. In that sense to the ideological age has ended.’ Ralph Dahrendorf found that formerly capitalist societies have become ‘post-capitalist societies’.
In these societies conflicts are confined within the borders of their proper realm, and do not influence politics and other spheres of social life. Daniel Bell in his The End of Ideology (i960) asserted that they are prone to similar development irrespective of their ideological difference. In his Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics (i960) Seymour M. Lipset observed that ‘democracy is not only even primarily a means through which different groups can attain their ends or seek the good society; it is the good society itself in operation’. Intellectuals now realise that they no longer need ideologies or Utopias to motivate them to political action.
W.W. Rostow, in his The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-communist Manifesto (1960) built a unidimensional model of economic growth which was applicable to all countries irrespective of their political ideologies. J.K. Galbraith, in his The New Industrial State (1967), identified certain characteristics of advanced industrial societies which corresponded to the thesis of end of ideology.
These are: centralisation, bureaucratisation, professionalisation and techno-cratisation. Every country’s techno-economic structure is shaped by the level of its industrialisation. The bureaucratic and technocratic elite have merged in the advanced industrial societies.
In some advanced countries, politics is boring. Politics seemed to have been transformed from vivid clash over ideology to dull technical discussion about means for promoting goals questioned by none.’ This process is often referred to as “the end of ideology” or as depoliticisation of politics.
Depoliticisation implies a transformation of political ideologies into a set of more or less distinct administrative technologies based on a widespread consensus as to what kind of goals one should try to attain. Even if ideological differences are de-emphasised in a depoliticised political community. Idea of depoliticisation was spread by Herbert Tingsten between 1946-1960. Whether depoliticisation prevails in a country depends upon a clear-cut notion of ideology.
Within a few years, with the advent of the New Left, the theory looked doubtful. There was no more revival of ideology, but the most well-off and privileged youth of the richest Western countries demanded an end of materialism which was the essence ‘end-of-ideology’ thesis.
The modern version of the end-of-ideology thesis does not argue that all ideology had come to an end, but claims that one ideology, the ‘right’ one, has finally, absolutely and permanently, won the conflict of ideas and would dominate human thinking in perpetuity. This view is known as the ‘end-of-history’ thesis. It has been put forwarded by Francis Fukuyama (The End of History and the Last Man, 1992).