end-of-ideology thesis

end-of-ideology thesis

the viewpoint, especially prevalent in American political sociology in the late 1950s and early 1960s, that old-style, confrontational left-right ideologies were outmoded and were being replaced in Western democracies by a more consensual, competitive politics. The thesis, propounded for example by Daniel BELL (1960) and Seymour Martin LIPSET (1959), was based on the assumption that fundamental changes had occurred in the character of capitalism (e.g. the MANAGERIAL REVOLUTION), and that these changes, accompanied by full working-class participation in liberal democratic politics, had removed any basis for revolutionary political parties. According to Lipset, POLITICAL CLEAVAGE between political parties based on labour and those aligned with capital still played a crucial role in Western democracies, but class conflict had been ‘domesticated’ and was no longer a threat to the continuation of the political system or of capitalism (see also STABLE DEMOCRACY). With the upheavals of 1968, and for much of the 1970s and 80s, the return of a sharper confrontation between labour and capital, new urban and racial unrest, and a renewed polarization of political parties, ‘the end of consensus politics’ has sometimes seemed a more plausible hypothesis (see LEGITIMATION CRISIS). However, if conflicts remain, the continued absence of an effective socialist alternative to Western capitalist society – especially with the collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe in 1989 – has meant that an acceptance of social democratic politics is now widespread, even among parties of the left. In this sense, the ideological debate, although not ‘ended’, is more restricted than it once was. The most notable recent example of the end-of-ideology thesis is Francis Fukuyama's The End ofHistory and the Last Man (1992), whose pseudo-Hegelian account of modernity is that history culminates in mature capitalism and democracy
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000