IDEALISM AND REVOLUTION: New Ideologies of Liberation in Britain and the United States by David Bouchier

IDEALISM AND REVOLUTION: New Ideologies of Liberation in Britain and the United States

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The social and political movements of the Sixties have recently been subjected to a paternalistic misunderstanding by Klaus Mehnert (Twilight of the Young); now, younger, more sympathetic sociologist I gets his turn at bat, wielding the formidable stick of the sociology of knowledge. Bouchier goes to a lot of trouble in the early chapters to set up a comparative ""model"" for the study of radical utopian ideologies, integrating elements drawn from the Mannheimian and phenomenological schools. The resulting model, though, is rather meager--Bouchier proposes that radical ideology must satisfy three connected functions in order to be complete: ""de-legitimation,"" ""dis-alienation,"" and ""commutation."" This is sociologese for the mundane observation that critiques of dominant ideology must offer an alternative set of goals and the instrumental means of realistically fulfilling them to get anywhere. Thus lightly armed, he goes on to give brief descriptions of SDS, the British International Marxist Group (IMG), radical and socialist feminist organizations, and counter-cultural groupings. In each case, Bouchier locates the breakdown in ideological coherence--usually ""commutation""--and then sums up his findings in the form of 20 propositions which basically cover all the observable phenomena he has presented, thereby rendering them practically useless as heuristic tools. His most general observation, however, is his most interesting one: radical movements are generated from the situational contexts of activists, and then seek to move from those situations to holistic ideologies, which, in the highly fragmented context of contemporary society, are increasingly problematic, since the original motivations become obscured by hopeless abstraction. His proposed solution--unbelievably--is that radicals should embrace sociology, which is alone able to articulate the social whole. Leaving that whopper aside, Bouchier could have made this observation from a theoretical approach and spared us his case-studies and elaborate sociological trappings. For irrepressible model-makers only.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1978
Publisher: St. Martin's