George Walford: Editorial Notes (31)

Since its origination by Harold Walsby systematic ideology has concentrated upon the assumptions and identifications which go to constitute ideologies. Insisting that each ideology is a whole, its form as well as its content significant (in the Foreword to the Domain of Ideologies Walsby presents this insistence upon form as a distinguishing feature of his work) it has yet concentrated upon analysing each of them into its components.

With increasing experience of using the theory the extent to which each ideology is a totality, the behaviour of the group identified with it recognisable even when the effect of any particular assumption cannot be distinguished, impresses itself more strongly. This feature will become easier to grasp and to handle if it be given a name, and a suitable term lies ready to hand: ethos.

The Shorter Oxford gives this definition: “the prevalent tone of sentiment of a people or community; the genius of an institution or system.” With the group attached to each major ideology constituting the community in question, and the parties, movements, professions and organisations through which the ideologies find expression the institutions, this could hardly offer a better fit.

Much of the work required for incorporation of this concept into the theory has already been carried out; several years ago, in a course of lectures delivered at Friends House, I spoke of the major ideological groups as exhibiting attitudes of, respectively, expedience, principle, precision, reform, revolution and repudiation. Each of these distinguishes what, it is now proposed to term the ethos associated with the ideology in question.

To distinguish in this way the overall behavioural tendency associated with each major ideology is to distinguish, by contrast, its cognitive structure, this becoming of course its eidos.

IC29 WAS below the usual size; a contribution was withdrawn shortly before we went to press. This present issue is oversized. We will not let you off lightly.

In IC26 we described cocaine, heroin and the other drugs of addiction as “horrible things”. This was confused thinking, a failure to distinguish between the drugs and the use made of them. They are capable of producing horrible effects, but so is air (in explosive decompression, for example). We cannot live without air, and we could not live as well as we do without sophisticated chemical products, the consciousness-changing drugs among them.

The suggestion, that the drugs in themselves were horrible, went against the trend of the article, which moved towards the conclusion that the banning of the drugs is responsible for the greater part of the loss and suffering linked with their use.

Kerensky, the Socialist Revolutionary leader of the Provisional Government that shared a duumvirate with the soviets after the 1917 February Revolution, said this:

I’m not afraid of the right, of the counter-revolution, it’s impossible. I fear ourselves, I fear the socialists; their fractional differences, the irreconcilability of their party positions. (Quoted in Richard Abraham, Alexander Kerensky, the First Love of the Revolution, London, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1987, p. 156).

During the American Civil War the Union General George McLellan employed the Pinkerton Private Detective Agency as an intelligence service. Unfortunately the information they produced was “grotesquely misleading”. (Geoffrey Regan, Someone Had Blundered; A Historical Survey of Military Incompetence, London, Batsford, 1987 p. 32).

from Ideological Commentary 31, January 1988.