The End of Ideology, by Daniel Bell:
Glencoe Free Press.
professor bell, who writes extensively for such journals as Fortune and Commentary, accepts the description, “one of America’s foremost journalistintellectuals” ; whatever impressions one may cull from such a description are amply confirmed in his book. The End of Ideology resembles nothing so much as one of those old-fashioned selection boxes, huge trays of assorted sweetmeats that used to be offered to the closer and less discriminating members of one family for Christmas. As in all such boxes there are real goodies to be found here tucked away in the layers of gaudy wrapping; there is good deal, too, that is somewhat indigestible, and it has constantly to be borne in mind that the box itself is an irrelevance.
The book is a collection of articles, papers, lectures, prepared at various times and for various audiences, some technical, some scholarly, some popular, and on an amazing variety of subjects; the “mass” theory of modern society, Wright Mills’ “power elite” thesis, Lipset’s “status anxiety” view of the new conservatism, the history and social meaning of crime and industrial racketeering, trade union and socialist attitudes and experience, the running-down of radical enthusiasms, the springs of Russian politics, the theory of alienation, the social nature of work, American capitalism. Coherence is imposed on this extraordinary range of material by the author’s personality rather than by his effort in introduction and epilogue to abstract from it a sustained or cumulative exploration of the problem of ideology, or even of the lesser problem of the “exhaustion of political ideas”. Professor Bell has the journalist’s flair for words, happy formulations and titles: “the restless vanity”, he calls his introduction, but the phrase, from de Tocqueville, has only the slightest passing significance to the matter he introduces (one comes in time to be suspicious of other no-less felicitous titles; “Crime as an American Way of Life”, for example, the promise of which is also unfulfilled). He has, too, the intellectual’s fascination with ideas; but it is little more than the fascination that emerges from this collection of occasional writings. The form is insufficiently desciplined; we have at once a series of repetitions of fact and quotation and anecdote—from article to article this would not matter, but occurring from chapter to chapter it irritates—and a dearth of analytical development in the discussion of any one of the half-dozen genuinely important and problematic social and political issues he raises. At the opening of one “chapter”, indeed, the author grants that he has “no thesis . . . no answers”, that he offers only, “some reflections, some aperçus”, and we may apply the judgment to the book as a whole.
To do critical justice to the content of the whole succession of chapters would require a syndicate of reviewers, but there remains the personality, the “mood”, the “perspective”, that does make for a minimal unity. And it is this that will bear some discussion.
Explicitly the mood is “anti-ideological but not conservative”, implicitly, in the way certain themes are handled, some substance is added to the theme “the end of ideology”. But Professor Bell prefers to assert than to justify, and never really explains what it is that leads him to proclaim so authoritatively the “end of ideology”:
“a disconcerting caesura. In the West, among the intellectuals, the old passions are spent. The new generation, with no meaningful memory of these old debates, and no secure tradition to build upon, finds itself seeking new purposes within a framework of political society that has rejected, intellectually speaking, the old . . . visions. In the search for a ‘cause’, there is a deep, desperate almost pathetic anger” (p. 374).