No alternatives : The end of ideology in the 1950s and the post-political world of the 1990s

Abstract: In the 1950s, scholars in Europe and the United States announced the end of political ideology in the West. With the rise of affluent welfare states, they argued, ideological movements which sought to overthrow prevailing liberal democracy would disappear. While these arguments were questioned in the 1960s, similar ideas were presented after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Scholars now claimed that the end of the Cold War meant the end of mankind’s “ideological development,” that globalization would undermine the left/right distinction and that politics would be shaped by cultural affiliations rather than ideological alignments.The purpose of No alternatives is to compare the end of ideology discussion of the 1950s with some of the post-Cold War theories launched at the time of, or in the years following, the fall of the Berlin Wall. Juxtaposing monographs, essays and papers between 1950 and 2000, the dissertation focuses on three aspects of these theories. First, it analyzes their concepts of history, demonstrating that they tended to portray the existing society as an order which had resolved the conflicts and antagonisms of earlier history. Second, the investigation scrutinizes the processes of post-politicization at work in these theories, showing how they sought to transcend, contain or externalize social conflict, and at times dismiss politics altogether. Third, it demonstrates how the theories can be understood as legitimizing or mobilizing narratives which aimed to defend Western liberal democracy and to rally its citizens against internal threats and external enemies. As the title of the dissertation implies, the end of ideology discussion of the 1950s and the post-Cold War theories of the 1990s sought to highlight the historical or political impossibility of any alternatives to the present society.

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