Sunday 27 September 1998
But a few days earlier the Guardian had carried a piece by Roy Hattersley defending Tony Blair. It wasn't true, said Mr Hattersley, that Mr Blair lacked ideological vision. On the contrary, he had plenty of it.
Perhaps it's not so bad to be ideological after all. It rather depends on what particular brand of ideology those being talked about happen to favour. However, a word that can evoke praise one minute and distaste the next looks as though it may have gone wrong somewhere along the line.
Certainly there are many other words - morality is one, temper another - that can also change colour, according to what adjective is attached to them: temper can be good or bad, morals high or low. But the Independent provided no qualifier here: the Republicans it spoke of were described as ideological, tout court.
To be fair to the Independent, it presumably wasn't saying that to be ideological was always wrong: only that ideology ought to have no place in a judiciary committee. In its early days, it would have had no place in politics either. It was a philosophical term.
The 18th-century psychologist Condillac devised a system based on the notion that all human ideas come from one or other of our senses. In his day, it was either this system that people meant when they talked about ideology, or else the general science of ideas. An ideological person would have been someone who studied ideology. Then Condillac and his friends were forgotten, and ideology became little more than a frame of mind, roughly the same as idealism, with a touch of quixotry about it.
Ideological is thus one of those words that began by defining a subject or an academic discipline, and went on to mean a quality. The same thing happened to ethical, which at first simply meant "to do with ethics"; similarly, philosophical has ended up meaning "redesigned", which is what people suppose philosophers must be.
A more recent example is geriatric. There are still those who object to its popular use, insisting that it should be applied only to the services offered to old people, not to the old themselves. But theirs is a hopeless case; it will soon be impossible to talk about a "geriatric nurse" without misunderstanding.
Anyway, if I were Mr Blair I wouldn't want to be called ideological. I'd rather be praised for my down-to-earth policies, if I had any.
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 2 Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
- 3 Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees
- 4 Refugee crisis: Aylan's life was full of fear - in death, he is part of 'humanity washed ashore'
- 5 German police forced to ask public to stop bringing donations for refugees arriving by train
Hey Arnold! is coming back, and possibly Rugrats too
First Look at Bryan Cranston transformed into LBJ for HBO’s ‘All the Way’ film
The real reason Eddie Redmayne was cast as a trans woman in The Danish Girl
Photographer captures the beauty and intensity of his girlfriend giving birth at home
Prog rock finally comes of age with launch of the first Official Progressive Chart
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 100,000 back our campaign
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up