The End of Ideology  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties is a book by Daniel Bell, first published in 1960. Bell suggests that the older humanistic ideologies derived from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are exhausted, and that new parochial ideologies will soon arise.


A variety of theories have emerged, even before Daniel Bell's work. Karl Marx, using work from Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, stated that once a state progressed from socialism, a classless society would emerge, rendering ideology irrelevant. Daniel Bell, in the 1950's, is often seen as the standard-bearer for the theory. James Burnham, a journalist for the National Review, proffered a similar thesis that foresaw the advent of a state of technocrats, all capable of finding the best answers to political and social problems, making ideology extinct.


Daniel Bell's The End of Ideology has been influential in what was called endism. This is the idea that both history and ideology have been reduced to insignificance because Western democratic politics and capitalism have triumphed. At the time, Bell was attacked by political critics, left-wing and otherwise. They claimed that Bell had replaced a sense of reality with theoretical elegance, arguing that he privileged 'endism' more than he did historical accuracy.

Broadly speaking, criticism of The End of Ideology boiled down to five general concerns:

  • It was a defense of the post-1945 status quo.
  • It was downplaying genuine political debate in favor of 'technocratic guidance' from social and cultural elites.
  • It was substituting consensus for moral discourse.
  • Its intellectual honesty was compromised by its author's participation in emerging Cold War discourses.
  • It was disproven by the return of radical discontentment in politics, marked by the 1960s and 1970s youth agitations in the West and the rise of extremist politics in the Third World.

In The Coming of Post-Industrial Society Bell outlined a new kind of society - the post-industrial society. He argued that post-industrialism would be information-led and service-oriented. Bell also argued that the post-industrial society would replace the industrial society as the dominant system. There are three components to a post-industrial society, according to Bell:

  • a shift from manufacturing to services
  • the centrality of the new science-based industries
  • the rise of new technical elites and the advent of a new principle of stratification

Since the publication of his book, many of the predictions have turned true. He takes credit for predicting mass consumption, but he failed to foresee the social cost, such as loss of job security or mass unemployment.

See also

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