Take, for instance, railway employees.
Their working conditions today can be safely defined as ultramodern - an indisputable fact, no matter how one might look at it.
If a 1930 worker was told that the said working conditions are considered difficult (say, because of the need to wake up early, or push a few buttons, pay quite a lot of attention and bear -- the stress for some, the boredom for others). Our 1930 worker would likely spit aside and smirk back at whoever told him that.
A lot of responsibility, certainly, stressful situations, definitely, but difficult work conditions?...
This is just normal evolution as the society becomes more and more advanced technologically. Work conditions get easier (or else we should think about re-defining the word "difficult", as happened with the word "liberalism", whose sense for many today is closer to socialism than centre; but I digress).
Does stating all this amount to someone positioning on the rightwing side of the political spectre? Does it necessarily imply a hidden political agenda, aimed at harming workers' rights or benefits?
The French trade unions (and particularly so the likes of CGT, FO or Sud), are considered amongst the most leftwing unions in Europe.
Until not so long ago still in the "class warfare" mode, it was only in the '90s that the CGT started to take their distance from the communism (amongst other things, quitting the communist inspired World Federation of Trade Unions in 1995; leader Louis Vianet resigning from the political bureau of the French Communist Party; accepting certain negotiations rather than downright going on strike and so on).
Even so, the tone for most French trade unions remains proletarian-inspired even today (some might say this is just PR, and still!); there still are strikes defending purely political positions and interests (the warfare against "le démentèlement du service public" is probably famous now).
The underlying idea continues to be that trade unions would somehow encarnate genuine representatives of the people - before political parties ; and in spite of France featuring the lowest rate of union membership in Europe, at about 9%).
Now, the question would be, does stating all this make one rightwing oriented (let alone hard-right). Is this a sign (let alone "proof") of thatcherist propaganda, well, why not say it plainly, of being For the Bosses, Against the Workers!
Indoctrination, lack of nuance, can sometimes reach appalling heights, having as consequence the asymptotical descent towards zero of any chance of a meaningful debate.
Also, let us consider a statement that clearly contradicts certain libertarian ideologies:
that people, men and women, would not be completely socially-conditioned, enslaved to socially-constructed, imposed roles; but would also be, from time to time, capable to think with their own minds, to step out of the well trodden paths the society (broadly speaking) prepared for them.
Now. Is that the same as saying that life is totally up to the individual?
In spite of certain sociological and anthropological studies, the truth most likely lies somewhere in the middle - there are moments when opinions and decisions are made under influence, others less so, and the degre of free-will and critical thinking in life varies wildly depending on the person, her history, and the context.
It is most likely mistaken to deal with people as if they were helpless (the big-brother syndrome, characteristic of the political leftwing: on the pretext of helping people, we actually tell them what to do and what to think by means of a tight array of laws and regulations that direct the individual towards the axiomatically "good" behaviour in the smallest details of his personal, social and economical life) - or leave people in difficulty on their own, because they would somehow deserve it, for want of enough effort or qualities (as the hard right sometimes implies).
Society leaders should probably not focus their ('progressist') policies only or mostly on victims, and especially not shy away from having a clear definition of what a victim is at a given moment, in a given situation; but they should not focus on elites and best-achievers alone either.
There should be social-support policies where they are truly needed, preferably avoiding broad categorisation or basing on incomplete or not deep enough statistical surveys), and there should be economical-growth policies.
The two are actually not so opposed to one another today as they were some decades ago, especially as we move towards a society of preferred-jobs employees, where work is almost never life-threatening, rarely health damaging, less and less disliked.
This kind of oppositions and extremes appear today as ideological by definition, and promoted by people whose interest is to back a certain ideology and fight opposing ideologies. Psychological research tends to suggest that ideologies reflect motivational processes, as opposed to the view that political convictions always reflect independent and unbiased thinking. ( Jost, J.T., Ledgerwood, A., & Hardin, C.D. (2008) - this would also seem to indicate that those who decry conditioning are or were conditioned themselves (and have difficulties accepting a society that is not so by and large).
A good example in the matter is the French political leftwing - especially the French Socialist Party -, whose main political slogan, even now, after three consecutive defeats in presidential elections and an internal deroute in terms of defining a unique political line, whose main slogan, I was saying, remains the aged "let us wage war against the Right"
A simple Google search on "Battre la droite" will reveal this simple (and saddeningly simplistic) line as the only flag capable to federate French leftwingers, from the far left, LCR and PCF, to the PS and the Green party.
This lack of an elaborate political program -- worse, this lack of pragmatism (and focus on ideology instead), probably constitues the main reason for the UMP electoral victories in 2007.
(this statement is likely to be taken as yet another indication of political bias of the undersigned)
Mainly ideological approaches such as these, are opposed to pragmatic, rationalist ways of dealing with issues. Pragmatic rational policies do include humanism, care for the economic growth and at the same time for reducing unfair inequalities;
defend freedoms and rights while rejecting social and economical libertarianism that lead to chaos and egocentrism.
Such positions started to surface in the 90s already with leaders like Bill Clinton, or Tony Blair and find good audience today in Barrack Obama or Nicolas Sarkozy, despite numerous exceptions and mistakes each of them might have made.
Someone was arguing about the coming death of ideologies.
An BBC article in 2002 (link here) entitled "The mysterious murder of ideas" was quoting Professor Russell Jacoby of UCLA lamenting the decline of political thought in recent years.
After all, Daniel Bell, a Harvard sociologist, had already mentioned the death of ideology in his famous book. His reflections though were more in line with Karl Marx's old prediction of a society without classes, following the advent and final success of the communism.
But then even before Bell, in 1941, James Burnham had sketched the contours of a sort of technocratic-bureaucratic society born on the ruins of communism, capitalism and even democracy.
If we look at it retrospectively, Burnham's vision seems as the less inaccurate, and maybe even now, as we speak, we are actually watching the last ideologues throwing their final burning arrows before their beloved dreams and utopies melt, fade away, die down under the uninspiring blows of the oh-so-prosaic pragmatism.
Update [2008-11-17 16:11:19 by ValentinD]:
The above list of unreasonable, unrealistic dichotomic views can certainly be completed.
An example could be the difficulties moderate republicans meet with their rational stances against the "fundamentalist" ideology. No further than John McCain picking Ms.Palin for candidate vice-president, in a moment he should have shown his maverick talents and targeted the center and the undecided, is the most obvious proof of bad, irrational rightwing ideology at full throttle.
Another example could be the article by former NY governor Eliot L. Spitzer in the today issue of the Washington Post.
"The new president's team must soon get to the root causes of the mistakes that have brought us to the economic precipice. ...
"But these are all mere manifestations of three deeper structural problems that require greater attention: misconceptions about what a "free market" really is, a continuing breakdown in corporate governance and an antiquated and incoherent federal financial regulatory framework.
First, we must confront head-on the pervasive misunderstanding of what constitutes a "free market." For long stretches of the past 30 years, too many Americans fell prey to the ideology that a free market requires nearly complete deregulation of banks and other financial institutions and a government with a hands-off approach to enforcement. "We can regulate ourselves," the mantra went.
"Those of us who raised red flags about this were scoffed at for failing to understand or even believe in "the market." During my tenure as New York state attorney general, my colleagues and I sought to require investment banking analysts to provide their clients with unbiased recommendations, devoid of undisclosed and structural conflicts. But powerful voices with heavily vested interests accused us of meddling in the market."
(full article here)
This is the new politician: refusing "ideology at all cost", and being more of a pragmatic technocrat.
I might also remind the skeptics the number of people and media from the right which supported Barrack Obama. Washington Post has certainly gone a long way from a fierce supporter of George W Bush and the war in Iraq.
Or The Economist - one should read the long string of issues before november where the paper was loudly supporting John McCain, even advising his campaign, only to end up endorsing Obama.
Colin Powell, however compromised, is a good example too.
And this is not just about endorsers, but about the endorsed: Obama met John McCain today and even talked about "working together".
Skeptics might say this is rather due to the serious economic situation rather than Obama's personal pragmatism.
I will again direct these skeptics to the On The Issues website where the rational, pragmatic posture shines through each and every obamaian declaration.
As to Nicolas Sarkozy, here is an article speaking precisely about Sarkozy's pragmatism (or realism) - Google automatic translation here.
Sarkozy's latest measures to sustain employment were called "an ideological turn coat" -- of course, by ideologists, who are positively unable to see anything else but ideology, in any political or social event or measure. One more proof about the decadence and eventual death of Ideology.
I could find many more such examples, but this suffices for the point to be made, I suppose.