The influence of ideas is a central but puzzling problem in the social sciences. Parsons insisted that ideas play a central role in social continuity as well as in social change. Basic ideas that organise experience become embedded in the public mind and structure the ways in which issues are tackled. Through much of the twentieth century, Darwinism, Freudianism and Marxism are central clusters of ideas. On a smaller scale, ideas that begin in academic settings can quite quickly spread into politics. Voegelin has detected very general notions that may structure whole eras, calling one of the most powerful in our time the “new gnosticism”. It draws on our ideas of knowledge and leads to the search for a universal ideology that dissolves all problems into demands for a totalitarian society. This paper argues that there is always an underlying basis for the power of ideas. Many ideologies of our time have been twists and turns on the Christian tradition. The form they take depends on the challenges of the hour and the nature of the surrounding cultures.
CitationDownload as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited