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Despite a supposed conservative revival and claims of growing liberal strength, "old ideological appeals aren't going to ring true very much longer," Sanford A. Lakoff, assistant professor of Government, declared yesterday.
The present debate between conservative and liberal spokesmen is merely a "relic, a survival of what it used to be like when these distinctions really mattered," Lakoff told this week's session of the Hillel Round Table of World Affairs.
He expressed surprise that "people could get so excited over ideological issues" that should have been settled by now, after so many years of living under a welfare economy. The New Deal, which provided a tangible basis for most of the present ideological distinctions, was a "pragmatic attempt to deal with the difficulties of the time," rather than an application of any particular ideology, he declared.
Similarly, the organization of the modern American economy is not based on any "traditional ideological goals," but rather on an attempt to guarantee maximum consumer welfare.
"But if ideology is dead, many people surely don't realize it," Lakoff declared, pointing out the active role such ideologists as Barry Goldwater and Hubert Humphrey take in present political debates.
Lakoff saw as particularly dubious the attempt to deal in ideological terms with the present international struggle. He noted that the ideological divisions on internal matters have been transferred, pretty much intact, to the conflict over international relations.
Conservatives, on the whole, favor the status quo in foreign relations, as well as in internal economic matters. They are thus the exponents of "uncompromising militancy," he said. The extremists on the left, on the other hand, delve into world affairs intending to solve all problems at once, much like domestic socialist ideologists. Liberals in both spheres try to stabilize conflicts by compromise, he explained.
Although debate over foreign affairs may be ideologically based, foreign policy itself is formed pragmatically, Lakoff said. "We've gone beyond ideology in practice, although we still argue in those terms," he declared
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