6th Pavia Graduate Conference in Political Philosophy – Abstract/Preiss

Herbert Preiss

The Significance of Ideology and Fear in Divided Societies: Towards a Revision of Liberal Political Philosophy

This paper analyses the significance of ideology and fear in conflict-ridden societies with regard to their impact on democratic conflict resolution. As will be shown, the particular meaning of ideology and fear in societies whose members are deeply divided by conflicting national allegiances challenges the ability of contemporary liberal political philosophy to explore the causal processes at work in conflict scenarios. More specifically, the paper argues that the approaches of political liberalism, liberal nationalism, liberal multiculturalism and the politics of difference fail to consider sufficiently the importance of ideology and fear as hegemonic instruments of the ruling political elites. Their focus on exploring the conditions for conflict resolution on the basis of an inclusive constitutional and institutional settlement makes them turn a blind eye to the question of what motivates the actors to engage in power struggles and maybe even to maintain the conflict. Thus the aim of this paper is to ascertain the possibility of integrating the conceptions of hegemony, ideology and fear into a revised liberal conflict theory. This will be done on the basis of a revised, neo-Gramscian approach to hegemony and of Jacob Levy’s conception of ‘the multiculturalism of fear’ that is able to explore the instrumental character of hegemonic strategies of the nationalist political elites. The paper argues that in divided societies the interrelations between national and socioeconomic issues are ‘instrumentalised’ by the nationalist elites and that the underlying processes that maintain the national divisions of the working classes are fundamentally defined through the dominant elite ideologies. In order to support the argument, the paper will draw on several case studies, such as Northern Ireland, the Basque Country and the Kosovo.