The twentieth century was the age of ideology, or the time when people lived by conjectural notions of what would improve human life, having rejected the time-honored methods of living the best life without trying to improve or change its circumstances.
Most of these took the form of ideology, or first principles of political reasoning based on a conjectural better future:
Ideologies posit basic tenets or first principles, such as racial purity, class struggle, or free markets, from which other ideas automatically follow.
Some important features are common to both the pejorative and more neutral senses of ideology. First, ideologies are beliefs that legitimate or stabilize social power structures. Broadly speaking, ideologies relate to politics because they have a social function, and as such they can engender a sense of group identity or motivate the need for action. Second, ideologies are not always transparent to those who hold them. It is often easier to recognize ideology in others than in oneself. Third, ideologies involve beliefs that are closer to the center of one’s web of belief. That is to say, they are not easily acquired and released, because they play a structural role in how we see things, what is construed as evidence, and sometimes even personal identity. Fourth, there is typically a complex admixture of descriptive and prescriptive elements to ideologies: Their defense would appeal to the way things are and how things ought to be (Seliger 1976).
As others have noted, ideologies are conjectural and based on both explaining the world and what it needs to return to a Golden Age:
Ideology, a form of social or political philosophy in which practical elements are as prominent as theoretical ones. It is a system of ideas that aspires both to explain the world and to change it.
This tells us all we need to know about ideologies; they are complete philosophies that hope to both “explain the world and to change it,” or in other words, explain what is good and bad and how we get to a Utopian state like some long-ago Golden Age and enjoy humanity without the sadness again.
In other words, ideologies express in symbolic terms what humans feel in a social context should be, independent of what is or what has consistently been since the dawn of humanity. They are hypotheses acted on as if they were fact in some undiscovered land.
Conservatives frequently go wrong by trying to compete with the Leftist ideology by turning conservatism into an ideology.
In practical terms, conservatism is a “folkway,” or way of life that bonds lifestyle to community. It conserves the best of all time in human life, remaining indifferent to what is trendy and novel, and instead focusing on what has worked in the past not just at a minimum, but toward excellence (arete).
When conservatives try to make conservatism into an ideology, they end up with something like “life should be like it was thirty years ago.”
This backfires because it aims at the near term, which is already fairly Leftist, instead of a world without Leftism and its corruption. In other words, Leftists make a mess and conservatives clean up by reverting to the last working model, which allows Leftists to continue their destruction.
We cannot make conservatism into an ideology. We cannot compete with the laser-focus of Leftism simply because we refuse to simplify existence into such simplistic and conjectural forms. Their ideas will always be simpler, easier, and more popular.
When we try to make conservatism into something like Leftism, we lose its core. Instead of a way of adapting to life based on the best of all time, it becomes a list of things that we demand should be enforced because life might be better that way.
In fact, conservatism has no ideology. It is simply a method. It observes what worked, then selects from among that what worked best, and perpetuates that. It is the scientific method in political form, acknowledging that the only “laboratory” we have is history.
When you hear conservatives talking about “assimilation,” you are hearing conservatism as ideology. They argue that if we teach people our political, social, legal, and economic systems, they are just like us. In other words, they are carrying on the ideology.
This wholly Soviet view ignores what is vitally important, namely that a society consists of people with something in common. The most basic level of this commonality exists at a genetic level. When we replace that with ideology, we consent to erasing ourselves and replacing ourselves with ideology.
In the same way, conservatives who try to turn conservatism into pure politics, as in defense of the Constitution, industry, military, and religion have converted it into an ideology. We do not defend those things for their own sake, but because they work, and we know that other things may work even better.
The only legitimate conservatism consists of looking at all of human history and discerning what made life best. This does not change over the ages, nor does it distill to an ideology. It is simply an awareness and a way of life.
Any deviation from that into ideology seems like victory, but we are by doing so affirming the Leftist method, namely that an ideology can substitute for organic civilization, culture, heritage, and continuity with the past. That however is not so.
Since The Enlightenment,™ the West has tended toward more individualism, and therefore more egalitarianism (group defense of individualism) and more Leftist. Naturally most of us want to construct our beliefs from the parts of Leftism, but in doing so, we self-defeat.
As the twenty-first century reveals its secrets, we will see a mass distrust of ideology. We do not care what should be; we care about what is. This separates us from the self-deluding herd and the lies it tells itself in order to pretend it has a clue and a purpose.