“The Origins of the End of Ideology Debate: An Alternative History”. Public lecture by Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins – 12 March

Discussiant: Merijn OudenampsenW


Proponents of the end of ideology thesis of the 1950s, such as Daniel Bell, Seymour M. Lipset and Raymond Aron, argued that the successes of post-War European welfare states proved that parliamentary forms of democracy made obsolete the need for workers to put their trust in revolutionary ideologies such as Marxism. As a consequence, the standard historical account of the end of ideology debate almost always sees it growing out of a critique of radical social thought. This paper argues that such a rendering obscures a much more complicated history of the end of ideology thesis. Its defenders also viewed it as an alternative to the neoliberal thought of the Mont Pelerin Sociey whose free market ideas stood as a threat to fledgling European welfare states and as such could undermine the very economical and political system that allowed for end of ideology.  The end of ideology thus was also directed at neoliberalism, and like with neoliberalism its concerns were also global in scope. Yet the liberalism it promoted was less centered on establishing global institutions for free trade, and instead focused on articulating theories of development and industrialization that would make revolutionary ideologies obsolete in the third world.


Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins is a lecturer at the Yale Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. He is a global historian of 20th century intellectual and political thought and is currently working on two book projects: The first is titled, “The Neoconservative Moment in France: Raymond Aron and the United States” (Columbia University Press) and looks at the larger transatlantic intellectual origins of the neoconservative movement. The second one focuses on the rise and fall of global secularism since the Cold War. Previously he has published scholarly articles in The Journal of the History of Ideas, Modern Intellectual History, Global Intellectual History and elsewhere. He is currently coediting two books: Michel Foucault, Neoliberalism and Beyond (Rowman and Littlefield, 2019) with Stephen Sawyer; and Christianity and the New Historiography of Human Rights (Cambridge University Press, 2020) with Sarah Shortall.