I largely agree with Steve Randy Waldman about the value of and need for “ideological work.”
For my part, I’m continually baffled by the degree to which thought-leaders and politicians on the center-left think it’s credible and/or political useful to present our agenda as wholly un-ideological and “pragmatic,” somehow emerging magically through empirical study. Quine’s Word & Object isn’t about politics at all but it’s full of valuable insights. All efforts to understand the world meld empirical and theoretical efforts, and all efforts to understand the world in a way that’s politically relevant are thus necessarily ideological.
Now, I understand exactly what he’s saying, but it seems to me like there’s a large difference in degree if not in kind: the ideology that says, “Climate change is a massive hoax,” and that which says, “The structure of society should help the poor,” are different in important ways. Indeed, “all efforts to understand the world meld empirical and theoretical efforts,” but there is a difference between completely denying empirical data and trying to incorporate it into one’s theoretical model. And another, simpler point about his thesis: it basically makes the word “ideological” superfluous–if we’re going to say that ideology equals political position, then the word seems to have lost some of its sheen.