Interests, ideas and idealism

In a recent post Terry Bouricius argued that democratic politics is all about establishing a ‘congruity of interests’ between representatives and the represented. This has been an oft-repeated trope on this blog, for example Yoram’s affirmation of Terry’s post:

representatives who naturally, without external incentives, seek to represent the interests of constituents because they are congruous with their own . . . [=] alignment of interests

Since Marx’s inversion of Hegelian idealism (aided and abetted by Freudian psychology and neo-Darwinist biology), it has been fashionable to reduce ideation to (economic) interests, unconscious mental processes and ‘selfish’ genes. Beliefs and other ideational factors are all just so much epiphenomenal froth, that can be adequately explained in terms of interests alone. This is particularly true in the field of politics, where elected representatives only represent the interests of the rich and powerful; ideologies are just the systematic aggregation of interests and the notion that politicians might even be motivated by ideals (changing society for the better, irrespective of their own interests) is just plain naive. The existence of an autonomous field of enquiry called ‘political theory’ is equally laughable. Or so the story goes.
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