In 1985 Kenneth Minogue published a remarkable book with the forbidding title Alien Powers: The Pure Theory of Ideology. It wasn’t ignored, but it has been allowed to go out of print. Modest effort is required to find a copy: my local library discarded the one it had; the sole copy at the New York Public Library doesn’t circulate. People I expected to be familiar with the book didn’t know of it—or, for that matter, of Minogue, a longtime contributor to this magazine, who died in 2013. But the book speaks to the present moment, which is soaked in what he defines as “ideology.”

The word has a long and winding history, during much of which it’s been a term of abuse. Minogue applies it to any account of the world having certain specific ways of thinking, speaking, and acting. An ideology presents itself not as...


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