McLellan: The Vicious Circle of Archimedes and Epimenides McLellan’s Ideology is a sure-footed analysis of the concept within Marxist and non-Marxist traditions. Indeed, it was one of the first books to survey both traditions without obvious appeal to one side or the other. In this respect, and many others, it still stands as an excellent introduction to the concept of ideology to be recommended to all students as they embark on the study of this central pillar of modern European political thought. It is also written with admirable clarity, in a field where obfuscation is all too readily the result. For all that it is a model of clarity and scholarly endeavour, like all the books of this influential series it presents its topic within a certain frame of reference. It is this frame of reference that I wish to highlight in order: (a) to present a tension in the treatment of ideology within McLellan’s text; and (b) to show that this tension expresses a problem at the heart of ideology analysis. The framing operates throughout the text but unsurprisingly is at its most obvious at the beginning and the end. In the opening pages, McLellan observes succinctly that ‘the history of the concept of ideology is the history of various attempts to find a firm Archimedean point outside the sphere of ideological discourse, an immoveable spot from which to observe the levers of ideology’.10 He notes that this search has been true for both the Marxist and the ‘Enlightenment, rationalist, empiricist’ traditions. Drawing deeply from the intellectual air of the 1980s and 1990s, however, McLellan observes that ‘the spectre of the relativism of claims to truth . . . refuses to be laid’;11 a spectre that he says made its first appearance on the philosophical stage in the guise of Plato’s Protagoras but that was to be found dressed in the clothes of postmodernism when the book was written, especially by the time of the second edition. For McLellan, it is a spectre that requires immediate exorcism:

Any examination of ideology makes it difficult to avoid the rueful conclusion that all views about ideology are themselves ideological. But avoided it

must be – or at least modified by saying that some views are more ideological than others. For the simple thought that all views are ideological encounters two difficulties: first that it borders on the vacuous, since it is so all-embracing as to be almost meaningless; second and more disarmingly, it contains the same logical absurdity as the declaration of Epimenides the Cretan who declared that all Cretans were liars.12