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Chapter One

  • Henry Tudor
Chapter
Part of the Key Concepts in Political Science book series (KCP)

Abstract

The question as to what constitutes a political myth is surrounded by too much confusion to be capable of a short answer. However, we can make a start by disposing of a widely held but misleading preconception. In common usage, the term ‘myth’ stands for any belief that has no foundation in fact. A myth, we are told, is a fiction or illusion, the product of fantasy and wishful thinking rather than the result of any serious attempt to tackle the world in which we live; and political myths are simply fictions or illusions about political matters. There is nothing wrong with using the term in this popular sense—provided that it is used as a term of abuse and with no pretensions to academic rigour. The student of politics is, of course, entitled to regard a given set of beliefs as being false; but it is not his business to denounce such beliefs. His business is to determine what kind of belief they are, to examine their logical structure and to explain why the men who hold them take them to be true. And, in this enterprise, it is as vague as it is tendentious to use the term ‘myth’ as a synonym for ‘illusion’. There are as many different kinds of illusion as there are kinds of belief. Indeed, some would argue that, since any practical understanding entails an abstraction from and therefore a distortion of reality, all practical beliefs are fundamentally illusory. Whether or not we wish to go this far, it is clear that, if we are to use the term ‘myth’ with any precision, we must give it a meaning which enables us to distinguish beliefs which are myths from beliefs which are not.

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Notes and References

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Copyright information

© Pall Mall Press Ltd London 1972

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henry Tudor
    • 1
  1. 1.University of DurhamUK

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