Skip to main content
Social Sci LibreTexts

4.5K: Ideology

  • Page ID
    7998
  • Ideology is a coherent system of ideas that constitutes one’s goals, expectations, and actions.

     

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

     

    Explain the purpose of an ideology and how it is used in various contexts (i.e. religion or politics) to create change or conformity in society

     

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Key Points

     

    • Ideology can be used either to initiate change in society or to encourage continued adherence to a set of ideals in a situation where conformity already exists.
    • According to Karl Marx, ideology is an instrument for social reproduction, as those who control the means of production (the ruling class ) are able to establish the dominant ideology within a society.
    • Louis Althusser proposed a materialistic conception of ideology using the concept of Ideological State Apparatus.
    • Ideological State Apparatuses are institutions, such as the family, media, religious organizations, education system, etc., that together comprise ideological practice, the sphere which has the defining property of constituting individuals as subjects.
    • Many political parties base their political action and program on an ideology. Political ideology consists of two dimensions: goals and methods.

     

    Key Terms

     

    • superstructure: The ideas, philosophies, and culture that are built upon the means of production.
    • ideology: the doctrine, philosophy, body of beliefs or principles belonging to an individual or group

    An ideology is a set of ideas that constitute one’s goals, expectations, and actions. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things, as in several philosophical tendencies, or a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to all members of this society. The main purpose behind an ideology is to offer either change in society, or adherence to a set of ideals where conformity already exists, through a normative thought process. Ideologies are systems of abstract thought applied to public matters and thus make this concept central to politics.

    In the Marxist account of ideology, it serves as an instrument of social reproduction. In the Marxist economic base and superstructure model of society, base denotes the relations of production, and superstructure denotes the dominant ideology (religious, legal, political systems). The economic base of production determines the political superstructure of a society. Ruling class-interests determine the superstructure and the nature of the justifying ideology—actions feasible because the ruling class control the means of production. Similarly, Louis Althusser proposed a materialistic conception of ideology using the concept of the ideological state apparatus. For Althusser, beliefs and ideas are the products of social practices, not the reverse. What is ultimately important for Althusser are not the subjective beliefs held in the “minds” of human individuals, but rather the material institutions, rituals, and discourses that produce these beliefs.

    Many political parties base their political action and program on an ideology. A political ideology is a certain ethical set of ideals, principles, doctrines, myths, or symbols of a social movement, institution, class, or large group that explains how society should work and offers some political and cultural blueprint for a certain social order. A political ideology largely concerns itself with how to allocate power and to what ends it should be used. Some parties follow a certain ideology very closely, while others may take broad inspiration from a group of related ideologies without specifically embracing any one of them.