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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-S030-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 17, 2024, from

Article Summary

An ideology is a set of ideas, beliefs and attitudes, consciously or unconsciously held, which reflects or shapes understandings or misconceptions of the social and political world. It serves to recommend, justify or endorse collective action aimed at preserving or changing political practices and institutions. The concept of ideology is split almost irreconcilably between two major senses. The first is pejorative, denoting particular, historically distorted (political) thought which reinforces certain relationships of domination and in respect of which ideology functions as a critical unmasking concept. The second is a non-pejorative assertion about the different families of cultural symbols and ideas human beings employ in perceiving, comprehending and evaluating social and political realities in general, often within a systemic framework. Those families perform significant mapping and integrating functions.

A major division exists within this latter category. Some analysts claim that the study of ideology can be non-evaluative in establishing scientific facts about the way political beliefs reflect the social world and propel people to specific action within it. Others hold that ideology injects specific politically value-laden meanings into conceptualizations of the social world which are inevitably indeterminate, and is consequently a means of constructing rather than reflecting that world. This also applies to interpretations undertaken by the analysts of ideology themselves.

Citing this article:
Freeden, Michael. Ideology, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-S030-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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