The word 'ideology' has many uses. Most often it is just used to refer to social and political beliefs. So we might say, "Joan's ideology is liberal (or conservative, or socialist, or feminist, etc.)

In social and political philosophy and social science the notion of ideology is more complex. People use the term to refer to a society's collective conscious and unconscious forms of thought.

Philosophers often use 'ideology' to refer to "mystification," ideas whose social origin is obscured and which lead people to accept unscientific beliefs.

Analysis of the concept of ideology

  • behavior and forms of consciousness typical in a particular society
  • what people take to be "common sense"
  • embedded in institutions and the system as a whole
  • prescriptive, normative - tells us what is good to do, to be, to believe
  • descriptive - tells us what is supposedly true

Thus, ideological beliefs are taken for granted and appear obvious to people.

Functions of ideology

  • hides what is really going on
  • justifies oppression
  • serves the interest of the dominant group
  • offers solutions to problems that do not get to the real sources of the problems

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Go back to Stereotypes in context: The political economy of ads unit


Created by Kathryn Russell
SUNY Cortland - Philosophy
Last modified on 8-10-99