It can help to think
of ideologies as convincing but false ways of viewing the world. Beliefs and ideas
that are ideologies combine to create for each of us a similar 'world view'.
This has been described, some would say overly simplistically, as a kind
of false consciousness.
act to create a framework
that guides our thoughts and actions in ways that align us with the ways
others in our group, society or culture think and act. It is because
everyone else thinks and acts in ideologically similar ways that
ideologies - if we ever think of them at all - seem so utterly just, right, common sense or
- Whenever we
have ideas or beliefs that seem too obvious to question, we are almost certainly
ideological believes concerning freedom. We treasure, for
example, our much vaunted freedom of
speech. Yet this could be considered to be an ideology
that creates a 'false consciousness'.
Because the belief hides an important reality - that whilst
we can indeed speak relatively freely, what we say only
has any effect if we also happen to be powerful.
Looked at from this perspective, the freedom might
seem rather less important than we might have
belief acts to suggest that we share an important level of
equality - yet could be said to mask the reality that in
practice, for the majority
of us, we do not. It could be
asked, what is the point of such 'freedom' when its
existence results in less than it should?
Perhaps a more worthwhile question to ask is what
the effect on us is of believing we have a
level of freedom that, in important ways, we do
become especially interesting is that they form a world view that can be shown to support
and reinforce what is called society's status quo. That is,
ideologies can be shown to act to reinforce and maintain our society's existing social
structure with its vast power and wealth differentials. This is why
some people think of ideologies as
political and deceptive devices
- as a kind of 'false consciousness'.
- All ideologies can be
argued to work like this - but it can be difficult to make the link
from the ideology to the reinforcement of our society's structure.
There are certainly many ideologies. They concern such central aspects of life as freedom,
gender, the roles of men and women, of the family,
right to own goods and wealth, of who should hold power over others (parents,
managers, politicians... etc.), etc.
- These ideological ways of thinking
all appear too obvious to consider. Ideologies both hide themselves
and 'make disappear' many realities and aspects of life. For
example, is the 'third world' a reality... or an ideology.
Think about that one and you will begin to see why for many,
ideologies are an important area to study.
The 19th century philosopher, Karl Marx, felt
that, over time, all societies would progress either naturally - or by
revolution - towards a better, more enlightened state of social equality.
Marx felt that capitalism was
a step on an
evolutionary ladder towards a future ideal society: a society in which co-operation rather than competition prevailed. He called this
a communist society.
One way to
uncover an ideology is to
consider what kind of actions would bring shame onto you within your family, group of
friends or society. If you can see that things in themselves can have no
natural or inherent shame attached to them -
and that only
thinking can make this so - then you can see that the cause of this shame
must be ideological.
In the West,
for example, while a married woman who commits adultery can be divorced by her husband
for committing that act, in some cultures, it is believed that in doing
brings such shame
onto herself, her family and her society that she deserves severe