Download whatsapp for laptop. Perhaps the most common answer is to claim that ideology has to do with legitimating the power of a dominant social group or class. ‘To study ideology,’ writes John B. Thompson, ‘ is to study the ways in which meaning (or signification) serves to sustain relations of domination.’ This is probably the single most widely accepted definition of ideology; and the process of legitimation would seem to involve at least six different strategies. A dominant power may legitimate itself by promoting beliefs and values congenial to it; naturalizing and universalizing such beliefs so as to render them self-evident and apparently inevitable; denigrating ideas which might challenge it; excluding rival forms of thought, perhaps by some unspoken but systematic logic; and obscuring social reality in ways convenient to itself.
Such ‘mystification,’ as it is commonly known, frequently takes the form of masking or suppressing social conflicts, from which arises the conception of ideology as an imaginary resolution of real contradictions. In any actual ideological formation, all six of these strategies are likely to interact in complex ways. There are, however, at least two major difficulties with this otherwise persuasive definition of ideology. For one thing, not every body of belief which people commonly term ideological is associated with a dominant political power. The political left, in particular, tends almost instinctively to think of such dominant modes when it considers the topic of ideology; but what then do we call the beliefs of the Levellers, Diggers, Narodniks and Suffragettes, which were certainly not the governing value systems of their day? Are socialism and feminism ideologies, and if not why not?
Are they non-ideological when in political opposition but ideological when they come to power? If what the Diggers and Suffragettes believed is “ideological,’ as a good deal of common usage would suggest, then by no means all ideologies are oppressive and spuriously legitimating. Indeed the right-wing political theorist Kenneth Minogue holds, astoundingly, that all ideologies are politically oppositional, sterile totalizing schemes as opposed to the ruling practical wisdom: ‘Ideologies can be specified in terms of a shared hostility to modernity: to liberalism in politics, individualism in moral practice, and the market in economics.’ On this view, supporters of socialism are ideological whereas defenders of capitalism are not. The extent to which one is prepared to use the term ideology of one’s own political views is a reliable index of the nature of one’s political ideology. Generally speaking, conservatives like Minogue are nervous of the concept in their own case, since to dub their own beliefs ideological would be to risk turning them into objects of contestation. Does this mean, then, that socialists, feminists and other radicals should come clean about the ideological nature of their own values?
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If the term ideology is confined to dominant forms of social thought, such a move would be inaccurate and needlessly confusing; but it may be felt that there is need here for a broader definition of ideology, as any kind of intersection between belief systems and political power. And such a definition would be neutral on the question of whether this intersection challenged or confirmed a particular social order.