Common meanings of ideology
• a political belief system
• action-oriented set of political ideas
• ideas of the ruling-class
• world-view of a particular social class or social group
• political ideas that embody or articulate class or social interests
• ideas that propagate false consciousness amongst the exploited or
• ideas that situate the individual within a social context and generate
a sense of collective belonging
• an ofﬁcially sanctioned set of ideas used to legitimize a political
system or regime
• an all-embracing political doctrine that claims a monopoly on truth
• an abstract and highly systematic set of political ideas
Criticisms of ideologies
(Robert Putnam, APSR 65, Sept. 1971)
They provide ideas reﬂecting
people’s private interests rather
than more universal, public
interests. More speciﬁcally,
ideologies are the “weapons of the
ruling class” – ideas that allow the
most powerful members of society
to maintain their dominant status.
They are based on paranoia, or
irrational fears about the motivations
and powers of some “evil” opponents,
leading to (a) simplistic evaluations
contrasting the forces of evil (“them”,
the other) against the forces of good
(“us”), (b) intolerance of everyone
who does not believe precisely as
“we” do, and (c) an unwillingness to
bargain and compromise with “them”.
They assert a moral and political
insisting on certain principles
and behaviors and demanding
conformity to their “truths”.
They are extremist in that they
reject the established political,
social and economic institutions
and the stable beneﬁts provided
by these institutions.
The Triadic Model of Freedom
(from Ball and Dagger, Political Ideologies and the Democratic Ideal)
IDEOLOGY AGENT(S) GOAL(S) OBSTACLES
Liberalism The Individual To live his or her own way, without Laws, customs, or conditions which
undue interference from others. block individual choice.
Conservatism Interconnected Order, stability, harmony, Radical ideas, innovation, passions,
Individuals continuity. desires, lack of restraint.
Marxism The common/ Fulfillment of human needs, e.g. Class divisions, economic
working people satisfying work, fair share of inequalities, unequal life chances,
product. “false consciousness.”
Fascism The Nation-State The power and glory of the state. Individualism, independent groups,
(Italian) class divisions.
Fascism The Aryan Race Racial Supremacy; “1000 Year “Inferior races,” humanitarian ideas,
(Nazism) Reich.” class divisions.
Feminism Women Equality of Opportunity. Legal and institutional
Feminism Women Power and respect for differences. Sexist beliefs, attitudes, and
Gay Gay men and women Gay power, pride, and dignity. Homophobia.
“Black Black People Black pride, power, and dignity. Racist beliefs and attitudes.
Liberation Christians Equal dignity and respect for all. Sin – i.e., oppression or indifference
Theology to suffering.
“The left/right continuum…is itself
ideological. It serves the purpose of
bestowing a moderate or,
respectively, radical or even
dangerous aura on an ideology. It
suggests that to move among
ideologies can be a gradual process,
and it indicates that ideologies are
mutually exclusive and hence offer
- Michael Freeden