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Dictionary of the History of Ideas

Studies of Selected Pivotal Ideas

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One of the most controversial concepts in the history
of social thought has been the concept of ideology.
Some scholars have emphasized the epistemological
aspects of ideology, others its sociological components,
and still others its psychological or cultural features.
An examination of these approaches will provide the
components of ideology on which most scholars appear
to agree.

At the outset it is necessary to distinguish between
ideology as concept and ideology as political doctrine.
The analysis of ideology as a generic concept (e.g., its
nature and function) constitutes an intellectual activity
of quite different order than the analysis of ideology
as a body of political beliefs (e.g., conservatism, liber-
alism, socialism). Similarly, it is quite impermissible to


confuse someone's (e.g., Marx's) analysis of the concept
of ideology with his own ideology or political doctrine
(i.e., Marxism). It is of course true that one's analysis
of the concept of ideology may be conditioned
“ideologically” (in the second sense)—as indeed Marx's
was—but these questions are analytically distinct. We
are concerned in this article only with the analysis of
ideology as a concept in social thought.

Epistemological Approaches. Historically this is the
earliest approach to ideology, and its chief exponents
were the French Ideologues of the latter part of the
eighteenth century, mainly Étienne Bonnet de Condil-
lac, Pierre J. G. Cabanis, Antoine Louis Claude Destutt
de Tracy and Claude Adrien Helvétius. One of the
earliest uses of the term “ideology” was in Destutt de
Tracy's Élémens d'idéologie, 4 vols. (1801-15).

In this approach ideology is based upon a sensa-
tionalist theory of knowledge. The basic assumption
is that all ideas, all knowledge, and all the faculties
of human understanding—perception, memory, judg-
ment—rest on sensory data. The validity of an idea
can be ascertained only in terms of its congruence with
sense impressions. The study of the origin and devel-
opment of ideas in terms of sensations is the only
guarantee against errors in cognition and judgment.

In expounding the sensationalist point of view, and
in seeking to extend scientific methodology to the study
of ideas and knowledge, the Ideologues posed a sharp
challenge to the rationalistic tradition of the eighteenth
century, especially Cartesianism. For them, knowledge
was a process of inductive generalization from partic-
ular sensations.

In developing their philosophy the Ideologues relied
heavily on Francis Bacon and John Locke. Condillac,
widely acknowledged as the founder of the school of
ideology, praised Bacon for having developed the
scientific method which in turn had proved so essential
in the study of physical nature; Bacon, he thought, was
the first to understand the truth that all knowledge
comes from the senses.

Condillac similarly praised Locke for having revolu-
tionized philosophy by launching a systematic attack
upon rationalism. He was particularly impressed with
Locke's concept of tabula rasa and the concomitant
rejection of innate ideas. However, Condillac argued,
Locke had not gone far enough in locating the source
of ideas in experience and observation—which, them-
selves, according to Condillac, could be reduced to

Condillac's central objective was to do for philoso-
phy what Bacon had done for science. He was inter-
ested in a scientific approach to the study of man and
ideas. He was particularly impressed with Bacon's
warning against idola (“idols, phantoms, or miscon
ceptions”) as sources of error in knowledge. (This has
led some scholars to trace the genesis of “ideology”
to Bacon's idola; for example, Karl Mannheim, p. 61.)
Condillac wished to reconstruct philosophy into an
analytical method for the study of the nature, sources,
and implications of ideas.

Condillac's philosophy was further developed and
formally systematized by Cabanis and de Tracy.
Cabanis based ideas on sensations, but he approached
the study of the mind from a physiological rather than
an epistemological point of view. Knowledge of the
physical nature of man, he held, was the basis of all
philosophy. Physiology, moral philosophy, and the
analysis of ideas constitute “three branches of a single
science: the science of man” (Van Duzer, p. 43).

Physical sensibility, according to Cabanis, is the basic
factor in knowledge, as also in the intellectual and
moral life of man. Just as physical life is a series of
movements originating in impressions received by the
various organs, so psychological phenomena result from
movements initiated by the brain. These movements
are received and transmitted by the nerve endings of
the various organs. It is sensibility that makes us aware
of the external world; sensations bring the outside
world within the mind, as it were. Sensations differ
in intensity, duration, and so on, depending on the
physiological functioning of the individual (his age, sex,
physical constitution) and environmental conditions.

In his Élémens d'idéologie, Destutt de Tracy set out
to systematize the philosophy of sensationalism and to
put it into textbook form. While crediting Condillac
with the creation of ideology, and Cabanis with its
further development, Destutt de Tracy proceeded to
introduce his own variation upon it. The importance
attached to sensation and physiology had inclined
Condillac and Cabanis toward a materialistic inter-
pretation of the mind. Destutt de Tracy went further
by directly viewing ideology as a part of zoology.
Human psychology—“the science of ideas”—should be
analyzed in biological terms, without attention to
moral or religious dimensions. Only in this way could
an objective science of the mind be realized. According
to Destutt de Tracy, “One has only an incomplete
knowledge of an animal if one does not know its intel-
lectual faculties. Ideology is a part of zoology, and it
is above all with reference to the study of man that
this science has importance” (Germino, p. 48). There
is thus no qualitative distinction between man and
lower animals; metaphysical, philosophical, and reli-
gious conceptions must be discarded because they are
not subject to scientific investigation.

The political and moral implications of sensa-
tionalism were developed largely by Helvétius.
Helvétius relied on early utilitarianism in emphasizing


a principle that the later utilitarians were to label “the
greatest happiness of the greatest numbers.” Morality,
politics, and legislation were to be directed toward
maximizing pleasant sensations and minimizing un-
pleasant sensations. Helvétius believed in ethical and
political relativism, in limited government, in the need
for harmonizing public and private interests, and in
the possibility of human progress through education
(this a residue of the Enlightenment). In other words,
the political implications of sensationalism could be
called “democratic.”

It is not surprising, then, that the Ideologues should
have vigorously opposed Napoleon and his imperial-
istic dictatorial policies. Nor is it surprising that
Napoleon should have reciprocated with intense, hos-
tility, and should have pejoratively labeled the group
Idéologues, denoting “visionaries” or “daydreamers.”
That is where the term “ideologue” originated and that
is how it came to take on a derogatory connotation,
which it has retained to the present day.

The Ideologues' treatment of the ideology concept
entailed some difficulties. Despite their appeal to sci-
ence, a great deal of their analysis was strikingly
speculative and intuitive. Moreover, there was consid-
erable confusion, especially found in Cabanis and de
Tracy, concerning physiology, psychology, and epis-
temology. Finally, their approach to ideology is not
directly relevant to twentieth-century understandings
and concerns.

Sociological Approaches. A watershed in the study
of the ideology concept was reached in the works of
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who viewed ideology
as a system of false ideas, a statement of class position,
and a justification for class rule. Ideologies are second-
ary and unreal, since they are part of the “superstruc-
ture” and as such a reflection of the more fundamental
material economic “base.”

One's thought and belief patterns, Marxist theory
holds, are conditioned by one's socioeconomic exist-
ence. Socioeconomic relationships, particularly prop-
erty relationships, set the stage for man's bondage and
“alienation.” They dehumanize man by thwarting his
creative impulses. They separate man from himself, his
productivity, and the society to which he belongs.

Socioeconomic relationships are institutionalized in
social classes. One's ideology is therefore a function
of the class to which one belongs. More specifically,
ideologies are deliberate creations of false images by
the dominant class to manipulate and control the
masses, and to perpetuate its own rule. “The ideas of
the ruling class,” wrote Marx and Engels, “are in every
epoch the ruling ideas: i.e. the class, which is the ruling
material force of society, is at the same time its ruling
intellectual force” (The German Ideology, p. 39).

Marx and Engels attached a derogatory connotation
to ideology, since they viewed all ideological thought
as the dishonest use of reasoning, as the conscious or
unconscious distortion of facts in order to justify the
position of the ruling class. Ideology represents, in
Engels' memorable phrase, “false consciousness.”

The proposition that false consciousness may provide
a basis for action suggests, as many have pointed out,
that ideas and ideologies enjoy a measure of autonomy
—a realization that runs counter to Marx's earlier
assertion about the dependence of ideas on the eco-
nomic system. Engels was to explain, after Marx's
death, that Marx had indeed overemphasized the eco-
nomic factor, and for a good reason. He wrote: “Marx
and I are ourselves partly to blame for the fact that
younger writers sometimes lay more stress on the eco-
nomic side than is due to it. We had to emphasize this
main principle in opposition to our adversaries, who
denied it, and we had not always the time, the place
or the opportunity to allow the other elements involved
in the interaction to come into their own rights”
(Selected Correspondence, p. 477). However, Engels
maintained, although there is no inflexible one-way
relationship between idea systems and economic sys-
tems, sooner or later the two will coincide.

Marx and Engels, by basing ideas on the socioeco-
nomic system, raised an issue that, at the hand of Karl
Mannheim, came to be known as the “sociology of
knowledge”: the study of social bases, conditions,
varieties, and distortions of ideas. To this extent, soci-
ology of knowledge is reminiscent of the epistemologi-
cal approach to ideology, except that Mannheim pro-
posed to elevate the enterprise to a truly scientific
status devoted to the unmasking of the ideological
biases in thought.

Mannheim's approach differed from Marx's in im-
portant respects. Influenced by Max Weber, Mannheim
abandoned Marx's primarily class approach and based
ideology on the total social structure, particularly polit-
ical parties. (This prompted some scholars like R. K.
Merton in his Social Theory and Social Structure
[New York, 1957, p. 490] to call Mannheim a “bour-
geois Marx,” a label that was applied earlier to Weber.)
Moreover, Mannheim argued, Marx's approach had
inappropriately fused two distinctive types of ideology:
the “particular” and the “total.”

The particular conception of ideology denotes that
“we are skeptical of the ideas and representations
advanced by our opponent,” because “they are re-
garded as more or less conscious disguises of the real
nature of a situation, the true recognition of which
would not be in accord with his interests.” It includes
“all those utterances the 'falsity' of which is due to
intentional or unintentional, conscious, semiconscious,


or unconscious, deluding of one's self or of others,
taking place on a psychological level and structurally
resembling lies.” This conception is “particular” be-
cause “it always refers only to specific assertions which
may be regarded as concealments, falsifications, or lies
without attacking the integrity of the total mental
structure of the asserting subject” (Mannheim, pp.
55-56, 265-66).

Mannheim contrasts the particular conception of
ideology to the total conception: “Here we refer to
the ideology of an age or of a concrete historico-social
group, e.g. of a class, when we are concerned with
the characteristics and composition of the total struc-
ture of the mind of this epoch or of this group” (ibid.,
p. 56). The total conception, in other words, refers to
the Weltanschauung of an age or of a historical group.

The two conceptions of ideology have in common
the fact that they are determined by one's social cir-
cumstances. Beyond this they differ in some important
respects: (1) the particular conception calls into ques-
tion only a portion of the opponent's assertions,
whereas the total conception challenges the opponent's
entire world-outlook and admits of no nonideological
thought; (2) the particular conception rests on a psy-
chological analysis of ideas, whereas the total concep-
tion operates at an epistemological-ontological level
wherein the entire “thought-system” is analyzed as
socially-historically determined; (3) the particular con-
ception is associated largely with individuals, the total
conception with collectivities; (4) the particular con-
ception historically precedes the total conception.

Mannheim draws a further distinction between
“ideology” and “utopia.” Ideology, according to this
formulation, is an idea system congruent with, and
supportive of, the status quo. Utopia, by contrast, is
an idea system opposed to the status quo and support-
ive of an alternative social order. Only those mental
orientations are utopian, Mannheim holds, “which,
when they pass over into conduct, tend to shatter,
either partially or wholly, the order of things prevailing
at the time” (ibid., p. 192). The ideology-utopia dis-
tinction is rather farfetched, however, since either
concept may be simultaneously opposed to (or sup-
portive of) a given status quo and supportive of (or
opposed to) a rival one.

Conclusions strikingly similar to those of Marx were
reached via an entirely different route by two early
European sociologists, Gaetano Mosca and Vilfredo
Pareto, who were in some respects the intellectual
nemesis of Marx. Mosca and Pareto believe in a scien-
tific approach to social analysis. To be fruitful, they
maintain, social science must be objective; to be objec-
tive, it must rest on observable and verifiable grounds.
The most fundamental fact of social existence is that
human society at all times has been characterized by
a fundamental division between a minority that rules
and a majority that is ruled, between elite and mass.

According to Mosca, the most decisive feature of
any society is its ruling class. A society's art, culture,
politics, religion, etc., are all determined by the domi-
nant social stratum. As such, social analysis must begin
and end with the ruling class—its origin, development,
composition, and change. Politics consists of violent
struggles among contending groups for power, for the
ruling positions in society. The leaders maintain, per-
petuate, rationalize, and justify their own rule through
the skillful manipulation of “political formulas” or

Pareto stresses the prevalence of the irrational in
human conduct. He insists, under the influence of
Freudian psychology, that significant portions of
human behavior are motivated and sustained by non-
logical drives lying well below the level of conscious-
ness. Man's conduct is governed as much by uncon-
scious habit as by deliberate choice.

Pareto's approach is also influenced by a conception
of “myth” developed by Georges Sorel. All society,
according to Sorel, is guided and directed by myth;
the myth is the most important factor in social life.
A myth consists of a body of symbols and images
capable of evoking sentiment and propelling men to
action. More specifically, a myth has two components:
a statement of goals or objectives, and a commitment
to a line of action toward the materialization of the
objectives. A myth, in other words, is an “expression
of a determination to act” (Sorel, p. 50); it binds a
group of people together, taps their sentiment and
emotion, and directs their energy toward specific ob-
jectives. The most important function of any leadership
group is to provide the appropriate myth for a society.

Pareto divides all human conduct into two categor-
ies—logical and nonlogical—in terms of whether it
employs suitable means in pursuit of attainable objec-
tives. He contends that most human action is non-
logical, and that nonlogical action is especially per-
vasive in the sociopolitical realm. All societies, he
points out, are filled with taboos, magic, and myths.
In the political realm, codes, constitutions, platforms,
and programs fail to meet the criteria of logical action,
since, among other things, they are stated in the
vaguest, most rhetorical, most meaningless terms.

Pareto distinguishes two types of nonlogical action:
“residues” and “derivations.” Residues refer to a fairly
small number of constant factors—“nuclei”—in human
behavior that change little from age to age, culture
to culture. Derivations consist of the large number of
factors that change rapidly with time and place; they
are manifestations and expressions of residues. Deriva-


tions are the verbal expressions—including “ideolo-
gies”—that seek to explain, rationalize, and justify the
residues through appeal to sentiment, emotion, custom,
and tradition. Residues and derivations are interde-
pendent; they are motive forces of social conduct. (It
is interesting to note Krishna P. Mukerji's comment
that Pareto's theory of residues and derivations is a
variation on Marx's theory of base and superstructure;
Mukerji, p. 17.)

The concept of ideology, then, is a major variable
in these writers' analyses of society. Used synonymously
with “myth,” “political formula,” or “derivation,” ide-
ology is viewed as the matrix of social behavior, the
guiding force in human society, and the principal
means for attaining social solidarity. It is approached
as an instrument for leadership manipulation and con-
trol of the masses, a means for rationalizing, legitimiz-
ing, and perpetuating a given state of affairs.

Among contemporary sociologists, Talcott Parsons
and Daniel Bell deserve special attention. In general,
Parsons defines ideology as “an empirical belief system
held in common by the members of any collectivity.”
More specifically:

An ideology... is a system of beliefs, held in common by
the members of a collectivity, i.e., a society, or a sub-
collectivity of one—including a movement deviant from the
main culture of the society—a system of ideas which is
oriented to the evaluative integration of the collectivity,
by interpretation of the empirical nature of the collectivity
and of the situation in which it is placed, the processes
by which it has developed to its given state, the goals to
which its members are collectively oriented, and their
relation to the future course of events

(Parsons [1951], pp.
354, 349).

The phrase “a sub-collectivity of one” suggests that
ideology may be a purely personal phenomenon. Par-
sons states in the same work, however, that ideology
refers “primarily” to the belief system of collectivities,
and he proposes to call the belief system of individuals
“personal ideology” (ibid., p. 331).

Moreover, it is clear from the larger definition, ide-
ology involves goal-directed behavior; it serves as a
basis for action toward improving the welfare of the
collectivity. It binds the community together, and it
legitimizes its value orientations. Finally, ideology
involves an element of distortion: “the strongly evalu-
ative reference of ideologies tends to link in with the
'wishful' or romantic-utopian element of motivation
which is present in every social system. There will
generally... be a tendency to ideological distortion
of the reality in the direction of giving reign to the
wishful element” (ibid., p. 357).

Elaborating on this point elsewhere, Parsons identi-
fies the “essential criteria of an ideology” as “deviations
from [social] scientific objectivity.” He identifies two
types of deviations: one associated with the selectivity
with which ideologies approach problems and treat
issues; the other with the positive distortions of those
problems and issues that ideologies do choose to treat.
He writes: “The criterion of distortion is that state-
ments are made about the society which by social-
scientific methods can be shown to be positively in
error, whereas selectivity is involved where the state-
ments are, at the proper level, 'true,' but do not consti-
tute a balanced account of the available truth” (Parsons
[1959], p. 38).

The “functional” approach to ideology—its action-
orientation, its ability to promote or undermine legiti-
macy, its potential for attaining social solidarity and
value integration—has been emphasized by Daniel
Bell. According to Bell:

Ideology is the conversion of ideas into social levers. With-
out irony, Max Lerner once entitled a book Ideas Are
This is the language of ideology. It is more. It
is the commitment to the consequences of ideas.... For
the ideologue, truth arises in action, and meaning is given
to experience by the “transforming moment.” He comes
alive not in contemplation, but in “the deed”

(Bell [1960],
pp. 370-71).

Elsewhere, Bell defines ideology as

... an interpretative system of political ideas embodying
and concretizing the more abstract values of a polity (or
social movement) which, because of its claim to justification
by some transcendent morality (for example, history), de-
mands a legitimacy for its belief system and a commitment
to action in the effort to realize those beliefs

(Bell [1965],
p. 595, n. 6).

To sum up, the sociological approaches are centrally
concerned with ideology as a system of socially deter-
mined ideas, without necessary truth-value but with
great potential for social solidarity as well as for social
control, mobilization, and manipulation. In addition,
ideologies may serve to justify (or reject) a particular
set of goals and values and to legitimize (or denounce)
political authority. Some writers attach a derogatory
connotation to ideology, whereas others see it in a
neutral light.

Psychological Approaches. The psychological
theories see ideology primarily as a means of managing
personal strain and anxiety, whether socially or psy-
chologically induced. Among the most important of
the psychological theories are those of Sigmund Freud,
and of Francis X. Sutton and colleagues.

We may associate with Sigmund Freud a unique
approach to the concept of ideology, although to our
knowledge he nowhere undertakes an explicit analysis
of the subject. He does give a fairly extensive treat-


ment of religion, and he does suggest that religion and
ideology have much in common—indeed, that they
may belong to identical species of thought. Consider
the following statement, for example: “Having recog-
nized religious doctrines to be illusions, we are at once
confronted with the further question: may not all cul-
tural possessions, which we esteem highly and by which
we let our life be ruled, be of a similar nature? Should
not the assumptions that regulate our political institu-
tions likewise be called illusions?” (Freud [1957], p.
59). In a word, we would be well justified in substi-
tuting “ideology” wherever Freud uses “religion.”

Freud's starting point is that man's life is governed
by instinctual drives, many of which are subconscious
or unconscious. These instincts are primarily of two
types: life instincts (Eros) and death instincts (Thanatos).
The demands of man's instinctual behavior are in con-
flict with those of society, culture, and civilization.
(The distinctions among these three concepts are not
crucial for our present purposes.) Indeed, the very
possibility of civilization lies in man's ability—volun-
tarily or otherwise—to divert, rechannel, and sublimate
his instinctual energies into more conventional behav-
ior. Culture and civilization demand sacrifices and
instinctual renunciations from the individual. This in
turn intensifies man's natural aggressiveness toward
society, so that “every individual is virtually an enemy
of culture” (ibid., p. 4). It also intensifies man's aggres-
siveness toward his fellow man, so that “civilized soci-
ety is perpetually menaced with disintegration through
this primary hostility of men toward one another”
(Freud [1958], p. 61). The ultimate consequence is war.

At the same time, aggressiveness creates a pervasive
sense of guilt under the pressure of the superego. If
culture and civilization are to exist, their prohibitions
must be internalized by the individual as an integral
part of his moral code. The individual must internalize
not only the prohibitions of culture but also “its herit-
age of ideals and artistic creations,” for these ideals
offer “substitute gratifications for the oldest cultural
renunciations” (Freud [1957], pp. 71, 19; [1958], p. 15).
And now we come to the heart of Freud's argument:
“... the most important part of the psychical inven-
tory of a culture... is... its... religious ideas”
(Freud [1957], p. 20; cf. [1958], p. 38).

Religious conceptions are illusions. They are false-
hoods created to control man, restrain instinctual be-
havior, and perpetuate culture. Freud writes: “... re-
ligious doctrines... are all illusions, they do not admit
of proof, and no one can be compelled to consider them
as true or to believe in them.... [The] reality value of
most of them we cannot judge; just as they cannot be
proved, neither can they be refuted.” The strength of
religious ideas lies in the fact that they are “fulfillments
of the oldest, strongest and most insistent wishes of
mankind; the secret of their strength is the strength
of these wishes” (Freud [1957], pp. 54, 51).

Religion (ideology), then, performs the function of
wish-fulfillment. It affords protection and security to
the individual; it controls instinctual behavior and
relieves man of his sense of guilt; it counteracts man's
alienation from society. (The concept of alienation is
implicit in Freud's argument that the undue demands
of civilization create a disjunction between man and
society, but he does not actually use the term.) Reli-
gious ideas “allay our anxiety in the face of life's dan-
gers, the establishment of a moral world order ensures
the fulfillment of the demands of justice, which within
human culture have so often remained unfulfilled, and
the prolongation of earthly existence by a future life
provides in addition the local and temporal setting for
these wish-fulfillments” (ibid., pp. 51-52).

Religion (ideology) is essential to man's psychological
well-being as well as to the continuity of culture.

Sutton and his colleagues offer a conception of ide-
ology as a response to strain generated by social roles.
Modern life, they argue, engenders a host of problems
and stress situations with which each man has to cope.
Individuals daily confront conflicting demands and
anxiety situations in the course of performing their
roles. Since human behavior is patterned in systems
of roles, so are the strains that these roles inescapably

Since man's reaction to strain is patterned rather
than random, individuals need some “guiding princi-
ples” in the light of which to react. Ideology is a system
of ideas that enables man to cope with strain. “Ideology
is a patterned reaction to the patterned strains of a
social role.... Where a role involves patterns of con-
flicting demands, the occupants of that role may re-
spond by elaborating a system of ideas and symbols,
which in part may serve as a guide to action, but chiefly
has broader and more direct functions as a response
to strain” (Sutton et al., pp. 307-08).

Although there is a basic relationship between ide-
ology and strain, the actual linkages are by no means
clear or simple, for the individual may react to strain
in a variety of ways, including pathological behavior,
Ideology is merely one way of responding to stress.
It is “a symbolic outlet” for emotional disturbances
generated by social and personal disequilibrium. This
includes release of emotional tension by displacing it
into symbolic enemies (e.g., scapegoatism). Ideology
performs the function of tension management and
sustains the individual in the face of continued stress.

The psychological approaches, then, focus on ideol-
ogy primarily in terms of its relation to the individual
and its consequences for social conduct. They are par-


ticularly interested in ideology as a means of stabilizing
the psychological makeup of the individual, equipping
him with an appropriate set of psychological reactions,
reconciling him to the conflicting demands of social
life, and providing relief from anxiety and strain.

Psychocultural Approaches. Among the psychocul-
tural approaches to ideology, the work of Léon Dion
and of Clifford Geertz may be examined. Dion refers
to ideology as “a more or less integrated cultural and
mental structure.” By this he means a pattern of norms
and values that is both objective (cultural) and subjec-
tive (mental). More specifically:

Our hypothesis is that political ideology is a cultural and
mental complex which mediates between the norms associ-
ated with given social attitudes and conduct and the norms
which the political institutions and mechanisms tend to
crystallize and propagate. In other terms, political ideology
is a more or less integrated system of values and norms,
rooted in society, which individuals and groups project on
the political plane in order to promote the aspirations and
ideals they have come to value in social life

(Dion, p. 49).

Expressing dissatisfaction with the existing ap-
proaches to ideology, Clifford Geertz sets out to pro-
vide a more adequate nonvaluational theoretical
framework for its analysis. He approaches ideology in
terms of symbols and symbolic action, for he seeks to
show, at least in part, “how symbols symbolize, how
they function to mediate meanings” (Geertz, p. 57).

Geertz's initial assumption is that thought consists
of the construction and manipulation of symbol sys-
tems. Symbol systems, whether cognitive or expressive,
are extrinsic sources of information in terms of which
man's life is patterned (since intrinsic or genetic sources
of information are so few). Symbol systems are extra-
personal mechanisms for perception, judgment, and
manipulation of the world. Culture patterns—whether
religious, scientific, or ideological—are “programs”
that provide a blueprint for the organization of social
and psychological processes. More specifically, states
Geertz, “it is through the construction of ideologies,
schematic images of social order, that man makes him-
self for better or worse a political animal” (ibid., p. 63).

Ideology, in other words, is more than a mere psy-
chological response to strain; it embodies social and
cultural elements as well. Broadly understood, ideology
is a cultural symbol-system that aims to guide man in
his political life. The attempt of an ideology to render
confusing social situations meaningful accounts for its
highly symbolic form and for the intensity with which
it may be held. As such: “whatever else ideologies may
be... they are, most distinctively, maps of problem-
atic social reality and matrices for the creation of
collective conscience” (ibid., p. 64).

The psychocultural approaches, then, attempt to
unify the mental and the environmental elements in
ideology. In this view ideology requires both a psycho-
logical outlook and a cultural context. Its primary
function is to enable the individual to make sense of
the cultural symbol-system.

Summary. We have identified several approaches to
the concept of ideology and we have examined each
at some length. Each approach throws light on a
different dimension of the concept; together they re-
veal its extraordinarily rich and variegated intellectual
heritage. We may extrapolate from these approaches
a synthetic conception of ideology along the following
lines. Ideology is an emotion-laden, myth-saturated,
action-related system of beliefs and values about man
and society, legitimacy and authority, acquired as a
matter of routine and habitual reinforcement. The
myths and values of ideology are communicated
through symbols in simplified, economical, and efficient
manner. Ideological beliefs are more or less coherent,
more or less articulate, more or less open to new
evidence and information. Ideologies have a high po-
tential for mass mobilization, manipulation, and con-
trol; in that sense, they are mobilized belief systems.


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(Baltimore, Md., 1935).


[See also Alienation; Baconianism, Idea; Ideology of Soviet
Communism; Marxism;