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I already am eating from the trash can all the time. The name of this trash can is ideology. The material force of ideology makes me not see what I am effectively eating.
Slavoj Žižek on ideology.[1]

In sociology and politics, an ideology is a blueprint for the construction of a political and social order. Ideologies share not only ideas, but also myths, symbols, and dogmas. Successful ideologies often become associated with mass movements. They frequently come laced with some sort of utopianism as well: correct adherence to the plan will create an ideally just, harmonious, and efficient society as the ideologues conceive of it.

Ideologies contain:

  1. Goals: an idea about how society should work. Typical ideological goals seek to maximize some aspect of a society held to be of paramount importance, such as equality, freedom, economic gains, or religious faith.
  2. Methods: the most appropriate means and institutions to achieve the goals. Ideologies may call for a proletarian dictatorship, a democracy, a caliphate, or a global free market, or some other institution, based again on the chosen goals.

Ideologies are typically classified as either 'right' or 'left' on the political spectrum. They invest politics with meaning that transcends the details of current issues or conflicts. They are often geared towards the interests of a particular social class or constituency and seek to advance their agendas at the expense of their neighbors. They are more coherent than general political strategies such as populism, which can be pressed into the service of a variety of beliefs.[2]


To Karl Marx, ideology described the dominant religious, legal, and social systems (the "superstructure") that flowed from social status and control of the means of production (the "base").[3] Later political thinkers influenced by Marx, such as Antonio Gramsci, developed ideas of "cultural hegemony" and "false consciousness" to describe a belief that the oppressed were being systematically deceived by ideologies controlled by the powerful. In order to combat this ideology, a revolutionary vanguard needed to emerge and cultivate the ideological counternarrative of revolutionary thinking.

This line of Marxist argument suggests that a truly successful ideology will not even be noticed in its operation. In 1960, Daniel BellWikipedia proclaimed The End of Ideology, seeing the political quiescence and conformity of the 1950s in the Western world as a sign that the era of ideological conflict was over. Similar proclamations were made by Francis Fukuyama,Wikipedia who announced The End of History in 1992 after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Soviet communist bloc. So it goes.[note 1]

Silvio Vietta,Wikipedia by contrast, conceived of ideology as arising out of a variety of integralistic bodies of Western lore, such as the idea of Christendom, the one true Church, doctrines such as racism or Platonism, and the eschatological visions of revealed apocalyptic religions. Ideology combines this utopian and apocalyptic vision with Western rationalism, giving authoritarian political movements an idealistic veneer and essentially creating a series of political religions.[4]

Paleoconservatives of the Russell KirkWikipedia school define conservatism as hostility to ideology in all its forms. They are deliberately hostile to any plan to reform human society based on abstract doctrine or plans from a book. There is a wisdom in established ways and institutions that can only be damaged by planned schemes for radical reform. Every such scheme will do unforeseen collateral damage even if the goal is achieved. They point to the genocides of the twentieth century as the predictable consequences of attempting to force people to conform to an ideological plan. However, this definition leads to coherence problems; for example, the laissez-faire capitalist typically believes that capitalism is the greatest creator of human wealth and well-being. One needs to ignore the fact that capitalism in various forms qualifies as ideology and that conservatives are only rarely opposed to capitalism.

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  1. History actually ended when the necktie became ubiquitous in men's fashions. No history worth reading was ever made by men in neckties.


  1. The Pervert's Guide to Ideology (2012), via Wikiquote
  2. "Ideology", in Bryan S. Turner (ed.), The Cambridge Dictionary of Sociology (Cambridge, 2006; ISBN 0-511-37145-4)
  3. See the Wikipedia article on Base and superstructure (Marxism).
  4. Silvio Vietta (2013). A Theory of Global Civilization: Rationality and the Irrational as the Driving Forces of History.