How do you assess an ideology?
An ideology is the study of ideas, or ‘a science of ideas’. ‘It forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy’ or can be a ‘set of beliefs of a social group or individual’ (Press n.d.) In order to assess an ideology it is essential to know how to asses, this is when you evaluate the nature, ability or quality of something. However it is difficult to assess an ideology as it is a contested concept, it is impossible to define as it is fundamentally hard for everyone to agree on. In this essay I will be making a judgement about the ways in which the concept ‘ideology’ should be approached. Michael Freeden sees ideology as ‘thought behaviour’ which is how people actually use ideas. Whereas ideology in Marxism is seen as a dominant set of ideas which ‘reflects and legitimates existing arrangements of power’ it also makes unequal social relations seem natural and inevitable. These notions are on the opposite spectrum from one another as one embraces the Enlightenment period and the other rejects key Enlightenment values. Freeden’s view on ideology seems to be more relevant to our society today unlike Marx and Engels’ interpretations of ideology as it is very one sided. Firstly, the rise of ideology has shown that reason replaces ‘divine proficiency’ and religious views on understanding how the world works. The rise in science, along with key enlightenment values played a major role in replacing religion as it helped answer many questions that religion was incapable of answering. Enlightenment thinkers believed that the ‘truth’ existed in the world we live in and not in religious scriptures or the word of God as these are outdates for today’s world. The enlightenment period embraced equality, freedom and individualism. This brought about change for the people who were treated unfairly, the French Revolution was one of the biggest revolts which started from the concept of rationality and reason as the divine King was overthrown. As a result the revolution brought about ideologies where individuals were able to create their own ideas about humanity, politics and the economy. Furthermore it seems as though Michael Freeden’s approach to understanding ideologies can be applied to how ideologies are viewed in today’s society. Freeden provides his definition of ideology in his book ‘A Very Short Introduction’ as a political ideology being which is ‘a set of ideas, beliefs, opinions and values that exhibit a recurring pattern.’ A political ideology is ‘held by significant groups who compete over providing and controlling plans for public policy’ they do this by ‘justifying, contesting or changing the social and political arrangements and processes of a political community’ (Freeden 2003). He provides an analysis of his definition by breaking down the definition using the ‘Four P’s’. The first ‘P’ that Freeden mentions is proximity which shows that political concepts cannot make sense on their own, unless its applied to an ideology for instance when looking at two of the dominant ideologies for the political system which are conservatism and liberalism. The concept of same sex marriage doesn’t have any substance by itself but when looked at from a conservative view the Republican Party will deem it ‘deviant’ and against the law. On the other hand when looking at same sex marriage from a liberalist viewpoint it would be made legal and normal. This is just one of the many cases showing how a certain concept has no backbone without an ideology. The second ‘P’ is priority, where ideologies are organised based on rank of importance as the importance of ideologies can change in society. The third ‘P’ permeability, this is where ideologies interlink with one another such as Liberal Feminism, it contains Feminist concepts and liberal concepts which are intertwined. The final ‘P’ is proportionality which is how an ideology wishes to present its arguments, there is a different representation for each...
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