Ideology is amongst the most contested terms in politics due to its abstract nature. Types of ideology can be derived from this notion, conscious ideology and unconscious ideology. The first suggests that believers of an ideology adhere to an explicit, clear, written set of rules and objectives, communist or liberals apply to this definition for example. The second type relies on unconsciously shared norms, values and morals, it emerges through ways of living or lifestyles rather than from a written manifesto, some examples include western way of living or mass consumption or consumerism.
It’s most commonly used to refer to a comprehensive set of ideas and morals that define organised political groups. These political groups’ ideas and morals implicitly reinforce and/or challenge the existing order by providing a personal global view of the world as they perceive it. Their manifesto also envisions a model of a desired world that fully complies with their requirements, a sort of ‘successful society’ where every element of the system that runs it is efficient, optimal and right.
By trial and error, they persuade and implicitly urge other members of a society to accept their proposed political changes by illustrating how successful and advantageous the outcome of these will be for everyone.
An essential aspect of an ideology is to indoctrinate their audiences. It presents ideas and morals in a way that leads to beliefs and actions. In fact, Destutt de Tracy describes ideology as the ‘science of ideas’, which suggests that experiments and results are relevant. Indeed, a political organisation’s persuasion is achieved by merging their descriptive and normative approaches. Political groups reinforce their statements and legitimacy by inducing their audiences with guilt or responsibility for the flaws or the future of their society. By doing this, they passively gain the people’s agreement and trust because they embody parent-like role that knows the problem and how to resolve it.
An ideology usually claims to be able to explain the world and make it more comprehensible to its audience, but there is always subjectivity, the truth is modified to demonstrate certain ideas and morals. There also seems to be an important subtle, unsaid, influential and debatably manipulative aspect of their political approach, more is implied than said. Ideologies can come in various forms, from minor social movements like feminism to radical religious organisations like terrorism.
From a communist point of view, Karl Marx describes ideology as instrumentalist, it’s the ideas that achieve the dominant class’s interests by obscuring the evident social stratification and social conflict between the dominant and dominated class. Marx explains that it can also be seen from a functionalist point of view as a way for social groups to demonstrate various kinds of alienation through mutual recognition as members of a certain class. Thus creating a false sense of political equality among social classes by masking the consciousness of being in a class amongst others. This contradicts Destutt de Tracy because it illustrates a clear separation between ideology and science where one represents falsehood and the other represents truth respectively.
Michael Oakeshott suggests considering ideologies as systems of thoughts that obscures actual and historical contexts and focuses politics on more abstract and ambitious goals. Other thinkers, namely liberals, consider ideologies as officially endorsed belief systems that suggest that they propose the only truth, most commonly by using scientific results as proof.