Role of Ideology: Dominant Ideology & Ideology of Resistance Political Science YouTube Lecture Handouts

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Role of Ideology: Dominant Ideology & Ideology of Resistance | Political Science

Title: Role of Ideology


  • Ideology, and its study, have been subject to an interpretational tug-of-war among political theorists that, until recently, has devalued their status as an object of scholarship.
  • Disputes have raged over the scientific standing of ideology, its epistemological status, and its totalitarian and liberal manifestations.
  • Many political philosophers have eschewed its group orientation, and the more recent interest of students of ideology in ordinary political language and in the unconscious and the indeterminate.

Impact of Saying Something as “Ideological”

  • When we call a belief ideological, we are saying at least three things about it:
    • although it is unverified or unverifiable,
    • it is accepted as verified by a particular group,
    • because it performs social functions for that group.
  • In other words, holders of beliefs do not need to have had them ‘proved’ by some rational, scientific form of testing.
  • To the believers they are the ‘truth’ , the ‘reality’ . All political ideologies claim ‘true’ definitions of liberty, equality, justice, rights and the ‘best’ society.
  • The ‘particular group’ mentioned above might be any social group: class, nation, profession, religious organisation, party or pressure group.
  • All will have sets of ideological assumptions that are unquestioningly accepted as ‘proper’ .
  • There has always been a widely held view in politics and political philosophy that ‘ideology’ merely provides a cloak for the struggle for power, the real stuff of politics. To justify their power and to persuade the people to obey, follow and support them, rulers use ideologies of various kinds.
  • Machiavelli advised, in The Prince (1513) , that religion was a very useful tool for the ruler. To Machiavelli the real objective of politics was the getting and keeping of power. Appeals to the welfare of the people were merely part of what we would call the ideological window-dressing, hiding the raw struggle for power.

Dominant Idelogies and Ideologies of “Resistance”

  • One can understand that ideologies may be perceived as a tool used by dominant social groups to maintain and enhance their established power position in a struggle of ideas. Antonio Gramsci, in Selections from the Prison Notebooks (1921 – 35) , stressed the important role of dominant, or ‘hegemonic’ , ideologies in capitalist societies as the means by which the dominant capitalist classes maintain their rule. Dominant ideologies permeate all aspects of society, from popular culture to the education system, from religious institutions to sports. Such ideologies legitimize the political system and the established social system in the minds of the working classes and ensure that the ‘slave is persuaded that he is free’ : The proletariat wear their chains willingly. Condemned to perceive reality through the conceptual spectacles of the ruling class they are unable to recognise the nature or extent of their own servitude.
  • An ideology may shift from being a counter-ideology to a dominant ideology by means of political success: Lenin՚s Bolshevik Party, for example, took over the Russian state and created the Soviet Union. Or an ideology might be one of both domination and resistance. Nationalism, for example, can be used by dominant nations as ‘imperialist nationalism’ or by subject nations as ‘anticolonial nationalism’ , the former to support their power, the latter to challenge the status quo.

The End of Ideology

  • The recent changes in the sociological structures of the country and governments have shown that the ideological fabric of thinking is diminishing.
  • Daniel Bell, in The End of Ideology (1960) and later in an article in Government and Opposition (1988) , argued that ideological debate was in decline as a means of understanding society.
  • Societies have changed so much that ‘old ideological’ forms of analysing those societies, especially Marxism, are virtually useless.
  • Modern societies are concerned with non-ideological problem solving. They have become more moral, more liberal and only distantly connected with a class analysis of society.


1. It is actually the web of ideology itself which has destroyed the ideological structure of studying a subject?

2. The liberalism in religion front has actually moulded society to think in ideological free view of studying ideology itself?

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