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 will be making a judgment about the ways in which he concept ‘ideology should be approached. Michael Freedmen sees ideology as ‘thought behavior 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.
Breeder’s view on ideology seems to be more relevant to our society today unlike Marx and Engel’s’ 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 outages 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 Breeder’s approach to understanding ideologies can be applied to how ideologies are viewed in today’s society. Freedmen 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’ (Freedmen 2003).
He provides an analysis of his definition by breaking down the definition using the ‘Four AS’. The first ‘P that Freedmen 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 liberalism 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 organized 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 individual. In contrast to Freedmen, Marxist have a very radical critic of ideology, they strongly reject the enlightenment values such as rationality and scientific objectivity. They see reason as being shaped and constrained by social norms and dominant systems Of power unlike enlightenment thinkers who believe otherwise. Capitalism oppresses, alienates and exploits citizens whilst leading them to believe that this is unavoidable.
On the other hand Marxist agree with enlightenment thinkers on how religion is not rational, Marx mentioned that religion is just an ‘opium of the people. It provides people with an illusion of happiness, if they sin they will be punished and if they do not they will be rewarded so Marx states that religion is another lie that helps people accept the position they are in. Marxist consider ideology to have a similar purpose to religion, it justifies the position people are in due to the hierarchical, capitalist system.
Ideology to Marxist assist the bourgeoisie to continue exploiting the working class by concealing their struggle by making it appear as though the working class are working towards a way out of the position hey are in, when really everything the working class do are in favor of the ruling class. Ideology plays against the working class in a number of ways by blinding them, for example the Health and Safety Act was created to protect workers from injuring themselves which will cause them to be out of work but Marxist look at it from a different perspective.
They say that really the act protects the ruling class, if an employee was to injure themselves due to no health and safety being available the company would be at a loss. They will eave to find a replacement and in most cases have to pay sick pay or they can even be sued, so this can be seen as blinding the working class into thinking the ruling class care about them when truly they care about themselves. Other ideologies such as Feminism see Marxist views as influential as they also believe that people are misled and oppressed except they see as men as the oppressors and not the ruling class.
Many people see ideologies in a positive light which provide a foundation to political identity where people can understand and participate in politics. Conversely others see ideology as he basis of oppression and control which prevents positive change. Unlike Freedmen is becoming difficult to apply the Marxist ideology to today’s society, whilst there is still a struggle between classes which causes oppression there are more and more opportunities which are allowing many people from lower class background to be socially mobile and climb up the social ladder.
Overall Freedmen provides a better definition of an ideology, he was able to break down the concept of an ideology and gives different viewpoints which are not one sided. Whereas the Marxist view is very restricted to the idea that al ideology does is oppress, hence it is very difficult to relate our current society to the Marxist ideology. Freedmen notes that ideologies provides a basis where a political identity is developed which helps individuals compare and apply it to their own beliefs.