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Perhaps I did not succumb to ideology … because I have never seen myself as a spokesman. I am a witness. In the church in which I was raised you were supposed to bear witness to the truth. ~ James Baldwin
Ideologies involve a mistake about their origin: agents think that the ideology arose because of its responsiveness to epistemically relevant considerations (e.g., evidence, reasons, etc.), when, in fact, it arose only because it was responsive to the interests of the dominant economic class in the existing economic system. ~ Brian Leiter

Ideology is a term referring to comprehensive sets or expressions of the ideas of individuals, groups or societies.

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  • The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the law of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If "Thou shall not covet," and "Thou shall not steal," are not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society, before it can be civilized or made free.
    • John Adams, A Defence of the Constitutions of Government (1787), The Works of John Adams (1851), vol. 6, p. 9
  • For you and for me, the category of the subject is a primary ‘obviousness’ (obviousnesses are always primary): it is clear that you and I are subjects (free, ethical, etc.). Like all obviousnesses, including those that make a word ‘name a thing’ or ‘have a meaning’ (therefore including the obviousness of the ‘transparency’ of language), the ‘obviousness’ that you and I are subjects – and that that does not cause any problems – is an ideological effect, the elementary ideological effect. It is indeed a peculiarity of ideology that it imposes (without appearing to do so, since these are ‘obviousnesses’) obviousnesses as obviousnesses.
  • Those who are in ideology believe themselves by definition outside ideology: one of the effects of ideology is the practical denegation of the ideological character of ideology by ideology: ideology never says, ‘I am ideological’. It is necessary to be outside ideology, i.e. in scientific knowledge, to be able to say: I am in ideology (a quite exceptional case) or (the general case): I was in ideology. As is well known, the accusation of being in ideology only applies to others, never to oneself.


  • Perhaps I did not succumb to ideology … because I have never seen myself as a spokesman. I am a witness. In the church in which I was raised you were supposed to bear witness to the truth. Now, later on, you wonder what in the world the truth is, but you do know what a lie is.
    • James Baldwin, in interview with Julius Lester, "James Baldwin: Reflections of a Maverick" in The New York Times (27 May 1984)
  • At its core, the battle unfolding in the Middle East is more than a clash of arms. It is an ideological struggle. On one side are the forces of terror and death. On the other are tens of millions of ordinary people who want a free and peaceful life for their children. The future of the Middle East depends on the outcome of this struggle, and so does the security of the United States.


  • Capitalism is an exploitative system, as Marx has argued so cogently, and as anyone who studies the inequalities within and between the countries of the world today must see. It is therefore a priori likely that its ideology conceals realities that if known would make the exploited militant.
    • Andrew Collier in Transcendence: Critical Realism and God (2013), p. 85


  • Ideology consist of a specific objective level, of a relatively coherent ensemble of representations, values and beliefs: just as 'men', the agents within a formation, participate in an economic and political activity, they also participate in religious, moral, aesthetic and philosophical activities. Ideology concerns the world in which men live, their relations to nature, to society, to other men and to their own activity including their own economic and political activity. The status of the ideological derives from the fact that it reflects the manner in which the agents of a formation, the bearers of its structures, live their conditions of existence; i.e. it reflects their relation to these conditions as it is 'lived' by them. Ideology is present to such an extent in all the agents' activities that it becomes indistinguishable from their lived experience. To this extent ideologies fix in a relatively coherent universe not only a real but also and imaginary relation: i.e. men's real relation to their conditions of existence in the form of an imaginary relation. This means that in the last analysis ideologies are related to human experience without being thereby reduced to a problematic of the subject—consciousness. This social-imaginary relation, which performs a real practical—social function, cannot be reduced to the problematic of alienation and false consciousness.
  • It follows that through its constitution ideology is involved in the functioning of this social-imaginary relation, and is therefore necessarily false; its social function is not to give agents a true knowledge of the social structure but simply to insert them as it were into their practical activities supporting this structure. Precisely because it is determined by its structure, at the level of experience the social whole remains opaque to the agents. In class-divided societies this opacity is over-determined by class exploitation and by the forms which this exploitation takes in order to be able to function in the social whole. Hence, even if it includes elements of knowledge, ideology necessarily manifests an adequation / inadequation vis-à-vis the real.



  • The problem of ideology ... has especially to do with the concepts and the languages of practical thought which stabilize a particular form of power and domination; or which reconcile and accommodate the mass of the people to their subordinate place in the social formation.
    • Stuart Hall, The Problem of Ideology-Marxism without Guarantees, in Marx:100 Years On (London: 1983), p. 59
  • The whole notion of the free market, laissez-faire capitalism, globalization is a very thin rationale for unmitigated greed by a tiny oligarchic elite. And they have made sure that that ideology is taught in universities across the country. And people, especially economists, who deviate from that ideology have been pushed aside, and become pariahs. And yet the driving ethos of that ideology is really to justify the hoarding of immense amounts of wealth by a very tiny percentage of the upper ruling class.
  • The average, vague understanding of being can be permeated by traditional theories and opinions about being in such a way that these theories, as the sources of the prevailing understanding, remain hidden.
  • Every human way of acting which hides the true nature of society ... is ideological.
    • Max Horkheimer, "Notes on Science and the Crisis," Critical Theory: Selected Essays (1995), p. 7


  • In the sense used by Marx and Engels, the concept of ideology was intended to mean forms of social consciousness which prevent people from realising that their thinking about the world is determined by some conditions which do not depend on them and which are not themselves ingredients of consciousness. In ideological thinking, people imagine that the logic of thinking itself rules their consciousness and they are organically incapable of being aware of the social situations and of the interests which mould their mental work.


  • Ideologies involve a mistake about their origin: agents think that the ideology arose because of its responsiveness to epistemically relevant considerations (e.g., evidence, reasons, etc.), when, in fact, it arose only because it was responsive to the interests of the dominant economic class in the existing economic system.
    • Brian Leiter, “Morality Critics,” The Oxford Handbook of Continental Philosophy (2007), p. 737
  • Science may be in the interest of the ruling class, after all, but it is still responsive to epistemic norms, and so anyone with epistemic interests has reason to accept science. Ideologies, by contrast, have their genesis explained solely by their capacity to further the interests of the ruling class.
    • Brian Leiter, “Morality Critics,” The Oxford Handbook of Continental Philosophy (2007)
  • Only the dialectical conception of ... reality as a social process ... dissolves the fetishistic forms necessarily produced by the capitalist mode of production and enables us to see them as mere illusions which are not less illusory for being seen to be necessary.


  • Whereas the particular conception of ideology designates only a part of the opponent's assertions as ideologies — and this only with reference to their content, the total conception calls into question the opponent's total Weltanschauung (including his conceptual apparatus), and attempts to understand these concepts as an outgrowth of the collective life of which he partakes.
  • Today the ideology is in the process of production itself. ... The productive apparatus and the goods and services which it produces “sell” or impose the social system as a whole.
  • The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production.
  • The demand for explicit ideological justifications has been greatly enlarged, if only because new institutions of enormous power have arisen but have not been legitimated, and because older powers have outrun their old sanctions.
  • Every interest and power, every passion and bias, every hatred and hope tends to acquire an ideological apparatus with which to compete with the slogans and symbols, the doctrines and appeals of other interests.
  • As public communications are expanded and speeded up, their effectiveness is worn out by repetition; so there is a continuous demand for new slogans and beliefs and ideologies.


  • The rulers wanted to fool people, since they saw that people have a kinship with what is truly good. They took the names of the good and assigned them to what is not good, to fool people with names and link the names to what is not good. So, as if they were doing people a favor, they took names from what is not good and transferred them to the good, in their own way of thinking. For they wished to take free people and enslave them forever.


  • People do things, and then they imagine what they are doing in a kind of cloudy realm. Thus we say first there is a social reality in which people fight to earn their living, and so on, and this is real reality, as praxis. This reality is then represented in the heaven of ideas, but it is falsely represented as having a meaning autonomous to this realm, as making sense on the basis of things which can be thought and not done or lived.


  • Elites in civil society invariably acquire a flawed ideology to explain their possession of an unjust amount of the goods of society. The purpose of the flawed ideology is to provide an apparently factual (in the best case, apparently scientific) justification for the otherwise manifestly unjust distribution of society’s goods. ... As a mechanism of social control, the elite seek to instill the ideology in the negatively privileged groups. By this route, the negatively privileged groups acquire the beliefs that justify the very structural features of their society that cause their oppression.
    • Jason Stanley, How Propaganda Works (Princeton University Press: 2015), p. 269


  • Those who say that all historical accounts are ideological constructs (which is one version of the idea that there is really no historical truth) rely on some story which must itself claim historical truth. They show that supposedly "objective" historians have tendentiously told their stories from some particular perspective; they describe, for example, the biasses that have gone into constructing various histories of the United States. Such an account, as a particular piece of history, may very well be true, but truth is a virtue that is embarrassingly unhelpful to a critic who wants not just to unmask past historians of America but to tell us that at the end of the line there is no historical truth. It is remarkable how complacent some "deconstructive" histories are about the status of the history that they deploy themselves.

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