What is an ideology: part 3
Posted by Matt Walker on June 27, 2011
Trying to get your head around what an ideology is, is no easy matter. However, Michael Freedon has written an excellent introduction to this area of political study. Early on, he seeks to explain ideology by asking his reader to imagine stumbling across a large rally, with public speakers calling for the downfall of the government. How would they react?
One person might think great, let’s challenge the government and bring them down (an anarchist or socialist perhaps); another recoils with horror, hoping that the police will take a strong stance against a group of people who might turn violent, and might even bring down the government leading to instability and chaos (a conservative); whilst a final passer-by, whilst not necessarily agreeing with the aims of the protest, rejoices at a plural and free society where a myriad of opposing political views can flourish.
Hence, all people look at the world ideologically. Ideology is the prism through which we interpret and provide meaning for the world around us. We don’t just look at a protest group and think, “oh, a group of people”. At least, most of us don’t! Most of us will interpret the protest via our previous experiences and knowledge, ideas built up through years of socialisation. It enables us to understand the protest and make sense of it.
Ideologies therefore enable us to decide what action individuals and groups need to take, or what opinions to hold, in response to events and political plans for the future. This could be regarding the meaning of a protest, how a health service is organised, or whether the rich should pay higher or lower taxes.
Or whether teachers should go on strike.