What does ideology mean?

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James Kelley | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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Ideology can be defined as a set of beliefs of a large group of people; these beliefs are widely shared and rarely questioned.

Perhaps the single most important theorist to reflect on ideology is Louis Althusser (his last name is usually pronounced all-too-SAY). In "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses," he writes that ideology creates social roles (and social classes) and makes them appear "natural."

The popular film The Matrix can be seen as a creative representation of the powers of ideology. In the film, most humans believe they are living free lives when in fact they are enslaved by and serve as living batteries for the computers and machines. Their real purpose is too horrible to face, so they remain content with living virtual lives. Only with great effort are some people in the film able to escape their bonds and to see clearly.

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jentzfofanah | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

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Hi Hjhghih!  This is a very important question.  The 3rd dictionary definition of the Webster's new World College Dictionary Fourth Edition, (2005) of ideology is: "the doctrines, opinions, or way of thinking of an individual class, etc.;  specif., the body of ideas on which a particular political, economic, or social system is based" In my experience with people from many different religions, it is also related to religion as well.

Peace!

Coral Jentz-Fofanah

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kc4u | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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Ideology is a polemical category that has produced a lot of discussion and debate in the field of art and literature. Althusser in the sphere of politics and Raymond Williams and Terry Eagleton in the field of marxian readings of literature have had a lot to say about ideology. In literature questions surrounding ideology are manifold.

What is the ideology of a text? This is associated with authorial intent and meaning.

How does the ideology that informs a text influences its content, style, genre etc? This is a question that interlinks the polemical and the literary category of a text.

How does a text get structured by the dominant ideology of the times? This relates to the conservative/radical nature of the text.

One can go on with such questions ad infinitum, but coming back to the definition of ideology, I think it is a polemical and deliberate category of meaning that emerges from a text in terms of form or content or performance.

Can there be a text without an ideology?

I would say, no, because, ideology is not just about taking political sides in terms of social realism, it might be of a different order al together. If Gorky's Mother is a classic example of an ideological text where political discourses are given a clear committed idelogical form, even Joyce's Finnegans Wake, despite not being a realist text of political representation at all, has its own ideology of unmaking and remaking the English language that might be seen to have its own polemics of a postcolonial breakdown or subversion of the English language.

 

 

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