To what extent should an ideology shape your thinking and actions as a citizen?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Here, we need to distinguish between "ideology" as is a technical term in critical theory and the popular use of the term. In popular culture, ideology is often used to mean any ideas, beliefs, or opinions you hold. In critical theory, the term refers to more deeply rooted shared frameworks for thinking, grounded in elements such as race, class, gender, political system, or even your subconscious mind. 

The first element of ideology is that it is inescapable. We all are influenced by various ideologies, whether we wish to be or not. Critical theorists argue that by becoming aware of how ideology operates, we can think about our preconditioned frameworks for thought critically and try to resist them. Thinking critically is always better than simply acting or voting blindly and unreflectively in politics.

Next, we should be concerned about another type of ideology, which is more properly termed tribalism. This means that we affiliate with groups of people with whom we share cultural or regional or social backgrounds or other commonalities. Often members of our "tribes" have distinct sets of beliefs and ideas. The problem comes when we don't actually look reflectively at our beliefs individually but simply follow all the beliefs of our tribes. 

For example, some groups in the United States favor the death penalty and oppose euthanasia and abortion, while other people would say that these two issues have no logical connection. In fact, it seems that to some that these positions are logically opposed. One way to resist tribalism is to think about each issue on its own merits rather than just unthinkingly accepting all the positions of your "tribe" (friends, family, coworkers, or school clique).