Ideology: Definition, Function, History and Types

Definition of Ideology – Ideology is a form of thought and action. Ideology in every country is different. Knowing what ideology is and interacting with it is important for the people themselves to achieve the wishes and ideals of the state.

Ideology is an idea that contains certain ideas, culture and lifestyle. Knowledge of ideology is important to learn for people who study politics. Ideology becomes the lens through which you view the world. The article below will explain the ideology further.

Definition of Ideology

Ideology is a set of beliefs or philosophies associated with a person or group of people, especially for reasons that are not purely epistemic, in which the practical element is as prominent as the theoretical element.

The term ideology comes from the French idéologie, which comes from a combination of Greek: idéā which means ‘idea, pattern’ and -logíā which means ‘study of, study of knowledge’. The term was coined by Antoine Destutt de Tracy, a French aristocrat and Enlightenment philosopher.

In 1796 Tracy understood that the term ideology was a “science of ideas” to develop a rational system of ideas.

He understood ideology as a liberal philosophy that would defend individual freedom, property, free markets, and constitutional limits on state power.

He argues that, among these aspects, ideology is the most general term because the ‘science of ideas’ also contains the study of their expression and deduction. The coup that overthrew Maximilien Robespierre makes Tracy continue his work.

Tracy reacts to the revolutionary terrorism phase during the Napoleonic regime. He tries to devise a system of rational ideas to fight against the irrational people who nearly destroy him.

Expert opinion on the meaning of ideology:

Terry Eagleton: According to Eagleton, ideology is a system of concepts and views that has the function of understanding the world and also obscures the social interests that exist within it.

Eagleton argues that ideology is accompanied by internal consistency which tends to form a closed system to defend itself when faced with contradictions.

Malcolm Hamilton: Hamilton stated that ideology is a system of ideas that are normative, factual and collectively have attitudes that support and justify certain patterns of governance, political and economic behavior. 

Michael Hunt: Ideology is a set of beliefs or assumptions concerned with reducing the complexity of a particular reality to an understandable term and suggesting the right way to deal with that reality.

Karl Marx: According to Karl Marx, ideology is a tool that functions to achieve equality and prosperity with society. According to him, ideology emerges from the pattern of the society.

Marx put the ideological approach in his theory of base and superstructure. Marx believed that the realm of ideology reflects the interests of the ruling class and justifies the status quo so that those in power can remain in power.

Ideological history 

The term ideology first appeared in French as ideologie during the French Revolution, which was introduced by a philosopher, A.-L.-C.

Destutt de Tracy, as a short term for what he called “the science of ideas”, which he claimed had adapted from the epistemology of the philosophers John Locke and Etienne Bonnot de Condillac, for whom all human knowledge was knowledge of ideas.

The fact is, however, that he owed more to the English philosopher Francis Bacon, whom he respected.

It was Bacon who had argued that the goal of science is not only to expand human knowledge, but also to improve human life on earth, and it is this fusion of program with intellectuals that distinguishes Destutt de Tracy’s ideology from any underlying theory, system, or philosophy.

The science of ideas is a science with a mission that aims to serve people, even save them, by clearing their minds of prejudice and preparing them for the sovereignty of reason and integrity.

Destutt de Tracy and his fellow ideologues devised a national education system that they believed would turn France into a rational and scientific society. Their teachings combined a strong belief in individual liberty with an elaborate program of state planning, and for a short time became the official doctrine of the French Republic.

Napoleon at first supported Destutt de Tracy and his friends, but he soon turned against them. In December 1812 he went even further by attributing blame for the French military defeat to the influence of ideologues.

Napoleon associated the name ideologie with what was considered the most abhorrent element in Revolutionary thought, he invested the same word with all his resistance and disbelief.

Ideology has, since then, played the dual role of a good and bad term not only in French but also in German, English, Italian and all other languages ​​of the world where it is translated or transliterated.

Some historians of philosophy call the 19th century the age of ideology, not because the word itself was so widely used at that time, but because so much thought was at that time.

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It can even be distinguished from the thinking that prevailed in previous centuries by different characteristics which are called ideological. The subject of ideology is a controversial one, and it could be argued that at least part of this controversy stems from disagreements over the definition of the word ideology.

Although the word ideology in the sense derived from Destutt de Tracy’s understanding has been used in modern ways, it is important to note the special sense that ideology is given in Hegelian and Marxist philosophy, where it is used in a derogatory manner.

Ideology there becomes the word for what these philosophers also call false consciousness. GWF Hegel argues that people or society are instruments of history, they play the roles assigned to them.

Marx was inconsistent in his use of the word ideology, as he did not always use the term pejoratively, and some of his references clearly imply the possibility of an ideology being true.

Twentieth-century Marxists, who often discarded the derogatory notions of ideology, spoke of Marxism as an ideology in itself. In certain communist countries, many ideological institutions were established, and party philosophers are usually referred to as party ideologues. Marxism is a very good example, a paradigm, of an ideology.

Ideology Function 

The role of ideology in international relations can be analyzed in two parts, namely, the role of general ideology as an element of state behavior and the role of certain ideologies in the making and implementation of foreign policy.

1. The role of general ideology 

In this day and age, the ideologies of liberalism and communism have become two main common ideologies that play an important role in influencing state behavior in international relations.

Since the 17th century, the ideology of liberalism has been the foundation stone of western social, economic and political systems. In the 20th century it later developed into the doctrine of Liberal Democracy, Democratic Capitalism and even Modern Liberalism.

The ideology of Communism is the opposite of Liberalism. Based on the philosophy of Marxism-Leninism, he considers equality more important than freedom.

He prioritizes economic factors from social relations and considers them as the determinants of all good behavior in terms of social, political, cultural, and others.

Common ideologies are widely used to cover up the goals of a nation’s power. This is evident from the fact that despite being the strongest champion of liberalism, the United States has not hesitated to have good relations with some totalitarian and authoritarian regimes and military dictatorships, such as the state of Pakistan, to the detriment of the interests of the world’s largest democracy i.e. India.

The United States continues to follow a policy of fostering relations with the Chinese Communists and at the same time continues to follow a policy of supporting Liberalism and Human Rights. Likewise, no country is now ready to let ideological differences get in the way of relations with other countries.

Thus general ideologies are factors of international relations in our time, but are not determinants of the behavior of states in the international environment. It affects the course of relations between nations only in a limited way.

2. The role of certain ideologies  

The contemporary era clearly reflects the role played by certain ideologies in international politics such as the Status Quo Ideology, Imperialism Ideology, and Ambiguous Ideology. Nations seeking to maintain existing positions of power are pursuing a status quo policy.

This principle has the view that “what exists must have something to its advantage, otherwise it would not exist.” This policy applies to Switzerland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

Policies that seek to change the status quo or a certain distribution of power are considered imperialist ideology. Imperialism policies always require justification for changing existing territorial arrangements.

In order to secure the desired goals, many countries use certain ideologies which are quite vague and ambiguous. This ambiguous ideology is popularly called the ideology of anti-imperialism, all with the aim of denouncing the actions of their opponents as ‘acts of imperialism’.

Even in this era, certain ideologies continue to serve the decision-makers of every country in the world, the basis for formulating, justifying and securing the goals of their national interests. Ideology in international relations is a factor of national strength and foreign policy.

However, now ‘interests’ have emerged as a more resilient factor of international relations than ideology. In fact, the role of ideology is increasingly eroded.

Types of Ideology 

The following types of ideology exist in the world: 

1. Capitalism 

Capitalism is an economic system based on private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit. The main features of capitalism include capital accumulation, competitive markets, price system, private property and recognition of property rights, voluntary exchange and wage labour.

In a capitalist market economy, decision-making and investment are determined by the owners of wealth. Meanwhile, prices and distribution of goods and services are determined by the market economy in the competition for goods and services.

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Market economies have existed under many different forms of government, times, places, and cultures. Modern capitalist society developed in Western Europe in the process that led to the Industrial Revolution.

The capitalist system has since become dominant in the Western world. the ideology of capitalism spread rapidly. Economic growth is a characteristic tendency of a capitalist economy.

2. Liberalism 

Liberalism is a political and moral philosophy based on freedom, consent of the governed and equality before the law.

Liberals support a variety of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but they generally support individual rights including civil and human rights, democracy, secularism, free speech, free press, freedom of religion and the market economy.

Liberalism became a distinct movement in the Age of Enlightenment, when it became popular among Western philosophers and economists.

Liberalism seeks to replace hereditary norms or privileges, state religion, absolute monarchy, the divine right of the king and traditional conservatism with representative democracy and the rule of law.

Liberalism was also a means of ending mercantilist policies, royal monopolies and other trade barriers.


4. Communism 

Communism is an ideology and a philosophical, social, political and economic movement whose goal is the establishment of a communist society, that is, a socio-economic order structured on the idea of ​​common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money and the state. Communism is a specific, yet distinct, form of socialism.

Modern communist ideology began to develop during the French Revolution. The “Communist Manifesto” by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, published in 1848. The pamphlet rejected the Christian principles of earlier communist philosophy.

The Communist Manifesto presents the French Revolution as a major historical turning point when the bourgeoisie overthrew the feudal power structures and ushered in the modern capitalist era.

5. Socialism 

Socialism is a populist economic and political system based on public ownership. Socialism is also known as collective or shared ownership of the means of production.

These facilities include machinery, equipment, and factories used to produce goods that aim to meet human needs directly.

Communism and socialism are umbrella terms that refer to two schools of left-wing economic thought. Both of these ideologies oppose capitalism.

In a purely socialist system, all legitimate production and distribution decisions are made by the government, and individuals depend on the state for everything from food to health care. The government determines the level of output and prices of these goods and services.

6. Nationalism

Nationalism is an ideology in which people believe that their nation is superior to others. This sense of superiority is often rooted in shared ethnicity.

In other situations, nationalism is built around a common language, religion, culture, or set of social values. Nations emphasize shared symbols, folklore, and mythology. Sharing music, literature and sport can further strengthen nationalism.

Nationalists demand independence from other countries. They do not join global organizations or collaborate with other countries in common endeavors. If the people belong to another nation, then they will want their own freedom and country, because they believe in their own superiority.

7. Fascism 

Fascism is generally associated with the Italian and German regimes that came to power after World War I, although other countries have also been ruled by fascist regimes. Adolf Hitler in Germany, Benito Mussolini in Italy, Francisco Franco in Spain and Juan Perón in Argentina are the most famous fascist leaders of the 20th century.

fascism uses propaganda to promote anti-liberalism, rejects individual rights, civil liberties, free enterprise and democracy anti-socialism, rejects economic principles based on a socialist framework excludes certain groups, often through nationalism they also use violence to expand influence and power nation.

8. Feminism 

Feminism is a social, political and economic movement. Feminism is an ideology about changing the way people see the rights of men and women (especially women), and campaigning for gender equality.

Someone who follows feminism is called a feminist. Feminism started in the 18th century with the Enlightenment. Controversy over differences between the sexes led to discussions about equality.

Feminism started with the idea that human rights should be granted to women. This idea was advanced by several philosophers in the 18th and 19th centuries such as Mary Wollstonecraft and John Stuart Mill.

Feminists later in the early 20th century also said that women should be allowed to vote in a democracy. Many women felt very strongly that they should be allowed to vote and there were many protests.

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