Ostensibly far removed from academic debates over such niceties as false consciousness and superstructures, questions of political ideology frequently center on realpolitik issues of power. While academics might shudder at such a loose — even simplistic — application of the term, they could hardly dispute the overwhelming evidence that the majority of the population accepts the definitions of ideology propagated by media outlets and politicians. Such definitions, while in no way precise or systematic, broadly fall into two categories of practical usage. The first, and probably most common, characterization of political ideology involves extremism. In this usage, political models that deviate — whether sharply or not — from those of the speaker represent dangerous ideas that will lead, or have led, to serious repercussions for the audience. Furthermore, this pejorative definition of ideology necessitates either an individual or group that would zealously adhere to, and enact, such hazardous dogmas. This definition is inextricably linked to the concept of threatening action. One thinks, for example, of Ronald Reagan’s reference to the Soviet Union as an ‘evil empire,’ or of Hillary Clinton’s allusion to a ‘conservative conspiracy.’ The second widely employed definition of political ideology owes somewhat to the ‘neutral’ usage of the concept offered by political scientists such as Andrew Vincent. Such a depiction of ideology refers to general belief systems, whether they are perceived as menacing or not. Emptied of negative connotation, ideology in this sense applies to beliefs as diverse as anarchism and fascism. In fact, speakers often substitute the slang term ‘ism’ for ideology.
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- Political Ideology
James M. Decker
- Macmillan Education UK
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