1
The Career of a
Concept

Ideology is the most elusive concept in the whole of social science. For it asks about the bases and validity of our most fundamental ideas. As such, it is an essentially contested concept, that is, a concept about the very definition (and therefore application) of which there is acute controversy.1

With significant exceptions, the word ideology comes trailing clouds of pejorative connotation. Ideology is someone else's thought, seldom our own. That our thought might be ideological is a suggestion that we almost instinctively reject lest the foundations of our most cherished conceptions turn out to be composed of more shifting sand than we would like. Therefore, the history of the concept of ideology is the history of various attempts to find a firm Archimedean point outside the sphere of ideological discourse, an immoveable spot from which to observe the levers of ideology at work. In the main Marxist tradition this point has consisted in the search for a particular group or class whose representatives would have a peculiar vocation for non-ideological thought. In the Enlightenment, rationalist, empiricist tradition, trust has been placed in an objective science of society which would unmask the irrationality of ideological conceptions. Both traditions envisage the possibility of a society without ideology - whether a Marxist society where ideology seen as a bulwark of class power will no longer be necessary or a capitalist society where the self-evident norms of a rational market economy will impose themselves. But the spectre of the relativism of all claims to truth which has plagued humankind, at least since Plato's Protagoras denied the possibility of objective truth, refuses to be laid. Any examination of ideology makes it

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Ideology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Concepts in the Social Sciences *
  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Preface *
  • Preface to the Second Edition *
  • 1: The Career of a Concept 1
  • 2: Marx 9
  • 3: The Marxist Tradition 19
  • 4: The Non-Marxist Tradition 31
  • 5: Ideology in the United States 44
  • 6: Science, Language and Ideology 56
  • 7: Ideology and the 'End of History' 71
  • 8: Conclusion 80
  • Notes 84
  • Further Reading 94
  • Bibliography 100
  • Index 109
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