Marx deserves a whole chapter to himself as it was the influence of his writings that gave the concept of ideology the wide currency that it now enjoys. Marx was familiar with the favourable view of ideology as a beneficial science of ideas in the works of de Tracy; but he preferred to give it the critical edge popularized by Napoleon's scorn of 'cloudy metaphysics'. It is the conservation of this critical edge and the different reasons for justifying it that gives to the Marxist tradition its interest. In Marx himself the pejorative sense of 'ideology' comprised two main elements: first, ideology was connected with idealism which, as a philosophical outlook, was unfavourably contrasted with materialism: any correct view of the world had to be, in some sense, a materialist view. Second, ideology was connected with the uneven distribution of resources and power in society: if the social and economic arrangements were suspect then so was the ideology that was a part of them.
It took Marx some time to work out an appropriate materialist theory of society and thus construct a framework for his concept of ideology; and it took him even longer to discuss how and why the social and economic foundation of society was essentially conflictual and the role that ideology played in this conflict. Indeed, as with so many of his central concepts, that of ideology is far from completely clear in Marx: his comments on ideology tend to be obiter dicta and he never produced a coherent account. Nevertheless, the main outlines are clear.
In his early writings, Marx established the background from which his treatment of ideology was to emerge. Initially he was interested in unmasking certain religious conceptions of the world