Summary: This entry, in approximately 1000 words, traces ideology's historical development, discusses theories of Marx, Mannheim and Bell, and places ideology conceptually in contemporary political science.
The term 'ideology' was coined by Destutt de Tracy just before the end of the eighteenth century, and meant roughly, "science of ideas." Although the science never developed, the concept was significant for post-Napoleonic French and German writers. For these individuals, ideology was a systematic world outlook--both a theory and a programme. In contrast, Marx and Engels conceptualized ideology as "false consciousness." The Marxist view sees an individual's world outlook as unavoidably distorted by economic concerns and class domination.
After Marx and Engels. political scholars continued their focus on ideology, but the term itself became less significant. Examples include Pareto's 'manifestations', Mosca's 'political formula", Sorel's 'myths', and Weber's concerns about 'traditional legitimacy.' Even Freud contributed to ideology's development by reinterpreting individual psychology as unmasking ideological formation.
Karl Mannheim's work distinguishes between two types of ideology. The first, tout court, is that expressed by a ruling class conserving its power. The second ideology is utopia, which is an aspiring class's desire for an impossible but ideal future. Mannheim also identified an independent, autonomous group of intellectuals, which he believed to be somehow free of ideology and therefore capable of objective judgment.
during the 1930s and 1940s, the word ideology became widely disseminated. By the 1950s, scholars like Daniel Bell wrote about "the end of ideology." This thesis argued that ideology was now unnecessary and irrelevant in representative democracy. Communism, while still ideological, had undone itself due to inconsistencies between consequences and claims.
By the late 1980s, ideologies like nationalism and religion resurged throughout the third world and eastern Europe. Contemporary political scientists study this phenomenon empirically by analyzing opinion formation and policy preferences.