The Social Science Encyclopedia

Authors: Kuper & Kuper
Summary: The entry defines ideology by considering it in historical perspective. The term is commonly traced back to the Enlightenment. But the concept is more ancient. It appears in the fifth-century B.C. Greek equivalent of the struggle between the "Ancients and the Moderns," when certain innovative thinkers attacked the old traditions and religion, in some cases attempting to explain scientifically the origin of ancient beliefs.
The concept of ideology reached its florescence in the great philosophical and social scientific systems of the nineteenth century. Marx and Engels generalized the question of ideology from the realm of science versus tradition to that of real versus mystified social processes, thus encompassing questions of theory and questions of political control within the same framework.
Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Germany, there emerged a tradition of the sociology of knowledge that paid a great deal of attention to understanding the ideological basis of all forms of social knowledge, including the natural sciences. In France, Durkheim elaborated the analysis of the relation between social structure and the organization of collective representations (religious, intellectual and otherwise) that are meant to reflect that social structure.
Among both materialist and social determinist theoreticians, ideology has usually been understood as a locus in social structure corresponding to patterns of thought and cognition, systems of values, and religion organization, whose content is supposed to reflect the existing social structure.