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July 9, 2012 / C H Thompson

Understanding ideology?

One way of understanding ideology is to exchange the word with ‘belief’. An belief is a conviction about something. A baseline view of ideology is to see it as a belief; therefore an ideology is an idea.

However it is a little more complicated than that because these aren’t any old beliefs. They’re beliefs which are sold to you as being ‘normal’ and ‘natural’. For example some people believe a woman is better able to cook, iron and clean than a man. It’s as if women are born with an ironing gene giving them a predisposition to ironing.

In contrast feminist argue people ‘believe’ women are better at housework because the belief is transmitted by one group of people to another. Therefore (for feminists) the belief some people have of what a woman’s role is has been created, established and replicated by one group of people to another.

This means beliefs aren’t an outcome of chance, they’re conscious acts. It is this process which sociologists term as ideology. An baseline view of ideology is the cultivation of beliefs so they’re seen as normal and inevitable of the recipient.

Therefore if we return to the earlier example, the ‘belief’ that women are better at ironing is formed by ideology (the belief communicated by one social group to another social group). Feminists point out this ideology manifests itself in the form of patriarchy. Therefore men promote the ideology that women are ‘naturally’ more able at housework so often that this view is believed by the majority.

Men are able to do this because they have the power to transmit such a message – this is known as patriarchal power. Patriarchal power is the capacity of one social group (men) to transmit ideologies (beliefs) to another social group (women) to the extent what is transmitted is believed to be normal.

One mechanism which men can use to promote their ideologies is the media. The following Cornflake advert explains how ideas are communicated – in this example the ‘obvious’ responsibilities and obligations women have to men.

Once you grasped the basic understanding of what ideology is then watch the clip below will aid your understanding even further.

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