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Last updated 22 Mar 2021
An ideology is a collection of principles, values and doctrines that interlock, forming a coherent whole.
Ideologies tend to include a theory of society, including an explanation of the true nature of how people live in society and how it has developed. They then develop a vision of how they believe future society should be.
Some ideologies, such as socialism and to a certain extent liberalism, challenge the existing order and offer a critique of existing society as well as a blueprint for how society should be changed. Other ideologies, such as conservatism, oppose change and offer critiques of movements that propose change.
There are four questions that should be asked of any ideology: What does it say about the fundamental nature of humankind? How does it analyse society – social class, the nature of government, an idea of a natural order or a reading of the historical development of the society in question? Does it have fundamental values determining its thinking? Does it base its ideas on scientific analysis or simply on basic principles?
Ideology as a concept has been criticised. Firstly that they are about society as thinkers wished it to be as opposed to what it was. Secondly, Karl Marx felt ideologies were a reflection of the ideas of a ruling class in any age to maintain its dominant position.