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Chapter

Cover Political Ideologies

1. Introduction to ideology  

Contesting the nature of the ‘good society’

Paul Wetherly

This chapter explains what ideology is, why ideology is seen as a ‘contested concept’, and what roles ideology plays in politics and society. In particular, it analyses the basic conception of ideology as a system of ideas involving a vision of the good society, a critique of existing society, and a notion of political action. It examines the relationship between ideology, politics, and policy; negative perceptions of ideology prevalent in political discourse; the idea that we are all ideologists; the components or building blocks of a basic conception of ideology; and the Marxist understanding of ‘ideology’ as false or misleading ideas. The chapter also considers whether there is an independent vantage point from which to assess the claims of rival ideologies. It concludes by reflecting on the problem of relativism and the link between ideology and globalization.