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date: 27 October 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses the account of ideology found in the writings of Karl Marx (1818–83), and its fate in the subsequent Marxist tradition. Marx understood ideology as consisting of certain social ideas which periodically dominate in class-divided societies. More precisely, ideology was characterized as having a particular epistemological standing (being false or misleading), social origin (arising from the opaque structure of class-divided societies), and class function (sustaining the interests of the economically dominant group). In the subsequent Marxist tradition that ‘critical’ account was often displaced by non-critical, predominately ‘descriptive’, accounts of ideology. This historical pattern is exemplified by the writings of Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937) and Louis Althusser (1918–90). This displacement of critical by descriptive accounts is portrayed as regrettable, not least because it involves a loss of the explanatory purchase and emancipatory potential found in Marx’s original account.

Keywords: ideology, Marxism, Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci, Louis Althusser

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