Ideologies are thoughts, and ideas, that shape our view of the world around us, but they are thoughts and ideas that tend to reduce reality to a fantasy, belief, or overemphasize an element of reality to make it take over and account for the whole.  Many of us hold ideologies without realizing it and read ideological materials without being aware of the ideas behind a piece of writing.

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Identifying Ideologies

One of the key tasks of the critical reader is to be conscious of that fact that a great many people write and share information with readers that is ideological in nature.  An ideology is a belief or philosophy about the world and human persons that both (1) reduces reality to one small element, or an element that is elevated above everything else (see below, for example, the nature of “biologism”) and in their extreme form (2) ideolgoes are often used to control, manipulate, or otherwise mislead a reader into thinking that a certain position is the only right position to take, and all opposition must be silenced (as was the case for example with Nazism, Stalinism, or Communism).  Most ideologies can be identified by the suffix “ism”.

Different Ideologies of the Person

People subscribe to ideologies because in theory they seem very attractive and promise to answer basic questions about life.  As we all know from experience, however, life and reality are not simply reducible to our thoughts and feelings in a given period of our lives.  For example, many people report feeling “nihilistic” in their teens and twenties, but grow out of this sensation by the time they are in their thirties.  Ideologies tend to “freeze” ideas in time, and do not allow a full expression of the person to emerge over the course of our experiences and life’s journey.


The following video from our Institute briefly outlines some of the most common ideologies today and asks you to consider, why do these ideologies take hold of us as they do:

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