Can Ideology be Meaningfully Experienced?

Pedro T. Magalhães

Research output: Conference materialsAbstractpeer-review


The word ‘ideology’ has a reputation and that reputation, in principle, would exclude the possibility of it being meaningfully experienced. If, indeed, ideology designates a distortion, a false set of ideas and beliefs that people adhere to without recognizing the ‘real’ conditions from which they arise, then there is scarcely anything meaningful in the domain of ‘lived’ or ‘experienced’ ideology. On the contrary, according to this perspective, meaning lies in the critique of ideology, in shredding through it to get to the heart and bottom of things – a job which is reserved either to the social thinker or to the vanguard political activist, but not to the ‘common people’. Another, more benign but perhaps less sophisticated reading of ideology, interprets the concept simply as the ideas and beliefs people use to justify the ways they navigate through the most diverse issues on the political agenda. In that sense, ideologies are of course meaningful components of one’s political experience, but also omnipresent and, in a way, trivial.
In this paper, I seek to bridge the gap between these two contrasting conceptions of ideology. In order to do so, I will discuss and compare two distinct literatures on the topic: on the one hand, the reconsideration of ideology in the Western Marxist and neo-positivist traditions (Gramsci, Lefort, Kelsen), on the other, the more recent approach to political ideologies put forward by Michael Freeden. My contention is that one can treat ideologies as meaningful experiences without losing the critical edge of the original Marxian conception.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2020
MoE publication typeNot Eligible
EventHEX Conference 2020: History of Experience: Methodologies and Practices - Tampere University, Tampere, Finland
Duration: 2 Mar 20204 Mar 2020


ConferenceHEX Conference 2020

Fields of Science

  • 5171 Political Science
  • 5141 Sociology
  • 611 Philosophy
  • 615 History and Archaeology

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