Search Menu


What Is an Ideology?

An ideology is a set of beliefs that affects our outlook on the world. Our ideology is our most closely held set of values and feelings, and it acts as the filter through which we see everything and everybody. In fact, these beliefs are often so close to us that we do not realize that they are there. We simply think that our beliefs are natural and obviously true. Religion is one type of ideology, and religious belief affects a person’s views.

Characteristics of an Ideology

Ideologies can vary greatly in the following ways:

  • Complexity: Some ideologies are very simple, whereas others, such as Marxism, are quite detailed.

Example: “Don’t trust anybody over 30!” was a simple ideology held by many young Americans in the 1960s.

  • Consistency: Sometimes the ideas that constitute a single ideology conflict with one another. Similarly, sometimes a person’s views shift significantly over time.

Example: Benito Mussolini, the father of Italian fascism, was a communist when he was younger. The fact that fascism was strongly anticommunist never seemed to bother him.

  • Flexibility: Some elaborate ideologies, like some religious beliefs, allow almost no wiggle room and have answers to all questions. Other ideologies have a great deal of flexibility.

Example: The Catholic Catechism, which details the beliefs of the Catholic Church, is thousands of pages long and covers almost every topic imaginable. There is little room for individual interpretation. In contrast, the ideology of libertarianism encourages individuals to make decisions for themselves.