ideology. The theory of ideology dates from the eighteeenth-century European Enlightenment, but is derived principally from the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and employed in a crucial analytic role often in a critical dialogue with the Marxist tradition, across a range of disciplines. One of the main points of reference for the debated uses of the term is Marx and Engels' The German Ideology. This contains three key but problematic statements, presenting ideology as a class ideology, as a distortion of reality, and as a distant echo of a deeper reality. These are presented below, together with a sketch of the term's developing uses. In the first definition, Marx and Engels state that "The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas. . . The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production." This class definition suggests already that ideology can be understood in two ways: both as a fixed set of ideas and as a process whereby the partial views of a ruling class come to hold sway over the whole of a society. The first meaning is close to a traditional and still common view of ideology as a set of well-formed and explicit doctrines or dogma (employed by 'ideologues'). In this sense ideology has come to be associated less with a class than with a political party, extremist faction or 'fundamentalist' movement. In Marxism too, however, the association of ideology with the well-formed ideas of a ruling class has been rejected as too narrow. This first proposition has attracted two further and now common reservations. The first is to the implication that a subordinated working class is simply subjected to a dominant class or its ideas, without qualification or resistance or any recognition of ideology's persuasive rhetorical force. The second is to an exclusive concern with social class as a category of analysis, agency of control and thus of social change. There are consequently two revisions to the basic premise. The first derives from the idea of hegemony, as formulated by the Marxist philosopher, Antonio Gramsci (1881 1937). This suggests that, for the most part, control in modern societies is won and maintained by 'consent' to ruling ideas rather than through their direct imposition or the pure force of domination. Gramsci's theory consequently also expanded the first sense of ideology to include both formal ideas and 'common sense', the latter operating at the level of habitual and unexamined attitudes and itself comprised of both assimilated ruling class ideas and a progressive practical consciousness. Thus ideology is seen to 'naturalize' an existing social order at a very deep level of everyday thoughts and action, but as being neither simply imposed nor irresistible. These ideas have had a profound influence within cultural studies, especially in the study of popular and subcultures. Second, the importance of social class has been questioned both by those who argue that changed social and technological developments and patterns of work have altered if not eroded traditional class identities, and by those who argue for the importance of language, gender, generation, race, ethnicity, sexuality, and nation. These arguments derive from feminism, psychoanalysts, anti-racist, postcolonial, gay and lesbian positions as well as from the study of youth and popular cultures and the general influence of post-structuralism. They have directed attention therefore to the ideologies of patriarchy and colonialism rather than, or in addition to, class; or to relations between power and discourse rather than capital and labour. While the first perspective might share with traditional Marxism the view that these ideologies help maintain relations between rulers and ruled and derive similarly from material conditions, the second is more likely to express a conscious departure from Marxism. Here ideology tends to denote the large world of signs, representations and values which help support a dominant social order.
In the second statement in The German Ideology, Marx and Engels write: "If in all ideology men and their circumstances appear upside down as in a camera obscura, this phenomenon arises just as much from their historical life-process as the inversion of objects on the retina does from their physical life-process." This view that we see the real world in an inverted but correctable image emphasizes how ideology masks real relations and so naturalizes the condition of alienation. It has given rise also to the understanding of ideology as 'false consciousness' and thus in turn to the idea of an opposing 'proletarian consciousness' (Lukacs 1971). Marxism's claim to a monopoly on the truth was critiqued by Karl Mannheim in Ideology and Utopia (1929) and many have since resisted the idea of 'false consciousness' on the grounds that it implies that the mass of people, with the exception of Marxists who are possessed of a 'correct analysis', are deluded and living a false existence. A further reservation concerns the analogy between a technological and a human physical process (the camera and the image on the retina) which
For Althusser ideology is a requisite component of any society. It consists in a vast network of representational systems that provide the means with which individuals may think of their existence. But since it operates by delimiting as well as providing possible significations of existencc, that massive representational network Althusser calls ideology is restrictive of thought and experience. He argues that such restrictions are crucial components of social organization and order: To maintain themselves over time, societies require that their multitude of agents have a minimal commonality of "consciousness," which means that those possibilities and limitations on thought and experience must to a significant degree be produced as an integral part of any lasting societal organization. This perspective leads Althusser to suggest that the category of the subject is a necessary (if not sufficient) support for the workings of ideology. Such a conception, if accepted, has clear theoretical and methodological consequences for any semiotics, since it envisions representational systems as intricately knotted with broad processes of social organization.