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Western Political Thought-Political Ideologies


Ideology has been regarded as the most elusive concept in social sciences. Its practitioners have been accused of perpetrating sematic promiscuity (Dawson 2003). It is for this reason that ideology has had multifaceted definitions. Beginning with political ideology as postulated by Erikson and Tedin (2000) in their book, American Public Opinion: Its Origin, Contents, and Impact, ideologies is a shared framework of psychological and mental models that provide both an interpretation of a given environment and how the environment should be structured. Based on this definition the political trends in the past two decades, have been two most powerful organising processes that have been changing our understanding concerning politics which in turn influence different underpinnings concerning definitions of social problems.

In the case of citizenship definition by Bhaduri and Marglin (1990), ideology shapes cases to demand rights of national citizenship which has been significantly powerful from one continent to another. Bhaduri and Marglin (1990) define political ideology as the need to affiliate as well as establish interpersonal political relationship between the governed and the governing. However, there has been a change of mind when scholars started realising exponential growth in the analysis of global citizenry. Integrating these arguments; attempts have been made on how to set their own national society based on existing ideologies. Therefore it is apparent that all the definition of ideologies tends to have existential motives. Existential motive means the drive to manage threatening situations for future survival. In such cases, ideology, when looked at in terms of political science has been appearing to be changing how citizens should be voting. This is the point where Ball and Dagger (2006) come in. according to Ball and Dagger (2006) ideologies is the relationship between citizens and leadership.

Another perspective of looking at the term is system justification. System justification as Heywood (2012) puts is the spread of information that tend to bolster, defend or justify status quo. What Heywood (2012) suggests it is the development of verbal technologies and machines which have had negatively affected citizens in terms of space and time. It is from this argument that Sargent (2008) defines ideology as “unity of national state and national society becoming unstuck” (p. 23). On the other hand, contemporary scholars such as Verhulst et al. (2012) have been arguing that ideology within the context of citizenship means the process of challenging ideas that citizens and society are governable.

Conversely, citizenship has gained multifaceted approach in terms of democracy and citizenship. Citizenship within contemporary political theory is the enjoyment of political, civil and social rights. These enjoyments should correspond with duties to remove barriers to same or equal membership of the political community. The argument as postulated by these authors is that political science and ideology to be specific, is still under evaluation and construction. However, as it can be seen from the argument, the term has its own architectural inflections that can break with traditional notions of citizens and democracy. This is why Hindess shows that political ideology as attributes of persons constitute modern States.

Western political thought about ideology can be equated with left-right model of ideological structure which has had parsimony on its side and has fared surprisingly well in terms of theoretical utility and empirical validity (DeBray-Pelot 2007). What this means is that at least scholars agree that Western political thought about ideology as a process has injured or raptured national territory and citizenship rights across the globe (Freeden 2006). The conceptualization of this assertion comes as a result of the belief that ideologies erode the ability of states of individuals within these States to independently practice sovereignty over territorial boundaries as well as policies formulated within these sovereignties. When this happens then rights that are supposed to be enjoyed by citizens are equally limited. Going by definition held by Pennington (2011) about ideologies, effect this term has on rights is that interests of States and citizens are controlled by policy networks and interested publics which again is linked to different understandings of left-right model of ideological structure.

Scholars such as Freeden (2006) have even linked left-right model of ideological structure and citizens’ rights as complex process that should make us rethink our positions as far as the scope and content of our citizenship rights are concerned. This is because it is a force already aiming at breaking barriers of space and time as previously mentioned while defining the ideology. This point actually contradicts what Pennington (2011) explained concerning the process of protecting the interests and rights of investors which are enshrined within World Trade Organisation. Enshrinement to larger extent diminished the ability of national government to take control and regulate its practices and economic relations due to different ideologies.

Understanding impacts of political ideologies requires the connection of the aforementioned definitions and link it with politicians’ duties. Those who look at ideologies as transformative epoch makes citizens to reorder modern frameworks of their actions and organization; including national state as a primary container of political power as well as collective action. While this view is held by Noel (2014), contemporary methodological nationalism has created a container theory postulating that politically and theoretically, ideologies should shape citizens to respect their nationality and as such, they have the duty to understand boundaries of their national State and that the same State has control or enjoys sovereignty of the space or boundary. This is the point where Thagard (2014) has argued that conceptualization of political ideologies attempt to undermine particular conception of citizenship and as such, liberalism has been of particular concern. Effects of different ideologies on duty have connectedness with cosmopolitan citizenship who has been concerned with ways people can develop an orientation to other societies, citizens and cultures across different contents.

On equal measure, ideologies and citizenship is defined as a process where the two terms (citizenship and ideologies) are decoupled from duty for us to understand the other side of the argument. In so arguing, for nations or States to experience new invention in politics of today, there is a need for citizens to be dutiful for the nature and future. Therefore, if politicians continue to link citizenship and ideologies then it will be derailing political instruments. This is supported by the fact that under the conditions of ideological fragmentations, the discourse of being dutiful has been released from conservative to ideological. In fact, social actors are now taking it over.

Understanding effects ideologies is the best way to understand the definition of ideology. It starts by understanding the fact that modern definition of citizenship is linked with identity formation which in turn shapes citizens’ identities as members of a particular country. Conversely, looking at ideology as defined by Thagard (2014), it can be concluded that the tenets lack citizenry inclusiveness unless one is talking about evolution and consolidation of national States. This is where identity comes in since ideologies as postulated fails to define relationship between the state and its citizens. Actually this is what Geoghegan and Wilford (2014) agree with when it comes to the extent political ideologies undermine the underpinnings of citizenship. One effect of ideologies from the perspective of this assessment is that identities are no longer reflected in political and social life. Contrariwise, effects of ideologies on identities have been viewed differently. For instance, some ideas have marginalised communities to be separated or ignored by the regime. Through ideologies, these communities have witnessed social and political identities withering away. Consequently, this is why national citizenship is falling into disarray thus eroding what citizens used to see as identities to their countries. On the other hand, scholars such as Noel (2014) continue to argue that available articles should not be allowed to continue misleading people on the negativities of ideologies on identities. The author believes ideologies are about social movements as propagated by politicians and have been able to act as voices to help marginalised communities. From this argument Noel (2014) statement makes little sense. However, what the researcher insinuates is that citizenship is a multilevel term encompassing responsibility, rights and participation therefore even if identity is eroded much will not be lost.


This assessment finds two critical issues. Firstly, the concept of citizen looks as if it is bound with the nation-state-society and political ideologies. To such extent, the term ideologies in particular and western political thought in general on people tend to be powerful entities. To underscore this statement, ideologies have multifaceted definitions and to that extent make citizens reject configuration of economic rights enforced. Secondly, this assignment has examined a number of literature materials and through such discovered that the concept of ideology within and outside the confines of national state are complex and such complexities are determined by tenets of western political thought. The repercussion of the two issues is that there will be cases where states will be forced to reinforce territorial borders and even create others to accommodate the influx of citizens from other countries due to already constraining ideologies. Generally, ideologies are concepts that have existential motives in nature. Politicians are using different ideologies for security reasons.



Ball, T., & Dagger, R. (2006). Political ideologies and the democratic ideal (p. 4). Pearson Longman.

Bhaduri, A., & Marglin, S. (1990). Unemployment and the real wage: the economic basis for contesting political ideologies. Cambridge journal of Economics, 375-393.

Burchill, S. (2005). The national interest in international relations theory. Palgrave Macmillan.

Dawson, M. C. (2003). Black visions: The roots of contemporary African-American political ideologies. University of Chicago Press.

DeBray-Pelot, E. (2007). School choice and educational privatization initiatives in the 106th and 107th Congresses: An analysis of policy formation and political ideologies. The Teachers College Record, 109(4), 927-972.

Erikson, R. S., & Tedin, K. L. (2000). American Public Opinion: Its Origin, Contents, and Impact. Longman Publishing Group.

Freeden, M. (2006). Ideology and political theory. Journal of Political Ideologies, 11(1), 3-22.

Geoghegan, V., & Wilford, R. (Eds.). (2014). Political Ideologies: An Introduction. Routledge.

Heywood, A. (2012). Political ideologies. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Noel, H. (2014). Political Ideologies and Political Parties in America. Cambridge University Press.

Pennington, M. (2011). Robust political economy: Classical liberalism and the future of public policy.

Sargent, L. (2008). Contemporary political ideologies: a comparative analysis. Cengage Learning.

Schumaker, P. (2008). From ideologies to public philosophies: an introduction to political theory.

Thagard, P. (2014). The cognitive-affective structure of political ideologies. Emotion in group decision and negotiation. Berlin, Germany: Springer.

Verhulst, B., Eaves, L. J., & Hatemi, P. K. (2012). Correlation not causation: The relationship between personality traits and political ideologies. American journal of political science,        56(1), 34-51.

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