The Origins of the Concept of Ideology

Andrzej Karalus

The concept of „ideology” as, firstly, a term that points at non-epistemological conditioning of cognitive processes, and, secondly, as a term which aimed at disclosing the ancillary role of given ideas in regard to specific political interests of certain groups, haslong history. Since Francis Bacon’s theory of idols modern philosophy endeavored to create a comprehensive classification of systematic cognitive errors which divert man from innatelight of reason and experience. In the philosophy of French Enlightenment range of problemslater labeled as „ideological” was taken up from the perspective which concentrated onthe role that ideas play in legitimizing socio-political order. The very concept of ideology was coined by Antoine Destutt de Tracy and his intention was to create a new primary science that, while investigating systematic relations between the realm of ideas and psychological processes which underlie them, is ultimately to become a motor of social advancement andan instrument of establishing a rule of enlightened and rational public governance. In the concluding fragment several major theoretical and practical difficulties of the early formulations of ideology before the appearance of the groundbreaking works of Marx are discussed.


Keywords: ideology · Enlightenment · Destutt de Tracy · materialism · critique of metaphysics

Andrzej Karalus – Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the Chair of Social and Philosophical Sciences, Gdansk University of Technology. He is interested in contemporary political philosophy, contemporary American and continental (mainly German) philosophy, socialphilosophy, theory of social change and political economy.   »  

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