Skip main navigation

The Concept of Ideology in History and Politics

Mat Humphrey and Maiken Umbach discuss the meaning of "ideology" in their academic disciplines, Politics and History.

In this conversation, Mat and Maiken, joint directors of CSPI, discuss how the concepts of “ideology” and “propaganda” have been used in their two academic disciplines – Politics and History. This video is the start of a series: at the end of each week, we have asked an academic from a different discipline – Sociology, Psychology, Classics, and Media Studies – to reflect on the way these concepts are understood by researchers in their fields, and what they in turn have contributed to our overall understanding.

Mat and Maiken suggest that some trends cut across disciplinary divides: ideology and propaganda used to be seen as characterisitcs of totalitarian or authoritarian regimes, while we now acknowledge that they operate in all political systems, and have deep roots in popular culture. Both disciplines have developed new methodologies – more ‘quantitative’ in Political Science, more ‘qualitative’ (or interpretation-based) in History – to understand how ideology interacts with, affects, and feeds on, everyday beliefs and practices. Maiken explains how the ‘cultural turn’ in History has drawn attention particularly to the ways in which ordinary people and political regimes co-produce ideologies, while Mat looks at the ways in which ideas are taken to ‘matter’ in political explanations, and how this resonates in a displine where analysis is increasingly quantiative. Both suggest that, while the term ideology is often associated with older understandings of anti-democratic regimes, it is still useful for understanding how everyday life and politics interact. Do you agree?

This article is from the free online

Propaganda and Ideology in Everyday Life

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now