Ideology, Irrationality and Collectively Self-defeating Behavior

Constellations 7 (3):363-371 (2000)
One of the most persistent legacies of Karl Marx and the Young Hegelians has been the centrality of the concept of “ideology” in contemporary social criticism. The concept was introduced in order to account for a very specific phenomenon, viz. the fact that individuals often participate in maintaining and reproducing institutions under which they are oppressed or exploited. In the extreme, these individuals may even actively resist the efforts of anyone who tries to change these institutions on their behalf. Clearly, some explanation needs to be given of how individuals could systematically fail to see where their interests lie, or how they might fail to pursue these interests once these have been made clear to them. This need is often felt with some urgency, since failure to provide such an explanation usually counts as prima facie evidence against the claim that these individuals are genuinely oppressed or exploited in the first place.
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