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Ideology: An Introduction Paperback – April 17, 1991

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From Library Journal

In an age marked by sharp ideological conflict, many postmodernists have declared ideology dead. To explore this paradox, Marxist critic Eagleton analyzes the slippery and often contradictory conceptions of ideology, tracing them through their various permutations from Destutt de Tracy, through Marx and Lukacs, to assorted postmodernists. Rejecting those views that reduce ideology to consciousness at one extreme, or social practices at the other, Eagleton argues that it should be understood in terms of a complex set of effects in discourse. In this way he preserves it as a way of analyzing social practice while avoiding the implicit nihilism of the postmodernists. The argument is compelling, marked by Eagleton's characteristic clarity, wit, and cogency.
- T.L. Cooksey, Armstrong State Coll., Savannah, Ga.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“A splendid polemicist.”—New Statesman

Product Details

  • Paperback: 258 pages
  • Publisher: Verso (April 17, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0860915387
  • ISBN-13: 978-0860915386
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,082,023 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Terry Eagleton is John Edward Taylor Professor of English Literature at the University of Manchester. His numerous books include The Meaning of Life, How to Read a Poem, and After Theory.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a difficult, but rewarding book for readers interested in the concept of ideology in a postmodern environment. Essentially, ideology means false societal beliefs that become institutionalized so they can serve the interests of a ruling class. Ideological beliefs are like propaganda, but differ in being much more deeply embedded in how a person thinks about the society he or she lives in. Thus, for those of us who are Americans, we all tend to have certain beliefs about the nature of the democracy we live in. Beliefs that structure the way we act, like being duty-bound to go to the polls to elect our leaders. Critics, on the other hand, might point out how these beliefs actually work against most people and for the hidden interests of those elites who really hold power in America. If the critic is right, then those beliefs would be ideological ones and represent a "false consciousness" about democracy-in-America's true nature.
There is a conceptual issue that arises with the notion of ideology. It implies at its heart that there are objective truths in the world that do not depend on our idea of them in order for them to be true. On a more extreme view, it can mean there are absolute truths that cannot be relativized to any person, group, or time period. The natural sciences were long held as our only reliable source of these objective truths. Thus, the early supporters of the idea of ideology believed that by using scientific methods, the false beliefs of ideology could be unmasked or exposed. However, since the time of the early Greeks there have been thinkers who challenged the idea of objective truth. Truth, these skeptics argue, is in the eye of the beholder.
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Format: Paperback
The subtitle to this book reads 'an introduction', but I doubt that your typical undergraduate student would find this a useful introductory text. Rather being a bland, dispassionate catalogue of various views on ideology, Eagleton's book is a lively and even at time virulent debate with the long line of intellectuals who have sought to conceptualize ideology from the likes of Marx, Schopenhauer, Lukács, Althusser, etc.
At its core, the enterprise contained with the books stands as a defense of the Marxist critical tradition against post-modernism and relativism-meaning that he desires to preserve the notion of ideology as a critical device for emancipation from false beliefs and mental processes that reinforce social oppression. Thus, after its initial chapters covering the usage of the term 'ideology' in speech and the social manifestations of ideological strategies, the Marxist debates take the forefront of the discussion almost entirely. In the final pages, Eagleton attempts to rebuff post-modern and neo-Marxist erosions of the viability of the concept of ideology. If you never considered Marxism to be the school of thought with the most invested interest in preserving the notion of 'ideology', a reading of this book will suggest strongly to the contrary.
Eagleton has not only an incredible talent for not only conveying his argument in a lucid, witty and convincing manner, but also in presenting the position of diverse authors with whom he interacts. He thus proves himself not only to be an excellent mind and author but also a superb reader.
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By A Customer on April 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a decent introduction to ideology, and how our understanding of it has changed since the formalization of its study in the Enlightenment.
Unfortunately, Eagleton's attitude towards the "postmodernist" or "post-structuralist" thinkers who are his so-rarely named enemies (except for the poor Michel Foucualt) frequently reduces their arguments to straw men, and then simplistically and reductively refutes them. He expresses no interest in exploring the possibilities of Foucault's work, or of engaging in any significant manner with Lyotard or Baudrillard. To say Baudrillard's politics are vacuous is in one sense true and in another sense misses the point.
Furthermore, some of his readings (for example, of Nietzsche) are similarly reductive and ignore everything that does not explicitly address the subject of ideology, much to the detriment of his argument.
The book's simple stylistic manner makes it easy and quick to read but perhaps impairs its philosophy.
Eagleton, as the back of my copy announces, is a "splendid polemicist," and this book reinforces that distinction, while leaving open the question of whether or not one wants to be considered a "polemicist."
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Format: Paperback
There are several sentences in my friend's asnalysis of the eminant mister Eagleton's critic (myself) which catch the eye somehow.
"Arguably, he's not Marxist enough in critiquing these positions"
This sentence alone tells us all we will ever need to know about the biases of the reviewer. Actually, it is nothing of the sort, and the eminent and dignified mister Eagleton was nothing short of baldly dogmatic in in every page of his book.
The next sentence is a reader-stopper, a sort of Gog and Magog of being completely incorrect:
"In using phrases like "abstract structures of ideology" the reviewer shows he has not really read the book attentively, as ideology is not necessarily "abstract" at all"
Actually, that's all ideology is by its very definition- an abstraction, an idea about how the universe works. The Mirriam Webster dictionary clearly defines the word "ideology" in direct and complete contradiction to my reviewer friend:
"Ideology: Function: noun 1 : visionary theorizing 2 a : a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture b : a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture c : the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program."
Not content with with opening his mouth and removing all doubt, our friend goes on to embarrass himself further:
"And, incidentally, by what definition of "ideology" is Marxism an ideology??"
I thought the multiple question marks were a nice emphasis of the intelligence of this statement. Well my illustrious friend, Marxism is an ideology in the same sense that it is a sociopolitical idea, a theory.
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