Ideology, the state and welfare in Britain
DOI link for Ideology, the state and welfare in Britain
Ideology, the state and welfare in Britain book
An ideology is a body or collection of ideas about the world, about human nature, morality, society and politics, often or usually having some kind of relation to institutions such as political parties, political movements or state regimes. An ideology, or tradition of thought, for those holding to that ideology describes, explains and justiﬁes. It provides a more or less coherent understanding or interpretation of some aspect of social reality for those who hold to it. Ideologies tend to be action-guiding, inasmuch as they inﬂuence people’s behaviour. An understanding of the belief systems or ‘assumptive worlds’ of political actors can contribute to an explanation of actions and behaviour, and to some extent of outcomes: ‘. . . political activity could not begin to be understood without the existence of concepts, ideas and principles, however well hidden’; and the purpose of studying theory is ‘. . . to articulate those assumptions which lie behind practical activity’ (Pearson and Williams, 1984: 1). Policy change, therefore, can be explained by reference to changes in background ideas about the state, society and the individual held by inﬂuential individuals, groups, movements and political parties. When ideas change, policies change. (For a full discussion of policy making, see Chapter 5.)
It is not quite so simple, however, for two reasons. Firstly, the importance of ideologies as tools for explaining social and political change should not be exaggerated. Ideas shape practical action, but action also inﬂuences ideas; thinkers and ideologues respond to the social environment and pressures which surround them (Marquand, 1996: 6). With social change comes ideological change; ideological change and social change are interdependent variables, rather than one being dependent and the other independent. Secondly, the relationship between actors’ beliefs and policy change may be an ambiguous one.