Authored by: Ben Silverstein , Patrick Wolfe

The Ashgate Research Companion to Modern Imperial Histories

Print publication date:  May  2012
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9780754664154
eBook ISBN: 9781315613277
Adobe ISBN: 9781317042525


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For Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, luminaries of the critique of ideology, ideologies were ideas imposed by a dominant social group on society as a whole. ‘The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force.’ 1 1

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The German Ideology (New York, 1970), p. 64.

This formulation should not be taken as narrowly as the intellectualist terminology might suggest. As we read on, the ‘ideas’ that Marx and Engels had in mind emerge as more than formal propositions. They were cultural outlooks or world-views that comprehensively sustained the dominance of one social group over others:

Insofar, therefore, as they [the ruling class] rule as a class and determine the extent and compass of an epoch, it is self-evident that they do this in its whole range, hence among other things rule also as thinkers, as producers of ideas, and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age: thus their ideas are the ruling ideas of the epoch. 2 2

Ibid., pp. 64–5.

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