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Form of social or political philosophy in which practical elements are as prominent as theoretical ones. The term was coined in 1796 by the French writer Antoine-Louis-Claude, Comte Destutt de Tracy (b. 1754d. 1836), as a label for his science of ideas. Certain characteristics of his thought proved generally true of ideologies, including a more or less comprehensive theory of society, a political program, anticipation of a struggle to implement that program (thus requiring committed followers), and intellectual leadership. Destutt de Tracy's ideas were adopted by the French Revolutionary government in building its version of a democratic, rational, and scientific society (seeDirectory). Napoleon first gave the term a negative connotation with his scorn for what he called idéologues. Ideology is often contrasted unfavourably with pragmatism. The significance of ideology follows from the fact that power is rarely exercised without some ideas or beliefs that justify support.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on ideology, visit Britannica.com.