Beliefs in Society

Beliefs in society:

-Theories of ideology, science and religion

-Relationship between religion and social change and stability

-Religious organisations and the relationship between NRM and spiritual belief and practice

-The relationship between social groups and religion

-The significance of religion in contemporary world and secularisation

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  • Created by: Louise
  • Created on: 02-03-12 11:38

Theories of ideology

'A set of ideas and beliefs about how the world is'


Marx -> Saw ideology as a distorted view of how the world is. He described the ruling class ideology as ideas and beliefs which justify the exploitation of the working class by that group.


Feminists -> Use the term ideology in a similar way to marxists except they see patriarchal ideology as justifying the domination and exploitation of women by men.


Karl Popper -> Thought ideology described any closed system of thought. By this he meant any position which rejected any evidence or challenge to its views.

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Marxism and Ideology

  • Society has two oppossing classes- ruling class and working class
  • The ruling class exploited the working class by employing them and not paying them the full value of their labour.
  • For this exploitation to continue the ruling class had to pursuade the working class to accept their position. Instead of just using brute force to control the workers Marx argues the ruling class used the power os ideas.
  • He believed they spread their ideology- ideas that justified the exploitation of the WC. Marx saw one of the main instruments of ruling class ideology as religion as it taught people that God had created society the way it was and they should accept it.
  • Marx believed that eventually the WC would see through the ruling class ideology and develop class consciousness- once this happens the WC would rise up and overthrow the RC.
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Gramsci-> Used the term hegomony to describe how the ruling class keeps control of society by dominating the intellectual and moral thinking. They do this by controlling the education system, political system and the mass media.

However, this control is never complete because the working class can develop their owen version of how society operates as a result of their experiences.


The working class might accept the current economic system because they see it as the best deal they can get.

Karl Popper -> Sees marxism as an ideology in itself. In particular he argues it cannot be tested to see if it is true or false. It is also the case that traditional Marxism assumes people are passive and not able to resist ruling class ideas and beliefs.

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Feminism and Ideology

Feminist views on ideology use marxism as a starting point but adapted it to study gender issues.

They argue that almost all societies throughout history have been male dominated. This domination has been supported by patriarchal ideology- which is a set of ideas and values which justify male power.

At different times in history there have been dominant ideas about what women can and cannot do in society.Many world religions have not only excluded women from key positions but have also justified male domination as being 'natural'.

Feminists believe that for women to fulfil their potential and to have an equal role in society it is necessary to challenge patriarchal ideology wherever it exists.

However, it is argued to be an ideology in itself.

Feminism is a set of ideas and beliefs which is closed to external criticism and which can ignore evidence that challenges it

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Theories of Science

There is great debate as to whether science should be considered as an ideology or as something different.

Popper-> See's science as distinct from ideologies because it is an open belief system. By this he means it is open to questioning, testing and falsifying by others. This is because there is a scientific method where ideas can be studied, tested and objected to. If a theory is not shown to be false i can be accepted, but only for as long as no one manages to disprove it.

Kuhn-> Argues that the scientific method described by Popper is not the way most science is conducted. Often scientific discoveries such as penicillin happen by chance. He also points out that scientists often ignore evidence which does not fit with their theories.

For example- We know that the ideas of Einstein were rejected by the the scientific community for a long time because he challenged accepted way of thinking.

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Science in late modern society


Giddens -> Argues that people in late modern society have serious doubts over Enlightenment beliefs about the promise and potential of science. No longer is science seen as bringing certainty and 'securely founded knowledge'.

This change of outlook is based on the realisation that no matter how well established a scientific theory, it will probably be revised or discarded in the light of new ideas and findings. Many people find this uncertainty troubling.

The enlightenment view that science will improve the human condition is now treated with increasing scepticism. Science may bring benefits to humankind but it also brings risk and danger.

These negative views of science are balanced by more positive ones. In late modern society, science is seen as creating risk and danger but also as promising benefits for humankind.

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Beck-> Late modern society is characterised by uncertainty and risk. Risk is magnified by the process of globalisation- The increasingly interconnectedness of parts of the world.

This can be seen by the global nature of financial crises, terrorism and nuclear accidents, all of which cross national boundaries.

Many of the risks and uncertainties of late modern society are seen to be associated with science and technology. This has led people to be suspicious of so called 'scientific advances'. - eg. gentically modified crops

Their suspicison has been highlighted by disagreement between scientists. As a result the credibility of beliefs based on scientific research has been reduced.

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Theories of religion


Defining religion

Religion has been defined in many ways:

- As a belief in some kind of supernatural power

- As an expression of this belief in collective worship

-As a set of moral values which guide action

-As a force which brings people together and unifies society

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