Reflection on the statement, “Human imagination and divergent thinking, born out of their political, social, and cultural context, lead to new ideologies which reflect the course of history.”
How does the political, social, and cultural context influence the emergence of ideologies?
People’s opinion is influenced by the political, social, and cultural context created by the ideology. In case of dissatisfaction with this ideology, people can challenge it and develop a new one, but built on ideas formed under the influence of the first. Such a transformation of ideas and ideologies is an ongoing process that reflects the course of history.
The study of the course of history helps to gain knowledge of various social, political, and cultural processes and apply them to the modern context. In this case, understanding what gives rise to changes in ideologies, how external factors influence them, what the human role is in this process, and how much people’s values are reflected in them will reveal a lot about modernity. This essay supports the opinion that the political, social, and cultural context influences human ideas, leading to changes in ideologies. For this, the paper traces the mechanisms of dissemination of ideas, the essence of ideologies, and their influence on the course of history. Although people are primary sources and distributors of new ideologies, their judgment is influenced by ideas already existing in society.
The Mechanism for Dissemination of Ideas
Several approaches try to explain the nature of ideas, and they form different views on their influence. This knowledge is the starting point in assessing the development of ideologies and the influence of context on this process. Swinkels highlights such perspectives: ideas as heuristics, ideas as strategic tools, and ideas as institutional frameworks. Heuristics presents ideas as subjective beliefs rooted in people’s minds that help them understand the world around them. In this approach, ideas’ subjectivity limits people, particularly in the political process – policymaking or decision-making. As a strategic tool, ideas are the content of interactions – the way actors fill them with meaning in the political process. Based on this approach, ideas can be used to develop and manipulate the sense of the policy. View of ideas as institutional frameworks presents them as social norms that guide people. These perspectives form different approaches to understanding how ideas provoke change.
Respectively to the approaches, the processes causing changes through ideas that come from micro-foundations, interaction and entrepreneurship, and institutionalization. The first approach tracks that since ideas that change policy are subjective and come from human cognition, it is necessary to determine what affected this individual. Therefore, changes occur in response to external circumstances when a person learns and adapts. Considering that ideas come from entrepreneurship and the interactions of politicians, changes can be traced to their personal preferences and the success of strategies that they use to convince others of the ideas’ correctness. Through institutionalization, ideas are generalized and spread to other people. Focusing on only one approach to understand changes is not possible, and therefore a hybrid option should be considered. In this way, ideas are born to individuals, which offer them to other people, and then generalized and influence other individuals who create new ideas.
The presented understanding of what an idea is and how it appears leads to proof of the influence of the context. Ideas born as a result of the knowledge of a particular person spread, become common and affect the appearance of other ideas. For example, Macon-Cooney notes that the Renaissance and Enlightenment eras’ ideas led to the industrial revolution. The industrial revolution, in turn, entailed the emergence of new political, cultural, and social beliefs and problems, like the relationship between workers and employers. As a result, this process is continuous and reflects the course of history. This mechanism refers to the inquiry’s key concept of change, which focuses on transformations’ causes, processes, and consequences. This understanding is critical as ideologies develop as a set of specific ideas that dominate society.
Ideologies as Expressions of Ideas
To trace the development of ideologies, it is also necessary to understand their essence and functions. Ideologies consist of ideas and beliefs that are unquestionable and accepted as confirmed by a specific group. At the same time, ideologies can be considered as guidelines that help people understand their place in the world and the processes taking place in it. Ideologies currently are most closely related to politics and represent some form of political religion. Raising a few of the big questions – freedom of choice and different ways of ruling societies – ideologies are sometimes perceived as a tool for manipulating society in the hands of the dominant elite. However, this view is too simplistic, and ideologies’ understanding is not limited to it. Thus, ideologies are a specific system of ideas that a group of people shares, and the understanding of its application may differ depending on the considered perspective.
In addition to understanding the world, there are many other reasons why people turn to specific ideologies. According to Lee and Knott, at the individual level, people learn and share ideologies for personal growth, understand identity and belonging to a group, and substantiate decisions. These needs are significantly related to the key concept of identity – the state in which a person shares features with other similar people. People also support traditions, teach others, respond to changes, and attract like-minded people. When one ideology does not meet the needs of people and allows crises, they challenge it and turn to another. For example, people were disappointed in liberalism after the First World War, and young alternatives became popular – communism and fascism. Other examples were the Renaissance, when thinkers began to destroy centuries-old traditions, and the scientific revolution, which was significantly influenced by disappointment in the church. Thus, the primary function of ideologies is the orientation of people in a specific direction.
Thus, understanding the essence of ideologies draws attention to their role in people’s lives. Individuals and ideologies influence each other – people are sources and distributors of ideas, but at the same time, their opinions are formed under the influence of the ideologies surrounding them. This relationship proves how much ideologies are tied to human thinking and imagination, but people are influenced by social, political, and cultural circumstances. Since one idea entails another in a continuous process, the past affects the present, including the development of ideologies.
The Influence of Ideologies
Ideologies affect many spheres of life, so they simultaneously determine the cultural, social, and political context and depend on it. In particular, beliefs affect families, national and cultural policies, art, and other areas. Ideological values are transmitted through families, work, media, friends, and other channels around the person. At the same time, factors of influence on the person, such as education, profession, moral values, and other aspects, are essential. Exploring the context of a particular period is related to the key concept of time, space, and place. It is important to remember that time is a continuum of significant events, and space and place are often socially driven and influenced by political and economic processes.
As already noted, the emergence and transformation of ideas are continuous, and one can find the origins of current events in the past. For example, humanism that arose in the Renaissance era significantly influenced the development of the Reformation and the Scientific Revolution ideas, and then the Enlightenment, creating the prerequisites of modern science. The Renaissance and Enlightenment also contributed to the industrial revolution, which changed the world and contributed to strengthening capitalism. The latter is causing the emergence of new perspectives, such as environmentalism, which appeared due to resource depletion.
Thus, external circumstances significantly determine people’s thinking, and their ideas contribute to the emergence of others. Tracking changes in ideologies and views underlying them helps to highlight the features of the course of history. These arguments prove the validity of the claim that “Human imagination and divergent thinking, born out of their political, social, and cultural context, lead to new ideologies which reflect the course of history.” This claim leads to the conclusion of the close relationship between human perception, the ideas that they give rise to, and the changes that these ideas provoke.
Ideologies are formed from ideas, and understanding concepts and how they provoke change differs depending on the approach used. However, approaches can be combined, and following them, people create ideas and offer them to others. Successful ideas are generalized and supported among people inspiring new ones. As a system of ideas, ideology guides people, shapes their judgment, and affects external circumstances. Individuals, in turn, transform ideas for various reasons – in response to external factors or with the help of imagination. As a result, new ideas spread and formed new ideologies, reflecting the course of history.
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