The study of political thought is undergoing crucial change. While normative and prescriptive political theory will always play a role, as will its grand history, engagement with the actual forms of political thinking that societies exhibit is a rapidly growing area of research, which has important potential implications for our understandings of how institutions, cultures, and individuals interact and shape political outcomes.
Alongside the more traditional preoccupation with political philosophy, that is, there is a growing interest in political ideologies, and in how 'everyday', vernacular political ideas flow through, across, and between different historical and social contexts, and become embodied in concrete forms of life.
As a result, new spaces for interdisciplinary dialogue are opening up, and the University of Nottingham's Centre for the Study of Political Ideologies seeks to promote, facilitate, and communicate interdisciplinary research in this area.
We take 'ideology' in the widest possible sense of the term, as encompassing the patterns which, consciously or otherwise, underlie and underpin discourse and practice in the political and social realms. This includes the kinds of performative and ritualistic forms of behaviour, and the intermingling of thought and belief, which have been at the forefront of much recent work in cultural history.
To approach the topic in this way is to move away from the Marxisant views that regard ideology as false, that is, as a class-based tool of exploitation and a means of obfuscating truth and reality. It is also to move beyond ideology as a disparaging soubriquet referring to abstract, doctrinaire and artificial ideas imposed on an unconnected reality. Instead, we approach ideology as the variants and patterns of political thought that obtain in a society - seen as clusters of meaning that infuse our comprehension of our social worlds, and those of others.
The study of political ideologies cuts across many of the conventional boundaries that separate academic disciplines. It is thus also recognised that both the term 'ideology' and the diverse interpretations of ideology play a vital part across many of the humanities as well as social sciences.