About the Centre
The Centre for the Study of Political Ideologies explores how political ideas are formed and contested in political, cultural and social practice, across different historical periods and in different geographical contexts.
Such an approach necessitates branching out from one discipline, politics, to bring together insights and methods from fields such as cultural history, area studies, visual anthropology, art history, sociology, and many others. The Centre therefore seeks to promote, facilitate, and communicate interdisciplinary research in this area.
We take the concept of 'ideology' in a broad sense, 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 understand ideology as a ubiquitous phenomenon, encompassing the variants and patterns of political thought that obtain in any society - seen as clusters of meaning that infuse the comprehension of political and social worlds.
The Centre’s work is informed by the methods developed by our co-founder, now emeritus professor, Michael Freeden, and his use of ‘conceptual morphology’ to decode ideologies as clusters of ideas, with internal logics and hierarchies of importance, that occur in everyday political speech as well as formal political theory.
Building on this, we have broadened the evidence base, to study ideologies in operation in a wide range of social interactions and cultural practices. Much of our recent work has also paid particular attention to material culture and photography, as not just documenting reality, but performing it in ways that are profoundly structured by ideological templates.
The Centre has also initiated a number of projects, networks and collaborations that explore the theme of ideological translations, i.e. the question of what happens when ideological concepts, tropes, and imaginaries move from one context into another, crossing temporal, geographical, or linguistic boundaries.