The Place of Ideology in the Social World.
As I have suggested, social phenomena are not "self-evident things": that is, they do not
have an independent existence from the people who produce them. In this sense,
anything that happens in the social world consists of forms of behaviour that have to be
actively interpreted if we are to "make sense" of them. An example of this "interpretation
process" might help to make this idea a bit clearer:
Imagine that you observe two people walking hand-in-hand down the street.
What possible interpretations of this behaviour can you identify?
There are, of course, a large number of possible interpretations of this behaviour, a few
of which might be that the two people are:
Parent and child,
Someone leading a blind person.
Given these possible interpretations, how do we, as individuals, interpret or "make
sense" of the behaviour we have witnessed? How, in short, do we explain to ourselves
"what is going-on in this situation"?
What we do, in effect, is try to use an ideological framework against which we can check
our observations. In this sense, we can talk about using an ideological map to chart
these observations and locate them within a social context.
The features of our ideological map consist of various concepts - ideas that we use to
help us locate observed behave in its social context and, by so doing, help us to explain
what we see. Thus, in this instance, in order to understand the behaviour of these two
people we might use concepts such as:
Age - How old are the couple?
Gender - Will it make a difference if they are both female / male and female etc?
Disability - Are they both able-bodied?
By using such basic, general, concepts, we can effectively begin to:
a. Suggest possible interpretations that fit our ideological framework.
b. Eliminate possible interpretations that do not fit our ideological framework.
Thus, if we observe that:
They are each 25 - 30 years old,
One is male and the other male female and
They are both physically able,