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An essentially contestable concept and, as such, it makes little point to describe what it ‘really’ means. Instead we should trace the history of the concept and how it is used. Ideology was coined originally by Antoine Destutt de Tracy in the years after the French Revolution to refer to ‘a new science of ideas, an idea-logy which would be the foundation of all other sciences’ (Gee, 1990:4). Destutt de Tracy argued that the ideas we hold are not the product of God or nature but are generated by our social environment as perceived through our physical senses. Hence, ideology refers in this first instance to the ‘study of how ideas are formed based on experience’ (ibid.).

Marx developed this approach to ideology, arguing that ‘the ...

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