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What Is the Relationship between Discourse and Ideology?

By A. Leverkuhn
Updated May 23, 2024
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The relationship between discourse and ideology is profound, as these two elements of human thought and communication relate to each other in many ways. Some explorations of the relationship between discourse and ideology focus on the ways that ideology affects discourse. Other studies might focus on how discourse is used as a means of disseminating an ideology. All of this helps to illustrate how discourse and ideology are interconnected, and how studying one can provide insight on the other.

One common aspect of studying discourse and ideology is examining how a specific ideology will change discourse. This includes how a person’s ideology will influence how they speak and write. It also can involve studying how a common ideology, often an implicit ideology, will affect discourse between two or more people in various contexts, whether in a public discourse, or a private one. For example, many researchers have tried to provide a link between ideology and evident racism in discourse.

Another way to look at these elements involves studying rhetorical devices. Rhetorical devices are tools used in discourse to persuade an audience. These are often employed in a strategy to evangelize a specific ideology. In these situations, it may be helpful to figure out what specific rhetorical devices are effective.

An example of studying rhetorical strategy in the exploration of discourse and ideology is the use of “spectacle,” and related persuasive strategies. Some rhetorical devices, such as those called “glittering generalities,” are often used in tandem with powerful visual appeals to an audience. Glittering generalities are vague words meant to evoke a powerful feeling in a audience because of shared ideology. These and other types of devices, in many ways, seek to relay a more detailed ideology through relying on a more basic or conventional ideology such as patriotism or religion.

Studying both elements may involve specific research methodologies. Researchers may present their findings in a formal format, including data sets used to support a thesis or hypothesis. These studies will often seek to draw further connections between elements of discourse and ideology that may have already been associated or researched. The progressive study of these connections is part of an advanced attempt to understand the spoken or written word in a fuller context, in this case, in the context of closely held personal mores or values that may not be explicitly part of a discourse, but may still affect a person’s style of communicating.

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Discussion Comments
By discographer — On Mar 25, 2014

One theory, which was suggested by Louis Althusser, is that discourse leads to ideology and actions lead to both. He argued that social practices cause us to have the ideologies that we have and discourse is a social practice. So we speak and act without really thinking about them and eventually this leads to a set of ideas or ideologies.

It's really the opposite of what most people argue about discourse an ideology. It is usually thought that discourse emerges from ideology and not the other way around.

By ddljohn — On Mar 25, 2014

@ZipLine-- Ideology is like a worldview, it's basically ideas and those ideas can be about anything. They can be about politics, religion, society, etc. So discourse is not only important for political ideology, it's important for all types of ideology. Regardless of what types of ideas people want to express or encourage, they need to use language effectively to make this possible.

Just as discourse is a tool for relaying ideologies, our discourse also says a lot about us and the ideologies we hold.

By ZipLine — On Mar 24, 2014

Is discourse only related to political ideology? Politicians use powerful discourse to convince people on various issues.

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