Episode 114: Sally Haslanger discusses ideology

This month, Emily Dupree and I talk to Sally Haslanger (MIT) about ideology. Click here to listen to our conversation.

We throw the word ‘ideology’ around a lot, but what does it actually mean? Well, unfortunately, different people mean different things by it at different times. One thing we often mean by it is ‘a person’s political outlook or worldview.’ So suppose that’s what it means. What constitutes a person’s political outlook? Is it just a list of all the things they believe?

Interestingly, our guest thinks there’s more to it than that. A person’s political outlook certainly involves all of the things they believe, but it involves lots of other things as well, like their typical emotional responses to things and their bodily habits. An ideology isn’t just something you can learn by reading about it in a book–it’s something you absorb by spending your time living a certain way among the group of people who have that ideology.

Another interesting question about ideology is whether it’s bad by definition. Is adhering to a political ideology just another way of saying you have your blinders on? Should we all strive towards having a perspective that isn’t tainted by any ideology? In a way, this is just a matter of how you want to use the word: whether you want to use it to mean ‘faulty political outlook’ or just ‘political outlook.’ Our distinguished guest has decided to focus on faulty political outlooks, in order to be able to ask how a person can correct their faulty political outlooks.

This is not an easy question, but one possibility Sally Haslanger floats in our discussion is that people are sometimes able to get out of their heads in spaces she calls counterpublics, where people end up pooling their doubts about the ideology they’ve been inhabiting while congregating there regularly.

Tune in to hear our guest’s fascinating thoughts on this big topic, especially as it applies to the history of feminism and racial justice in the United States.

Matt Teichman






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