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Revealing Ideology at Work Through Conceptual Analysis

People often have trouble differentiating ideological and nonideological uses of words. They are then unable to use the following words in a nonloaded way: capitalism, socialism, communism, democracy, oligarchy, plutocracy, patriotism, terrorism. Let's look at this case in greater detail.

When the above words are used ideologically, they are applied inconsistently and one-sidedly. The root meaning of the word is often lost, or highly distorted, while the word is used to put a positive or negative gloss on events, obscuring what is really going on. Hence, in countries in which the reigning ideology extols capitalism, the ideologies of socialism and communism are demonized, democracy is equated with capitalism, and plutocracy is ignored. In countries in which the reigning ideology is communism, the ideology of capitalism is demonized, democracy is equated with communism, and oligarchy is ignored. The groups called "terrorists" by some are called patriots by the others.

If we examine the core meanings of these words and use them in keeping with the core meanings they have in the English language, we can recognize contradictions, inconsistencies, and hypocrisy when any group misuses them to advance its agenda. Let us review the core meanings of these terms as defined by Webster's New World Dictionary:

  • Capitalism: an economic system in which all or most of the means of production and distribution, as land, factories, railroads, etc, are privately owned and operated for profit, originally under fully competitive conditions; it has generally been characterized by a tendency toward concentration of wealth.

  • Socialism: any of the various theories or systems of the ownership and operation of the means of production and distribution by society or the community rather than by private individuals, with all members of society or the community sharing in the work and the products.

  • Communism: any economic theory or system based on the ownership of all property by the community as a whole.

  • Democracy: government in which the people hold the ruling power either directly or through elected representatives; rule by the ruled.

  • Oligarchy: a form of government in which the ruling power belongs to a few persons.

  • Plutocracy: 1) government by the wealthy; 2) a group of wealthy people who control or influence a government.

  • Patriotism: love and loyal or zealous support of one's own country.

  • Terrorism: use of force or threats to demoralize, intimidate, and subjugate, especially such use as a political weapon or policy.

To this day, countries in which the reigning ideology is capitalism tend to use the words socialism and communism as if they meant "a system that discourages individual incentive and denies freedom to the mass of people." Countries in which the reigning ideology is socialism or communism, in their turn, tend to use the word capitalism to imply the exploitation of the masses by the wealthy few. Both see the use of force of the other as terrorist in intent. Both see the other as denying its own members fundamental human rights. Both tend to ignore their own inconsistencies and hypocrisy.

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