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This essay concerns one of the apparent casualties of the rise of postmodernism-the theory of ideology. In fact, the "theory of ideology" has never been a unitary theory. From its inception the concept of ideology has always been contested, and hence the theory has generated many variations. The most common version asserts that individuals are afflicted with beliefs that in some way mystify or obscure social reality. This mystification in turn works to the advantage of some classes and to the disadvantage of others. This formulation was developed most prominently within the marxist tradition; it has proved a tempting but ultimately unsatisfactory paradigm to explain all sorts of ideological phenomena that bear little resemblance to marxist class struggle.

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