It's the end of ideology as we know it

Peter K. Hatemi, Lindon Eaves, Rose McDermott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Scholars have long focused on socio-psychological attachment, elite discourse, and rational action to explain the nature and structure of ideologies. Recently genetic and neurobiological influences have also emerged as predictors of ideological preferences. So far however, there has been little synthesis of these findings into the larger discourse on the structures and manifestations of ideology. The few studies which do include genetic sources of information imply that culture is merely a passenger on a genetic foundation. Here, we test this assumption and in doing so offer a foundation for merging social, psychological, rational, and biological theories of attitude formation and structure. Utilizing a genetically informative sample, we find striking differences between the genetic and environmental factor structures of inter-related attitudes that form ideologies. The structure imposed by social influences corresponds to recognized definitions of liberalism and conservatism on a left-right continuum; however, the genetic factor structure combines liberal attitudes toward sex and reproduction with conservative attitudes toward punishment, defense and immigration. That is, the structure imposed on social and political attitudes by the social environment is a cultural veneer laid on a potentially divergent underlying structure of genetic differences. Our findings should encourage a new understanding of ideology that encompasses genetic, individual, and cultural mechanisms that operates in both conflict and concert depending on local and temporal contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-369
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Theoretical Politics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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