These terms have slightly different nuances in meaning and connotation. Would you use world-view in an academic discussion? What is the correct context?

For example, would you say creationism is an ideology, atheism a world view? What is a simple criterion to differentiate usage?

6 Answers 6


The terms are pretty close together in meaning. Here is what my local dictionary says about them:

ideology — a system of ideas and ideals, esp. one that forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy

worldview — a particular philosophy of life or conception of the world

The easiest way to distinguish between the two is to note that ideology is more proactive. An ideology will dictate what your actions or policies are. A worldview is more of a perspective or explanation of the way things are:

A common worldview suggests that all human life is valuable.

Christian ideologies dictate that one should do unto others as you wish them to do unto you.

The terms can crossover depending on how one is expressing the philosophies:

My worldview claims that one should eat cake every day.

Here the worldview is making a claim that a certain action should take place but the focus is not on actually doing that action. Following through on those actions would essentially be adopting them into your ideology:

I eat cake every day. It is part of my ideology.

Naturally, this causes a lot of confusion and most of the time you can get away with using either term. Here are my rules of thumb:

  • Is the philosophy suggesting a course of action? If not, use worldview.
  • Is the suggested action required to self-identify as belonging to that philosophy? If not, use worldview.
  • Otherwise, use ideology.

Examples of all three cases:

In my worldview, cake is in its own food group.

I am a cakatarian; this worldview claims that cake should be eaten with every meal.

I am an anti-cakatarian; my ideology prohibits eating any cake.

The distinction between the last two examples is probably me shoehorning a difference into the words that doesn't actually exist but I find it helpful when I need to distinguish between them. The real key difference is that of action/inaction. This unfortunately presents us with a rather large gray area.

When in doubt, look at the group in question and see how they describe themselves. Religious groups tend to have worldviews; political groups tend to have ideologies.


I would say you're on the right track by questioning whether the term 'world view' would be appropriate in academic contexts. An 'ideology'—though not necessarily restricted to political or economic discussions—is generally quite systematic and well formed, whereas a 'world view' tends to be a casual or simply less formal philosophy of an individual.

For instance, contrast an ideology such as Marxism to a world view like pessimism. Karl Marx wrote extensively on politics and economics and established the aforementioned ideology rigorously, assessing his reasoning and refuting the views of others as he went. Your average pessimist will simply refrain from expecting the best in life after experience has taught them not to. Both Marx and the pessimist have a philosophical stance, but that of the former is more elaborate than the latter.

At least, that's how I'd distinguish between the two. At face value, the terms can both be said to be loosely synonymous with 'philosophy' but, as you say, there are nuances of meaning that render the terms more or less appropriate to certain contexts.


I would say that an ideology is a belief and a world-view is more of a perception, or evaluation, of what is.

An ideology is a set of ideals and behaviors that suggest how to improve. Typically they are consistant with a guiding principle.

A world-view looks at what is likely to come based on what is and what has come before. Our ideaologies tend to influence our world view. We tend to look at what has failed that is against our Ideology, and what has worked that compliments it. While ignoring or excusing those things that work against our ideology.


A world view is how one VIEWS the world, whereas an ideology is a belief ABOUT the world, that often stems from one's world view.

For instance, a world view might be "the world is a dangerous place." The resulting ideologies might be, "we need a strong national defense," or "we need more police."


Just using my own common sense to reason this out, maybe because world-view has the word world built right into it, world-view turns out to be more of an all-encompassing term than ideology.

Again based on the notion of examining smaller, simpler words wholly contained with larger, more complex ones, ideology suggests a better-formed idea.

I guess the two might sometimes be able to be used interchangeably. But any comparison of world with idea could have an incumbent stake in the respective meanings that the more complex words in the OP’s have been derived from.

For example:

  • Communism and capitalism would count as ideologies, not world-views.
  • Atheism, Deism, Christianity, and so on would all count as world-views, not ideologie. That’s because they are more all-encompassing than the simple drive behind mere economic thought.

Source: my own logic and personal common sense.


In the book Hope in Trouble Times by Bob Goudzward, Goudzward defines ideology in terms of three aspects or parts. Part 1 is the absolutization of certain ideals or goals. By absolutization I mean giving a certain goal supreme or ultimate importance. Part 2 is changing the ethics of the society or group to fit with the absolutized goal. Part 3 is putting whatever resources are available to the service of accomplishing that goal. I find this definition definition prooves very useful for anylyzing what we refer to as ideologies. Take Communism for example. I can easily break down communism (communism as it was under Stalin, Mao and others and not as Marx invisioned it) into these three aspects.

Absulutized goal/ideal: The proletarian utopian society. A completely equal and classless society.

Ethics: Evil is located in the Bourgeousie ownership and control of the means of production. Communism has an ends justify the means ethic. The state needs to eliminate those who are standing in the way progress. The millions of deaths that occured under communist regimes were considered a necessary sacrifice in order to create heaven on earth.

The means: Stalin used his power, he used the Russian army and he used the Russian people. He employed everything he could to bring about the utopian society.

I´m not completely sure that this is a perfect definition of ideology but it is a useful framework in any case. My question would be does it really have to contain all three parts or is an ideology really just the first one or the first two and the third part is the application of ideology when it gains enough prominence among society or is enforced by some dictator.

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