Jimenez (2010), sheds some light on the concept of ideology as “templates, or reassuring explanatory structures that can explain contingencies, both the unexpected and the taken-for- granted aspects of social order” (p.45). Community, government and the media exert considerable influence on the formation of the individuals’ ideologies. That said, the beliefs of upward income mobility and equal opportunity are, according to Jimenez (2010), ideological positions aimed at promoting social control and quieting feelings of social unrest (p.60). That was a reality in the 19th century and continues to be nowadays. An interesting example is immigration; the image sold in countries such as Brazil, is that the United States offers equal professional growth opportunities to everybody who works hard. Therefore, people want to come here and pursue the American dream, nonetheless, when they arrive in the country, they start facing social barriers. The thought of a completely open social and economic order and the association of economic success with individual merit does not correspond to the reality of many immigrants who are educated but when applying for a job, face unfair situations such as the other candidate’s personal connections, favoritism and ethnic discrimination.
The ideas of upward income mobility and equal opportunity prevalent in the U.S society tend to hinder the development of individuals’ critical thinking about inequality and lack of economic opportunities (Jimenez, p.61). In other words, if everybody believes that their social condition is only temporary and that their personal success is solely influenced by their own choices and not external factors such as the political environment, there is no reason for people to fight for better social conditions or even to fight for a complete change in the economic and social systems of government. Jimenez (2010), further clarifies that it is unlikely that most people will criticize ongoing poverty and oppression in the United States due to the lack of a major political party leading a critique of the market’s economy (p.77). In the 19th Century, Socialist political traditions were a reaction against industrial capitalism’s ways of exploiting workers in England and Germany (http://public.wsu.edu/~brians/hum_303/socialism.html). Nonetheless, in the U.S, the myths of upward mobility and equal opportunity kept society optimistic and working hard on pursuing the American dream, if not for them, for their next generations.
Introduction to 19th-Century Socialism. (n.d.). Retrieved January 10, 2017, from http://public.wsu.edu/~brians/hum_303/socialism.html
Jimenez, J. (2010). Social policy and social change: Toward the creation of social and economic justice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. (Chapter 3: Historical values influencing social problems and policies).