world view

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world view



Max WEBER's term for the overarching belief system of a particular social group.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

World View


a system of views about the objective world and about man’s place in it, about his relation to the reality around him and to himself; also, the basic outlooks, convictions, ideals, principles of cognition and action, and value orientations that are determined by these views. Far from including all views and ideas about the surrounding world, a world view is merely their extreme generalization. Its content centers on one or another answer to the basic question of philosophy. The social group and the individual are the real subjects of a world view, which is the nucleus of social and individual consciousness. The elaboration of a world view is a fundamental measure of the maturity not only of an individual but also of a particular social group or of a social class and its party. Essentially, the world view is a sociohistorical phenomenon, whose origin coincides with that of human society. The material conditions of a particular society, its material being, give rise to its specific world view.

A world view is a general conception of the world, of man, and of society that determines a man’s sociopolitical, philosophical, religious, moral, aesthetic, and theoretical scientific orientation. Each of the three main types of world view—commonsensical (everyday), philosophical, and religious—has a varied and contradictory content. Nonetheless, they demonstrate a unity in that they all encompass a certain range of problems, such as the relationship between spirit and matter, the definition of man and of his place in the universal interconnection of the phenomena of the world, man’s knowledge of reality, the nature of good and evil, and the laws according to which human society develops. The epistemological structure of a world view is formed as a result of the generalization of natural scientific, sociohistorical, technological, and philosophical knowledge.

Distinctions are drawn between the concepts of “world view,” “general picture of the world,” a “sense of the world,” “world perception,” “world outlook,” and “world understanding.” Although these terms are closely linked and are often used synonymously, there are differences between them. A general picture of the world is a synthesis of people’s knowledge of nature and social reality. The totality of the natural sciences constitutes the natural scientific picture of the world, and the totality of the social sciences, the sociohistorical picture of reality. The creation of a general picture of the world is the task of all fields of knowledge.

Man asserts himself in the objective world not only by thinking but also by using all his cognitive faculties. A sense of the world, world perception, and world outlook are shaped by the integral apprehension and experiencing of reality, which acts upon man in the form of sensations, perceptions, images, and emotions. World understanding is only the conceptual, intellectual aspect of a world view. As for the world view, it involves not only man’s intellectual but also his emotional and valuational attitude toward the world and is characterized by a higher integration of knowledge than is found in a general picture of the world.

As a reflection of the world and man’s valuational relationship toward it, a world view also plays a regulatory and creative role, for it serves as the methodology for constructing a general picture of the world. No single concrete science is in itself a world view, although each science, of necessity, develops with the aid of a world view and is based on a world view, which is expressed in its general premises and methodological principles.

The concept of world view is related to that of ideology but does not coincide with it. World view is a broader concept than ideology, which encompasses only those aspects of a world view that are oriented toward social phenomena and class relations. World view, in contrast, applies to all objective reality and to man.

At the everyday level, a world view is engendered by the immediate conditions of life and is passed from generation to generation by human experience. This level of a world view consists of commonsense, spontaneous, nonsystematized, traditional ideas about the world. The religious world view, which offers a fantastic picture of the world, is characterized by the acceptance of a supernatural cosmic principle. Its foundation is expressed in irrational and emotional images. The philosophical world view assumes a conceptual, categorical form, relying to some extent on advances in the natural and social sciences and possessing a certain degree of logical rigor.

A world view is not only the content of an awareness of reality but also a method of becoming aware of reality. In addition, it includes the principles of life that determine the character of activity. As cherished and decisive purposes of life, ideals are a very important component of a world view. The character of ideas about the world facilitates the establishment of specific ends which, when generalized, give rise to an overall life plan and to ideals that give effective force to the world view. The content of consciousness is transformed into a world view when it assumes the character of convictions—of the complete and unshakable confidence of a person in the correctness of his ideas, “which have conquered our intellect and taken possession of our minds, ideas to which reason has fettered our conscience, are chains from which one cannot free oneself without a broken heart, they are demons which human beings can vanquish only by submitting to them” (K. Marx, in K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nded., vol. 1, p. 118).

A world view has tremendous practical significance for life. It influences norms of behavior, a person’s attitude toward work and toward other people, and the character of vital aspirations, daily life, tastes, and interests. In a sense, a world view is a spiritual prism through which a person perceives and experiences everything around him. Ideological conviction helps a person, in times of mortal danger, to overcome the instinct for self-preservation, to risk his life, and to accomplish heroic feats in the name of certain ideals.

In a class antagonistic society, there is and can be no unified world view: each class has its own world view, and there is a struggle of various world views. The classes that represent the most progressive mode of production also represent the most advanced world view. The content and social significance of the world view of a particular class may be consistently scientific or unscientific, materialistic or idealistic, atheistic or religious, revolutionary or reactionary, depending on whether its interests coincide with the objective trend of historical development and on whether these interests coincide with the data of science and social practice. For example, the feudal religious world view openly defended class inequality. When the bourgeoisie, as the ascendant class, opposed feudalism, it had a progressive world view. But even then its world view was limited in its class and historical significance. After the bourgeoisie came to power, its world view became conservative and reactionary. Because it is extremely contradictory, the bourgeois world view as a whole gives a distorted reflection of reality and hinders the development of society. It is dominated by irrationalism, apologies for capitalism, the cult of profits, and violence, which coexist with liberal and neoliberal concepts and with ideas that are petit bourgeois, anarchistic, and rebellious.

In contrast to the bourgeois world view, the communist world view, which summarizes advances in science and social practice, is consistently scientific, internationalist, and humanistic. Its origin coincided with the appearance of the workers’ revolutionary movement. Marxist-Leninist philosophy—dialectical and historical materialism—forms the core of the communist world view. The Marxist-Leninist world view is a powerful tool for the revolutionary transformation of the world. It is one of the decisive forces that organize people in the struggle for socialism and communism. In the contemporary world there is an acute struggle between two opposing world views—the communist and the bourgeois. The influence of Marxism-Leninism, which triumphs through the strength of truth and the validity of its consistently scientific premises, is growing during this struggle.

In socialist society the Marxist-Leninist world view has become dominant. The formation of the communist world view among broad masses of the working people is the heart of all of the party’s work in ideological upbringing. The Communist Party strives to make every person see the meaning of his life in the struggle for the practical embodiment of the ideals of communism, understand clearly the course of and prospects for the development of world events, analyze sociopolitical events correctly, and consciously build the new society. A very important task of the party is the upbringing of the people in the communist attitude toward work, in communist morality, and in true humanism, patriotism, and internationalism.


Programma KPSS (Priniata XXIIs”ezdom KPSS). Moscow, 1973.
Materialy XXIV s”ezda KPSS. Moscow, 1973.
Osnovy marksistko-leninskoi filosofii, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1972.
Ermolov, A. la. RoV filosofii v formirovanii mirovozzreniia. Moscow, 1964.
Chernovolenko, V. F. Mirovozzrenie i nauchnoe poznanie. Kiev, 1970.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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