Political theory scholars have been focusing on the debate about which of the three factors is the most important one since the times when politics evolved as a science. The need to understand the grounds of political behaviour tends to explain continuity of the discussion. Therefore, coming back to the terminology of the question, we must first define what we mean by "more important". "More important" should refer to a factor, which best helps to comprehend why people make political decisions in the way they do and how, in turn, it shapes their political behaviour. Whether it be political ideas and the way they affect our outlook on the world, material factors and the way the dictate how we are supposed to behave to live in a stable society or individuals themselves and the power they possess. In this essay, I would like to focus on how each element can be viewed as the most important one and then challenge this idea by looking at how, actually, it is the interaction of the aspects with each other that makes them more powerful than a single element on their own. This will be assessed by looking at different approaches and concepts within political theory. .
In a political context, ideas are the hardest to define as they can refer to many different issues such as norms, beliefs, individual views on the world and social paradigms, hence why there is no general consensus on what they represent. For the sake of this essay, the definition of ideas will be narrowed to normative concepts that identify an outlook on how political institutions and structures should be run in order to bring about the best consequences to society. Using this definition, it is easier to assess the importance of "ideas" to political behaviour. One approach that emphasises the prevailing role of ideas above other factors is idealism, which suggests that it is indeed human ideas and beliefs that affect our societies and the way we make our decisions (Macionis, 2012).