Figure 1.--Here Chinese students at th beginnining of the Cultural Revolution are showing off their Little Red Book of Mao quotes (February 1967). Despite the appeal of Socilist ideology, itvpractice it does not work. Under Mao some 75 million people perished, four times more than the Japanese killed during World War II. With market reforms, more Chimese people in just one generation escaped poverty than in all of the five mellennia of Chinese history.

Ideology is a system of ideas and ideals, especially one that forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy. Often political parties expose ideologies. Another group of ideas is theology asexpoused by religious gtoups/ Some religions like Islam also expouse political ideology. This has changed over time. The Cgristinity that emerged from the Roman Empire expoused the political ideology of absolutism, but ober time Christianity withdrew from the political realm. Over time there hace been a huge number of different economic, political, and social system. And political philosophers have written extensively on even more political system including utopia and idealized systemd. Political scientusts have attmpted to develop a 'ist of basic ideologies in which the various historical sociries since the appearance of civilization in Mesopotamia nerly 10 millenia ago can be grouped. A basic grouping on which many historians can agree include five major politicl ideologies: Anarchism, Absolutism, Liberalism, Conservatism, and Socialism. In actual practice, some of these ideologies seem to bleed together, like democratic socialist, and Marxist-Lennist socialism, but over time they have been mutually exclusive in actual societies. It is notable how these ideologies except for absolutism rose in the West.


Anarchism is in short the belief that the best government is absence of government and political controls. Anarchists argue that government by its very nature is repressive and thus should be abolished entirely. anarchist thinking becomes most prevalent in repressive socities like absolutist monarchies. The Tsarist state spurned anarchist thought, but so did librral democracies like the United States. A related outlook is nihilism which appears to adopt the idea that both government and society as ahole has to be must be periodically scrapped abd ociety begin anew. Both anrchists and nihilists reject traditional social concepts of morality and legititimize violence and terror. They are firced to adopt such tactics as the state they seek to destroy commonly has strong security forces at is disposal. Anarchists and nihilists were in the 19th century strinly assiciated with the socialist movemebt. The anarchists and nihilists along with the socialits promoted theidea of revolutionary change and the overhrow of the monarchies and liberal democrcies which governd Europe in the 19th cenbtury. As socialist politiclmparties began to gain political power through elections, a chasm opened up betweem socilsm and arbrchism. When Lennin and the Bolsheviks seized cintrol od Eussia, one of the groups they most bigirously supreessed was the anarchists. A variant somwehere between anarchism and liberal democracy in america is the Libertarian Party. They believe that some government is nececessary, but that the best government is both small and limited. And that it should interfere in the lives of citizens as rarely as possible. Only with limited givernment can basic invividual liberty be preserved. Russia has the longest and deepest association with both anarchism and nihilism. Some of the most noted proponents of both movements were Russians. Russian political theorist, Mikhail Bakunin, is often described as the father of modern anarchism. Russian anarchits and nihilists launched a series of high profile terrorist attacks (late-19th and early-20yhbcenturies), most prominantly the assassination of liberal Tsar Alexander II (1881). This led to the repressive reigm of his son Alexander III who ferventky believed in absolutism.


Much of world history has been shaped by absolutism, including tht of the west. Absolutism is the idea that a single ruler should dominte the state and control every aspect of not only the government, but the social order as well. Often absolute rulers desire to control every aspect of theue subjects' lives. Absolutism is strongly associated with monarrchy, but onky because monarchy could use inheritance to secure aeaceful sucession. Absolute rulers have adopted a variety of titles , including chieftain, king, shah, pharaoh, emperor, inca, sultan, prince, as well as others. Some absolute rulers have adopted the guisesas deities. This was the case of pharaohs as well as Romam emperors begining with Augustus. Commonly in the Christian West absolute monarchs were seen a the recipient of a divine right to rule meaningthat God had annpoited them to rule. Thus among absolute rulers, caesaropapism was prominant. This is a system in which the political ruler is is also the head religious authority, this included pharoah, the Roman emperor, and the caliph and Sultan in the Islmic world. In the Byzantine or Eastern Empire, the double-headed eagle symbolized caesaropapism. The two ragle heads stood for church and state. This symbol graphically epicts the unity of secular and religious authority in to one single individual. This did not occur in the West where the Holy Roman emoeror centrakized political power and the bishop of Rome (the Roman Catholic pope) energed as the primary religious authority--a development which would eventualy crack absolutism. While absolutism no longer is highly regarded, over time it has hasd its proponents, including major philosphers. None other than Plato who emerged ironically from Athenian democracy was a strong advocate of absolutism. He argued that the best government would be run by a benevolent absolute ruler who would rule in the best interests of his people. Actually Plato may have been right, but he neglected to explain how to ensure that such leaders were benevolent or could required to remain benevolent. Two milennia later, English philosopher Thomas Hobbes argued persuasively for absolutism. [Hobbes] He refuted anarchism by arguing that life in a state of nature without governments was “nasty, brutish, and short”. Thus people had to submit to absolute rulers —- even tyrannical ones because life without order was worse than even the most tyranical ruler. We wonder what Hobbes would have made of stalin, Hitler, and Mao. He believed that strong, stable givernment allowed people to live long, prosperous lives. In practist, few rulers were absolutist, Stalin probbly comes as close to absolutism as any modern rulers. Whle monarcy is most strongly associated with absolutism, it is the totalitarian states of the 20th century with their socialist justification that have generated totalirarian rule beyound the freams of most medieval monarchs. A major variant to absolutism is authoritarianism. This is what we see in many countries both historically today and in mny modern countries. Putin has, for example, converted Russia;s brief experiencewuth democracy into an authoritarian state,

Liberal Democracy

Absolutism in various forms has existed througout history in all gepgraphic regions. It is the nost common form of human society. Liberalism or liberal democracy is very different. It is centered on the fusion of the classical tradition with Judeo-Christian thought. At its core is the idea of freedom--an invention of the west. For a time with the fall of Rome that idea was lost, but partially preserved by the Church. Then a series of remaraable transformations prepared Europe for liberal democracy--the Renissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment. Another important preparatory steps was the division ofauthority between church and state made possible by the conflict between the emperor and pope. Other important steps were the development of free market capitalim, the invention of the scientific method, and the European maritime outreach--all interelted developments. This all dundamentally altered Europe an its North American colonies. The fact that this only occurred in Europe meant that Europeans and only Eyropeans began to develop new ways of thinking. And one of the most important of these new ideas was liberalism. Classical liberlism first appeared in England (17th century). The preminent proponent was John Locke. [Locke] He rethought the relationship between the individual and society. He also wrote about the rights and responsibilities of the individual. Locke's ideas formed the foundation for democratic politicl systems today. The 18th century ended with two remarkable revolutions. The American Revolution (1776-83) fundamentally challenged absolutism and monarchy. Locke's His ideas are deeply imbeded in the U.S. Constitution which codified Locke and other Enligtenment thought, butwith a framework of law and he pritection of individual rights. The French Revolution followed a decade later (1789–1799) at first with the same ideological ideals as the American Revolution. The French monarchy and much of the church were swept away along wit law and society. The revolutionaries follwing Enlightnment idead held reason to be highesrt ideal. (The Enlightement is calle the age of reason.) The French even went to the extent of creating a temple to reason. The revolutionaries renamed the Notre Dame in Paris 'the Temple of Reason' (1793). The Revolutionaries readers, unlike the American revolutionaries plunged the countries into a decade of civil war, domestic violence. and war with the other Europen states. Order and authoritarian rule was only restored wihen Naoleon Bonaprte (1799). After the defeat of Napoleon (1815), conservative monarchies were restored to power, but liberal democracies gradually emerged in the 19th century.


Conservatism began in Europe as a reaction against the liberal ideas of the Enlightenment that were taking hold throughout Europe even before the French Rvolution (late-18th century). The leading spokesman was Edmund Burke, a British member of Parliament. He and many other englishmen observed the onset of the French Revolution with considerable distress. And he predicted the violence and terror that would occur. [Burke] His work is one of the most important statements of classical conservatism. Burke and other conservatives criticized liberalism on many fronts. The charged that it destroyed tradition, tht it its rush to overturn the Ancien Régime and usher in a new liberal future (democracyand capuitaliam, essentially political and economic freedom), traditional institutions and beliefs which held society together were being ruthlessly atacked. Conservatives argue that stability is a precious thing needed to preserve human society. Change thus must be made gradually, not only to preserve stability, but to preserve important aspects of traditiojal society, but to ensure that the changes being considered are are beneficial. Undermining stability is a dangerous process and can lead to unimaginable chaos and violence as in France, Mexico, Russia, China, Cambodia, Iran, and other revolutionary countries. The classical liberal and socialist call for revolution through violence can lead to turbulence and social disintegration and the death of millions rather than progress. A reader writes, "I think Edmund Burke got it right. What we are seeing in America today is the destruction of all our institutions. Actually it started in the late-60s and hasn't stopped. Liberal social policies and the Feminist movement have helped to destroy the American family unit. The Supreme Court's left leaning justices have re defined marraige. People of faith are derided as backwoods bigots. Truth is supressed by political correctness and a left-leaning media. The left are in reality nihilists. They do not want to change America, they want to destroy it and then rebuild it in their image."


Socialism lso arose in the West. It was as a response to the negative consequences of the Industrial Revolution. New technologies , which was the emergence of technologies such as the steam engine and mass production and a range of technological advances created wealth on an unprecedented level. The Industrial Revolution began in England (mid-18th century and gradually spread to America and the Continent. It caused unprecented social upheavals. It created many new jobs, but also destoyed many existing jobs in a very short period of time. People were forced to abandon a rural agricultural life and move into the expanding cities where jobs were being created. Early versions os socialisms were Utopiam Socialis (early-19th century). Early versions of socialism appeared in Europe and America. Socialism as we know it oday emerged soon after s industrialization behn to expand beyond Engand (mid-19th century). Marx is the leading theorist of socialism. Although aGerman, Marx worked in England which afforded unprecedented freedom of expresion and inquiry. Ironically the restriction on freeom, like free expression would prove to be one of the fundamental weaknesses of socialim.) Karl Marx and Fredrich Engles issued the Communist Manifesto (1848). It was a call to revolution issue admist the Revolutions of 1848 that broke out on the Continent--but not in England. Marx and engles were not the only important socialist theorits. Also important were Karl Kautsky, Vladimir Lenin, and Antonio Gramsci. The Socialist Movement at the turn-of the-20th century split into two factions, the Communists who wanted violent revolution and democrtic socialists who wanted to work throught the political process. Both Communists and Democratic Socialists aggreed on major issues like collectivism, public ownership, cen, the labor theory of value and other issues as sketched out by Matx. [Marx] Socialist thinking that emerged in Europe promoted collectivism. Socialists contended that humans are a social animal and human human society should respect this. Socialists saw individualism, in esence freedom, as poisonous. This would be the essence of the new Soviet Man. In actuality, socialists got it wrong and trying to hammer people into the mold of the Socialist Man led to the death of millions and ultimately the collapse of the Soviet Union. This was the basis for public ownership. Society, not individuals should own the the means of production. And again socialists got it wrong, public ownershop ment that instead of creating wealth, public corprations destroyed wealth. The raw material inpits into most Soviet factories were worth more than the manufactured output. Which is why Soviet concerns went banrupt when the oviet Union was disbanded. This is also why in the European demcratic socialist countries the industries nationalized have now been largely privitized. Socialism also advocated central economic planning. The government should plans the economy and abolish or limit market forces. Again central planning proved an abject failure. The success of market reforms in the Asian Tigers and eventually China proved the benefits to be found by embrasing free markets. And Socialists argued that all people should equal shares of a society's income. This of course sounds wonderful, only every where tried it generated poverty. You could take money away from the affluent, but where ever tried, the overall impact was to create a society where everyone becomes poor. While Communism has failed except as system capable of generating military power, democratic socialism as practiced in Europe has proven nore sucessful. And this is because key elemebts pf Marxist thought were abandined or modified. Democratic socialism is a peaceful, democratic approach to achieving socialism. Democratic socialism also advocates a classless society share in the benefits of a sucessful society and economy. But they no longer advicate public ownershp of the means of production. In fact all the European democratic socialist counyries have core market economies that pay the bills for massive welfare systems used to equalize benefits to the poor and unemployed. While beneficial to some extent, welfare benefits also act to perpetuate irresponsible behavior that lead to poverty and employment difficulties. Unlike the Communst countries democratic socialism attempts to achieve its goals peacefully through the democratic political processes. And they have adopted the ideals of linral democracy such as basic human rights, including garanteed fredoms. Most Europeans today are pleased with the Democratic Socialist societies that they have created. This dominates thinking throughout Europe nd increasingly in America. Not yet fully understood is the degree to which European prosperity has been underwritten by American subsidies, especially its security umbrella as well as massive, unsustainable borrowing to pay the costs of the welfare system. In addition the regulations placed on industry has substantially reduced growth and job creation leading to extremely high welfare rates. These problems first surfaced in Greece, but many other European countries are headed in he same direction.


Burke, Edmund. Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790).

Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan (1651).

Locke, John. Second Treatise of Government (1690).

Marx, Karl. Das Kapital


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Created: 6:41 AM 4/7/2016
Last updated: 6:41 AM 4/7/2016