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The Impact of Political Ideologies The twentieth century was marked by ideological disagreements that led to political upheaval, violent revolution, and.

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Presentation on theme: "The Impact of Political Ideologies The twentieth century was marked by ideological disagreements that led to political upheaval, violent revolution, and."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Impact of Political Ideologies The twentieth century was marked by ideological disagreements that led to political upheaval, violent revolution, and a dramatic arms race in a polarized world. “Anyone desiring a quiet life has done badly to be born in the twentieth century.” —Leon Trotsky The presence of radical Islamism and Neo-Nazism show that ideas and beliefs still hold sway over groups of people. “The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies— civilians and military—is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it.” —fatwa from Osama Bin Laden 1

2 A Working Definition of “Ideology” Ideology: a fairly coherent and comprehensive set of ideas that: explains and evaluates social conditions helps people understand their place in society provides a program for social and political action 2

3 The Four Functions of “Ideology” Each ideology performs four functions: 1.Explanatory 2.Evaluative 3.Orientative 4.Programmatic Ideologies perform these four functions because they are trying to link thought to action. Ideologies provide a vision of the social and political world as it is and as it should be. 3Copyright © 2014, 2011, 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

4 1. Explanation Why are social, political, and economic conditions as they are? Particularly in times of crisis people will search for some explanation of what is happening. Why are there wars? Why do depressions occur? What causes unemployment? Why are some people rich and others poor? Why are relations between different races so often strained, difficult, or hostile? Every ideology tries to answer these questions and to make sense of the complicated world in which we live. 4

5 2. Evaluation By which standards and criteria are we to evaluate social conditions? Given a certain set of social conditions, how do we decide whether things are good or bad? Are all wars evils to be avoided, or are some morally justifiable? Are depressions a normal part of the business cycle or a symptom of a sick economic system? Is full employment a reasonable ideal or a naive pipe dream? Are racial tensions inevitable or avoidable? Ideologies provide standards that help people assess, judge, and appraise social policies and conditions so that they can decide whether those policies and conditions are desirable or not. 5

6 3. Orientation Who am I? To which groups do I belong, and how am I related to the rest of the world? An ideology supplies its adherent with an orientation and a sense of identity—of who he or she is, the group (race, nation, sex, and so on) to which he or she belongs, and how he or she is related to the rest of the world. If you are a communist, for example, you think of yourself as a member of the working class. If you are as feminist, you think of yourself as first and foremost a woman. Ideologies help people orient themselves—to gain a sense of where they are, who they are, and how they fit into a complicated world. 6

7 4. Political Program “What is to be done?” An ideology performs a programmatic or prescriptive function by setting out a general program of social and political action. An ideology tells its followers what to do and how to do it. Having diagnosed social conditions that are bad, ideologies supply a program for action that may improve matters. 7

8 What counts as an ideology? To qualify as an ideology, a system of ideas must perform the four functions specified in the functional definition. Common misconceptions: Any word that ends in “ism” is an ideology Alcoholism, Magnetism, Nationalism, Anarchism Democracy is an ideology Democracy is more properly identified as an ideal to which nearly all ideologies aspire Religions and other “belief systems” are ideologies Religion tends to be focused on the supernatural and the divine; ideologies focus on the here and now 8

9 Human Nature and Freedom Human Nature Human nature—basic human drives, motivations, limitations, and possibilities Conceptions of human nature are important for ideologies because they set limits on what is politically possible by assessing what humans are truly like and what they can achieve. Freedom Freedom = “essentially contested concept” No indisputably correct definition of “freedom” Every ideology claims to defend freedom, but each ideology defines freedom differently. Provides a convenient basis for comparing and contrasting different ideologies 9

10 MacCallum’s Triadic Model of Freedom Every conception of freedom has three components: (A) an agent, (B) an obstacle, and (C) a goal The agent is the person or group that should be free. This agent must be free to pursue some goal such as practicing religion, speaking freely, or taking a walk. In order to attain this goal, the agent must overcome various obstacles, barriers, or restraints such as chains, prejudice, or poverty. 10

11 The Triadic Model of Freedom 11 A Agent B Obstacle C Goal

12 Ideology and Revolution 12 Revolutions bring about sweeping changes in social, economic, and political life. Modern revolutionaries aim to overthrow old orders, which they believe to be fundamentally rotten or corrupt, and replace it with something better. Ideologies have their own idea of what counts as an advance or improvement and are generally optimistic about the possibility of dramatic progress and significant improvement in the quality of human life.

13 Nationalism Very powerful force in modern politics, but does not qualify as an ideology. Why? Difficult to determine what a nation is and which shared traits define a nation Many countries have multiple “nationalities” within their population Despite the difficulty of defining nations and nationalities, nationalistic sentiments have been evident in the recent ethnic conflicts that resulted from the collapse of the Soviet Union. 13

14 Anarchism Anarchist: someone who favors abolishing the state and replacing its coercive force with voluntary cooperation Not in favor of chaos but voluntary cooperation Anarchists believe that competitiveness is a result of coercive government authority Anarchism is not considered an ideology because there are disagreements: How to overthrow the state: violent vs. non-violent Type of stateless society: competitive vs. cooperative 14

15 Conclusion An ideology is a more or less coherent and comprehensive set of ideas that performs four functions for those who accept it: 1.It explains why social conditions are the way they are 2.It evaluates those conditions 3.It orients people so they can see how they fit into society 4.It prescribes a program for social and political action Ideologies also have core assumptions about human nature and freedom—assumptions that have led most ideologies, at one time or another, to call for revolution. 15

16 Readings Part I: The Concept of Ideology Terrell Carver—Ideology: The Career of a Concept 16

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