A discussion of the Major
Ideologies of the Western World
What is an ideology?
Dominant vs Counter-Ideologies
The Components of Ideologies
Democratic Ideologies
Non-Democratic Ideologies
Other Ideologies
Ideologies: Early Beginnings
The French Philosopher Antoine
Destrutt de Tracy coined the term
ideologie to mean “the science of
During the Enlightenment (18th
Century), many philosophers in
France (called philosophes),
believed that the application of
human reason (not adherence to
faith) was needed to deal with social,
economic and political challenges.
Before the Enlightenment, most
ideologies were primarily religious.
It was during this period that we
would see the great debate of faith
vs. reason.
Napoleon Bonaparte called his
political enemies “ideologues”
because they tended to hold liberal
ideals and anti-religious views. This
term is still used today
Eugene Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading
The People”
What is an Ideology?
• What is an ideology?
Generally speaking, it is a
value system through which
we perceive, explain and
accept the world.
• According to the political
theorist Robert Dahl, all
individuals are ideologues in
the sense that we all map out
our own interpretations of
what the world is and how it
should be.
What is the role of an Ideology?
• Ideologies present a simplified
“cause and effect” interpretation of
a complex world (e.g.“Axis of Evil”
and the “coalition of the willing)
• They provide a theory of human
nature that explains basic
economic, social and political
• Ideologies appear to be moral in
tone and aspire to perfect our
behavior (e.g. counter laziness, or
• They are often supported by
constitutions, manifestos or
writings (e.g the Communist
• They discuss issues such as
leadership, political succession
and electoral behavior
Dominant Ideologies
• Dominant Ideologies support the
existing social and political
arrangements (e.g. Conservatism
in the United States after 9/11)
• Ideologies that dominate in a
society are ones that carry the
message of the elites through the
Agents of Socialization such as:
• Governments (Political Parties,
Pressure Groups)
• The Schools
• The Media
• Families and Peer Groups
Dominant Ideologies
What is the sign that a particular
ideology is dominating the political
• The majority of the population
accepts the ideology without
hesitation (e.g. The Free-market
system in the United States).
• The most powerful people in the
country (the elites) accept the
• The existence of a dominate
ideology allows a society to keep
subordinate groups in check (e.g.
Communists, anarchists, etc) as
long as they constitute a minority
in society
Anti- Globalization Protestors
Kept in check in Seattle, USA.
• The role of counter ideologies is
to advance radical reform in
• In Canada, groups such as the
Marxist-Leninist Party serve such
a role.
• They normally develop in
response to a perceived
inequality in society.
• There main job is to challenge
the status quo.
• Feminism is certainly an
example of a counter ideology in
the extent that it seeks to
challenge inequalities in the
workplace based on gender (e.g.
equal pay for work of equal
The impact of Counter Ideologies
• It is the stresses that exist between
dominant ideologies and counter
ideologies that produce real political
• In fact, the origin of of a dominant
ideology is usually a counter ideology
• Examples:
• The Russian Revolution of 1917
• The French Revolution of 1789
• The CCF’s plan for medicare
• The “green” counter-ideology of
fighting Greenhouse gas emissions is
now a part of mainstream political
Tommy Douglas
The Major Components of
• The state of human nature
• The role of the individual in
• The role of the state
• The sources and limits of
political authority
• The preferred economic
Iranian President Mahmoud
and social order
Ideologies: Human Nature
• Are human beings born to be
basically good or basically bad
(innate), or is behavior the
result of social conditioning?
• For conservatives, human
behavior is unchangeable. The
role of government is to control
the undesirable consequences
of human behavior (Thomas
• For Liberals, humans are
inherently good. As a result, we
don’t need to be so tightly
controlled by government
Ideologies: Role of the Individual
• Is it the role of the individual to
serve the interests of the
government, or the role of the
government to serve the needs of
the individual?
• With Communism, the welfare of
the individual is subordinate to the
interests of the state.
• For Liberals, the role of the
government is to provide the
conditions for individual freedom
(e.g. Constitution guarantees
individual rights). The rights of the
individual in many cases takes
precedence over the rights of the
state (e.g. private property).
Free Trade and Economic
Ideologies: Role of the State
• In some ideologies, the state
is essentially a symbol of evil
in society (e.g. Anarchism).
Individual liberty is
threatened by the existence
of strong government
control. This is the theory of
“Absolute power corrupts
• Most modern ideologies (e.g.
social democracy) maintain
that a strong government
(with limits) is necessary in
order to maintain social
order and living standards
(e.g. public healthcare and
What limits should be placed on individual
Ideologies: Limits on Political
• In some ideologies (Western
democracies), political authority is
derived by the consent of the
governed (e.g. through elections).
• For fascists and Marxist-Leninists,
political authority is derived by the
will of the state or dictators.
Consensus is needed in order to
guarantee social order and
• For democrats, consent is needed
by the people to justify their power.
The people decide to give up their
individual power to the state. This is
also known as the concept of
political legitimacy.
What limits were placed on their power?
Ideologies: The Preferred
Economic and Social Order
• Ideologies have to deal with the
fundamental question of who
controls the wealth in society.
Should wealth be equally shared, or
should some individuals be allowed
to possess more wealth than
• For communists, private ownership
is not allowed. They are committed
to providing an equitable
distribution of wealth
• For capitalists, people need to
compete with one another in order
to have an incentive for material
gain. Economic and social
inequities are allowed to exist
Bill Gates
Wall Street
Democratic Ideologies
• The beginnings of democracy can be
traced back to the Greeks.
• Pericles (495-429 BC) declared that
ancient Athens (Greece) was a
democracy because “power rested in
the hands of the many instead of the
• Aristotle (384-322 BC) wrote in his
famous work Politics, that direct
popular government would create
mob rule. What was needed was
majority rule with respect for
individual rights. This would later be
known as Constitutional Democracy.
• Socrates and Plato were both very
critical of democracy since they felt
that it would produce undesirable
The Trial of Socrates
Democratic Ideologies
• In the 17th, 18th and 19th
centuries, a series of political
philosophers would make
great contributions to our
present understanding of
what is democracy such as:
• Thomas Hobbes
• John Locke
• Jean-Jacques Rousseau
• John Stuart Mill
• Alexis de Tocqueville
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Democratic Ideologies: Liberalism
• Political Ideologies – The Big Three
In Canada
• Part 1: Liberalism
• Origins
• In Canada, liberal ideas were key
factors in establishing the concept
of responsible government (18301840)
• Liberal theories date back to the
Enlightenment, Ancient Rome
• Early influential liberal thinkers:
John Locke (life, liberty, property)
and John Stuart Mill (utilitarian
John Stuart Mill
Democratic Ideologies: Liberalism
• The 20th Century
• Through two world wars in
Canada, liberalism emphasized the
importance of rights (civil and
• Liberals emphasized
representative democracy
(legitimate and limited power),
human rights (Charter of Rights &
Freedoms), and rules of procedure
(parliamentary process, judicial
• Most dominant ideology in this
Queen Elizabeth signs Canada’s
Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Pierre Elliott Trudeau
Democratic Ideologies: Liberalism
• What Makes A Liberal?
• Liberals stress equality of
opportunity, reject special
treatment for those with privilege
• Equality before the law
• Freedom is a leading value and it
is pluralistic: freedom of
association, freedom of religion,
freedom of assembly
• Liberals are thought to be more
permissive and open to change
than Conservatives (e.g. samesex marriage)
Barack Obama
Stephen Lewis
Democratic Ideologies: Liberalism
• Different Kinds of Liberals
• The most common issue that Liberals
disagree among themselves about is
how to manage the economy:
– Egalitarian liberalism – welfare
state, progressive taxation,
equalization payments, state
intervention (left of centre)
– Libertarian liberalism – rejects
attempts of state to achieve social
equality by manipulating the
economy (right of centre)
Liberal Prime Minister
Paul Martin Jr.
Key Liberal Principles
• Rule of Law: Protects citizens from tyranny
by having all people equal under the law
• Responsible Govt: All govt officials are
accountable to the people (electoral
• Civil Liberties: The freedoms of thought,
expression, religion and freedom of the
• Constitutionalism: The establishment of a
specific document that defines and limits
the powers of government (e.g. the
Canadian BNA Act)
• Individualism: The role of the govt is to
serve the interests of the individual so that
each person can maximize their individual
Former Prime Minister
Lester B Pearson
Key Liberal Principles
• Majority Rule: Govt decisions are
made in response to the wishes of
the majority (not the minority)
• Popular Sovereignty: The source
of the govt’s power flows from the
• International Co-operation:
Liberals (economic liberals), calls
for the elimination of trade barriers
between nations (e.g. tariffs,
quotas) in order to promote
economic growth and international
Adam Smith
Democratic Ideologies:
• Conservatism
• Defined: from the Latin word
“conservare” – to keep, guard,
observe; a commitment to
preserve tradition while
recognizing there needs to be
gradual improvement
• Change is not as important as
respecting laws and traditions,
therefore conservatives are
against radicalism
Edmund Burke
Democratic Ideologies:
• Types of Conservatism:
• Cultural – wants to enshrine the existing
or “received” heritage of a nation; may
reject attempts to change culture; many
believe in a universal morality while
others think moral codes should only
apply within a nation
• Religious – most conservatives believe
in some type of religion or organized
faith that is established and has
centuries of tradition (East and West);
religious conservative values may
include referring to God, opposing
Democratic Ideologies:
• Fiscal – a commitment
to reducing
government spending
and debt; gov’t does
not have the right to
run up large debts and
then throw the burden
on the taxpayer
Senator John McCain
Key Conservative Principles
• Reverence for the past: Societies
obtain wisdom from their customs
and traditions and must respect the
accomplishments of their ancestors
• Constitutional continuity:
Constitutions need to be maintained.
Avoid sudden changes
• Opposition to Revolution:
Conservatives reject radical change
• The Religious Basis of the State:
The state has the moral, religious
character. It is not just political and
Key Principles Cont’d
• The priority of duties over
rights: Conservatives
recognize that individuals have
personal rights and civic
duties. They must not forget
their duties
• Loyalty: Conservatives
demonstrate loyalty to the
church, family, school and the
prime institutions of the nation
• Common Sense and
Pragmatism: Conservative are
George Bush
Democratic Socialism
• Political Ideologies – The
Big Three In Canada
• Part 2: Socialism
• Origins
• “Socialism” was first used
in late 19th century to
condemn capitalist
• most early socialists
believed in the abolition of
markets, private property,
and of not treating labour
as a commodity
Tommy Douglas
• Early influential socialist thinkers:
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Francois
Noel Babeuf (complete economic
and political equality)
• Most influential thinker was
arguably Karl Marx, who wrote of
the class struggle between
workers and the bourgeoisie
• In Canada, socialist and social
democratic ideas have been
expressed mainly by the old CCF
(Co-Operative Commonwealth
Federation) and the NDP (New
Democratic Party)
Karl Marx
Marxism vs Democratic
• Marxism vs. Democratic Socialism
• General perspectives on class struggle and emphasis
on the worker are similar
• Marxists believe that class struggle will end only if the
working class controls the means of production
(socialism of distribution)
• Social Democrats accept capitalist economies but
believe in public ownership and state intervention in
the economy (socialism of economic production)
• Where Marxist Socialists advocate for complete
control of the economy, Social Democrats believe in
the democratic process (elections) and accept private
• A Socialist’s Values
• Socialist values prioritize
social equality above all else,
including economic freedom
(contrary to Conservatives and
many Liberals)
• In Canada, the NDP has been
primarily concerned with
social justice issues:
– Health care, Housing, Public
Education, the Elderly
Bob Rae: Former Leader of the
Ontario NDP
Socialism Cont’d
• Socialists believe in a
strong central state
with extensive
government agencies
• Over the last several
years, social
democrats have also
expressed concern
about U.S. influence
in our economy (e.g.
free trade)
Maude Barlow: President of
The Council of Canadians
Non-Democratic Ideologies
Fascism in Italy: Benito Mussolini
The Beginning
Mussolini was heavily influenced by the
fascist model in Rerum Novarum, written
by Pope Leo XIII in 1892
The state was like a human body (working
with one mind – no class struggle)
In 1919, Mussolini’s fascist party
participated in Italy’s elections
– Initial program called for: a democratic
republic, separation of church & state, a
national army, progressive taxation on
inherited wealth
As the movement grew in strength, several
of these were abandoned (e.g. progressive
Mussolini exploited fears regarding both
capitalism and the rise of communism;
fascism became the “third way”
Fascist Reign
Mussolini was appointed President of Italy’s
council by the King in 1922 to avoid further
The King still controlled the army, but Mussolini
operated a coalition gov’t
Socialist Deputy Giacomo Matteotti was
assassinated; shortly after Mussolini accepted
responsibility for his death and proclaimed a
dictatorship in which his party was identified as
the state
In the 1930’s, Italy recovered from the Great
Depression by creating domestic substitutes to
replace imports and this increased Mussolini’s
In 1935, Mussolini invaded Ethiopia (used
chemical weapons, mustard gas); killed women
and children; creating international sanctions
Mussolini and Hitler
• Mussolini’s Fall
• Before the war started, Mussolini began an alliance with
Hitler and passed anti-Semitic laws in 1938
• Allies invaded southern Italy in 1943 and captured
• Nazis helped him escape temporarily and he set up a
“gov’t” in northern Italy before being captured again and
• Mussolini’s Influence
• The most obvious influence is nationalism
• Mussolini wanted to affirm an Italian identity and restore
• Use of propaganda (believe, obey, fight)
• Fascism (fascismo)
• Definition: a political philosophy or
movement that promotes nation and
often race above the individual; a
centralized autocratic government led
by a dictator of the extreme right who
suppresses his opposition (by force)
• Development of Fascism
• A reaction against democratic capitalist economies
and communism
• Rejected notion of social classes and class conflict
• Embraced idea of national pride
• Legitimacy through strength and power (might
makes right)
• War for nationalist purposes and unification of race
becomes glorified
• Had appeal for anti-communists and those upset
with capitalism
• Control – Economic and Otherwise
• Regulates and controls the means of production
• Economy is run by the state and the wealthiest
• The state is superior to the individual (unlike
• Past greatness must be restored (e.g. Italy & The
Roman Empire)
• System demands loyalty to a single leader
• Political support came from big business, farmers,
nationalists, reactionaries, and some World War I
• Is Fascism Still Relevant?
• Although there are numerous
right-wing parties throughout
the world, there are no selfproclaimed fascist parties
• Neo-Nazis and Mussolini
sympathizers are often referred
to as fascists
• Some critics of right wing
politics consider “corporatism”
to be fascist in nature: countries
with large corporations who
heavily influence a state’s
economy (U.S., Canada)
• “We are free to believe that this
is the century of authority.”
• - Benito Mussolini
Neo-Nazi Movement
• Developed by Karl Marx (18181883)
• In 1844, Marx met Friedrich
Engels (social scientist). In
1847, they wrote the
Communist Manifesto. The
central ideas were:
• The abolition of private property
• The re-organization of society
in which there would no longer
be a separation of society
based upon social and
economic class
• The root cause of the class
struggle is between those
who control the Means of
Production (The
Bourgeoisie), and those
who work for them (The
• The Capitalist Mode of
Production, produces
social and economic
inequities that are
inevitable (e.g. 99% of the
wealth is controlled by 1%
of the population).
• For Marx, a
revolution of the
workers was
inevitable whereby
the Proletariat would
seize control of the
means of production
and produce a more
distribution of
The Russian Revolution
• Vladimir Lenin (18701924) was a Bolshevik
revolutionary who had
studied the theories of
Marx and Engels.
• He developed what would
later be known as MarxistLeninism; an ideology that
mixed the economic and
social theories of
communism with the
political arrangement of an
autocratic elite.
• Lenin’s justification for
dictatorship was based on
the idea that the common
classes were not capable
of successfully delivering
the central theories of
Marxism. Democracy
was not embraced.
• Joseph Stalin would take
this further!
Lenin and Stalin
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