ANSWERS: 3
  • Not sure what you mean by "four major political ideologies." I can think of several different schools of thought, and depending on historical context, you could trace it down to two - coming from Aristotle and Plato. So I will make a stab here at the schools you may have meant. (Because the site does not allow for writing in paragraphs, but only allows what can charitably be called a "word blob," this will look messy, but I will do my best to separate it out.) 1) Liberalism - A product of the Enlightenment, liberalism's primary focus is on the maximization of liberty. It is rooted in the idea that there are natural rights, common to all human beings, and that minimizing government interference in such rights will conduce to a spontaneously harmonious social order. Among its philosophical progenitors are John Locke, Jean Jaques Rousseau, Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Thomas Jefferson, Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, among many others. Typically liberalism breaks down into three subsets. Classical liberalism (which Americans call, wrongly, conservatism,) is best characterized in the phrase, "That government is best that governs least." Then there is "radical liberalism." Note that the term "radical" here does NOT mean as we use it today, i.e. extremist. Rather it comes from the ancient Greek usage, "to the root of." Radical liberals, typically what Americans think of as liberalism, argue that maximizing freedom alone is insufficient because of the basic inequalities resulting from differences in wealth and social status between people. Radical liberals therefore argue that a transformative welfare state is necessary to mitigate social and economic differences between people and their resulting inequalities of power and so engineer social arrangements to facilitate maximum freedom for the most people. A third group, usually wrongly attributed to the conservative school, is the libertarians. Libertarians believe that government is best which govern least, but unlike other liberals believe that the definition of freedom is that which people do spontaneously. Therefore, unlike other liberals who believe that government must be instituted in order to give expression to and "secure" human freedom - see also the Founding Fathers - libertarians believe that simply eliminating government to a bare minimum of external defense and the protection of the individual from violence is sufficient to define and maximize liberty. Overall, in the liberal construct, things like religion, national identity and so forth are superfluous "add-on's" to human nature and that man is essentially an undifferentiated being, and that abstract a priori reason is the surest guide to human wisdom and practical knowledge. In the liberal view, human beings are perfectible given the proper societal and governmental arrangements. 2) Conservatism. It comes from the natural law, rather than the natural rights, school. Its defining premise, unlike the liberals, is that the central purpose of government is not to maximize freedom, but rather to nurture human virtue. It argues that there is not natural rights, but rather natural law - that conformance to such laws are what most conduce to human virtue and community. It argues, unlike liberalism, that man is a social being and that government is therefore natural to man. (Note that in this usage "natural" does NOT mean that which men do spontaneously, but rather that which conduces to man's excellence. In other words, to give a practical example, man is what he has the potential to be. Raise a wolf to be the best wolf it can be and it will remain a wolf. Raise a baby to be the best man it can be, and it may cure cancer, go to the moon or write sonnets.) In this connection, conservatives argue that tradition, custom and experience are the surest guides to human wisdom. Men are defined not by their abstract humanity, but by their community, religion, family and other social institutions that each, in their particular way, give expression to our human nature and individuality. Conservatives, contrary to the American understanding, believe in the welfare state, which they see as an expression of the community's ethic of common provision, but use it merely to ameliorate social tensions born from the difficulties of old age and illness. (Two conservatives, Disraeli in Britain and Bismarck in Germany, founded the first welfare states.) In this they differ from the radical liberals, who believe in the welfare state as an instrument to engineer social arrangements. Conservatives believe that change should be whenever possible slow and gradual and rooted in prior knowledge and history, That when man is stripped of those things by which he defines himself - his faith, his community, etc. - that he will seek new identities and that such search is apt to be bloody and tyrannical. Note that in the conservative view, freedom is a means to an end - the pursuit of virtue - and not, as with the liberals, an end in itself. In this, then, democracy is to be preferred because human beings are imperfect and cannot be perfected, and virtue is impossible without choice. Conservatives argue that man is complex and therefore complexity is part of the human condition, and they resist social theories that attempt to simplify human nature and create "scientific" forms of government. In this view, rationality is not define by abstract reason, but with reference to history and human experience. Conservative thinkers include, Aristotle, the early Catholic Church social thinkers (Aquinas), Shakespeare, Edmund Burke, Benjamin Disraeli, Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, among others. 3) Marxism - typically it breaks down into socialism and communism, though there are other schools. Socialism is government ownership of the means of production. HUGE NOTE: Government ownership of the means of production is NOT the same thing as a welfare state. Typically, Marxists of all stripes were deeply hostile to the welfare state, which they regard as a bribe of the working class by the capitalist bourgeoise class. (Remember the story of Norman Thomas, the American socialist. He was walking with a friend when they were approached by a beggar. Thomas' friend reached into his pocket to give the beggar some money, but Thomas stopped his friend, saying, "Don't feed him. You'll delay the revolution.") Socialism is actually a reaction to liberalism. It seeks to root man's identity in class. It believes that history is an autonomous force and that human nature does not exist except insofar as it is defined by the autonomous dialectic of history. Human beings are therefore infinitely malleable and can be shaped to suit whatever social and economic arrangements are determined to be most scientifically rational by a central planning elite. Socialists believe that history points toward a synthesis in which all class distinctions will be erased and that, in that harmonious point, men will live together spontaneously and that the state will no longer be needed and will whither away. Typically the distinction between socialism and communism is that the latter is driven by an elite who guide the unknowing masses toward the autonomously determined end of History - with a capital "H." (This is called the "dictatorship of the proletariat.") Marxists believe that they have discerned a "science" of government and that they govern in terms of scientific principles applied to the human experience. They therefore advocate for an economic system in which decisions of production and distribution are made according to a central plan, and that such central plan, because there is no essential human nature, will remake man into a perfect being who lives in spontaneous harmony with his fellows. The major authors of Marxism are Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Bertold Brecht, among others. 4) Populism. This is NOT a school of thought or schematic philosophy, per se. Unlike the other groups, populists offer no defining view of human nature. It distrusts complexity, bigness, elites - meaning bureaucrats, politicians, large business interests, intellectuals, academics and "experts." Populists do NOT oppose wealth per se, which they see, depending on how it is acquired, as an example of reward for effort. Populists offer no coherent view of human nature, beyond a sense that it is corrupted by power. (For example, they push for election of the common man, whom they believe is inherently good. However, once the common man is in office he is assumed to have been corrupted. Populists offer no explanation, nor propose any cure, for this very basic conundrum.) Populism is not bound by any specific form of government, which is why you see it in democracy and in dictatorships - see also Venezuela as an example of the latter. They advocate for no particular economic system and can be as much in favor of free trade, for example, as protectionism. Populism tends to be defined within an historical context, rather than based on an assertion of transcendent principles. Among American populists are Andrew Jackson, William Jennings Bryan, Joseph McCarthy, George Wallace, Patrick Buchanan, - and more recently Senator Bernie Sanders (no, he is not a socialist according to the accepted historic definition) and one President Donald J. Trump. (No, he is NOT a conservative.) Of course, much nuance has been lost in these brief descriptions, so I caution that I have only scratched the surface. (I did not, for example, trace back liberalism to its precursor ideas in Plato, nor conservatism in Aristotle. Nor did I discuss National Socialism - which, contrary to popular belief, is a philosophy of the left, not the right. Nor did I discuss Fascism - which is NOT the same as National Socialism. Nor did I discuss the fact that, except under the Whig Party and the presidency of Lincoln, the United States has not had, nor does it have, a conservative party as that term has historically been understood. Rather, we have a contest between the classical and radical strands of liberalism with periodic upwellings of populism thrown into the mix.) Remember, whole libraries have been written on these topics.
  • Haha there are almost as many "political ideologies" as there are people. Would be a gross over-simplification to restrict them to but four.
  • 2-5-2017 All parties represent the same electorate. That is why they are almost the same, except in a few details. They are so hard to keep track of that they have to adopt colors to identify the groups: currently red, blue, and green.
    • dorat
      The respondent makes an error here by conflating political parties with political philosophies or schools of thought. They are not necessarily one and the same. In mainland Europe, typically though not always, political parties tend to be specifically ideological. In the United States, however, and to a lesser extent in the English speaking world, parties are not rigidly philosophical. Rather they are loose knit coalitions of not always compatible interests - typically regionally or interest group based - that tend to march under one of two broad banners. (Which explains why party unity tends to be so hard to achieve in Congress.) An excellent example, compare the record of Senator Manchin of WV as against that of Senator Warren of MA. Two people from the same party, but looking at their records, you would not know it.

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