Political Science notes
Ideologies are predicated on the Age of Enlightenment belief that people could
improve their conditions by taking positive action instead of passively accepting life
as it came. Ideologies are the result of attempts to develop political accommodations
to the economic and social conditions created by the Industrial Revolution.
Ideology is a political term, it consists of a view of the present and the future,
it is action oriented, it is directed towards the masses, in simple terms.
The two factors most responsible for the political world in which we now live
are 1) the belief that people can themselves take active steps that will improve their
lives and 2) the Industrial Revolution. Almost every modern social condition and
political idea is supported by these two factors. The phenomenon of political
ideologies is unique to our era because it is a response to a unique set of economic,
social, and political circumstances.
Ideology and Philosophy
Although each ideology is founded on a set of philosophical beliefs,
philosophy is composed of three basic characteristics that distinguish it from
ideology. First, philosophy tends to be profound. It attempts to penetrate the veneer
of human existence and to address the actual meaning of life itself.
By contrast, ideology is uncomplicated and shallow, the world is usually
explained in very simple terms, and little attempt is made to deal with the
multitudinous variables we confront. Usually, right and wrong are made very
clear, and people are simply asked to believe in them and to act accordingly.
Although philosophy can be the set of principles upon which an entire society
bases its action, it can also be taken up by a single individual.
Philosophy tends to encourage introspection. The objective of philosophy is
to explain the universe and help the reader find a place in it. Ideologies, instead
explain the world, and ask for people to take definite steps to improve their lives.
People are not asked to investigate the complex and underlying variables of human
existence. Instead, they are called on to act, and this emphasis on action often
demands suspension of contemplation. The philosophers have only interpreted the
world; the point is to change it.
The Spectrum of Political Attitudes
Radicals are people who find themselves extremely discontented with the
status quo. Consequently, they wish an immediate and profound change in the
existing order, advocating something new and different for society.
All liberals share a belief in the equality, intelligence, and competence of
Moderates find little wrong with the existing with the existing society, and
their reluctance to change it is only exceeded by the conservatives. Differing from liberals in most respects, conservatives are dubious about
bold efforts to improve the world for rear that is incompetent meddling might,
indeed, make things worse. Only the reactionaries reject current institutions and
modern values. They would see society retrace its steps and adopt former political
norms and policies.
Basically, people on the right revere authority, tradition, elitism, and
property rights, whereas those on the left emphasize political liberty, social change,
human equality, and human rights. Beyond these philosophical convictions, there
are several other motivations that cause people to lean to the left or right.
Psychological factors about the need for change are important. Economic
circumstances also play a part. Age is another factor. Finally, ones view about the
condition of human nature is probably the most important consideration in
determining with which side of the spectrum one will identify.
Understanding The Spectrum
Radical| Liberal| Moderate| Conservatives| Reactionary
Left ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Right
Change Or Policy Options
Political change can be a very complex subject. With reference to the
spectrum of political attitudes, we must actually learn four things about the change
of policy option desired. First, we must determine the direction, forward or back, in
which a proposed change would carry society. In other words, is the change
progressive or retrogressive?
The second thing one must determine when trying to locate desired policy
options on the spectrum is the depth of a proposed change. Would the desired
change amount to a major or a minor adjustment in the society?
The third aspect we must consider is the speed at which people want change
to occur. Obviously, the more upset people are with the status quo, the more
impatient they are likely to be, and therefore, as a general rule, the more rapidly
they would like to see the existing order transformed.
The last factor we must consider is the method we use to accomplish change.
People at practically every point on the political spectrum use violence. The death
penalty, property expropriation, chokeholds, police techniques, and warfare itself
A radical may be defined as a person who is extremely dissatisfied with the
society as it is and therefore is impatient with less than extreme proposals for
changing it Hence all radicals favor an immediate and fundamental change in the
society. In other words, all radicals favor revolutionary change.
Liberal Liberals are placed closer than radicals to the status quo point on the
continuum because they are less dissatisfied with the fundamentals of society.
Indeed, the liberal supports the basic features of that society. Radicals are basically
opposed to the political system that governs them, so they are apt to oppose the law
because they see it as an instrument with which those who dominate the society
maintain their control. Liberals, on the other hand, generally appreciate the concept
of the law, and although they may want to change certain specifics of it, they will
usually not violate it to accomplish their political objectives. Instead, they try to
change the law through legal procedures. Liberals seek change in the system by
several important means, but they reject attempts to revolutionize the system
because they support its essentials.
Liberalism is one of the byproducts of the Enlightenment, of the scientific
method, and ultimately of the Industrial Evolution. During the medieval era, people
looked heavenward for Divine relief from their wretched earthly existence. Faith in
human potential, as well as esteem for humankind in general, was very low.
Through use of the scientific method, people began to make improvements in their
material existence, and in so doing, they began to develop confidence in their ability
to solve many problems that they had previously borne with little complaint.
Classical Liberalism and Contemporary Liberalism
-Whose principle spokesman was John Locke (1632 1704).
-Believed people were capable of being moral, competent, and intelligent.
-Locke asserted that Natural Law (The use of reason to analyze human nature
and developing rules to figure out rules of behavior. Developed by nature and
universal. All people equal.)
-Believed that government oppressed people, the less government the better.
-Revered individuality and private property was protected from government
Contemporary Liberalism Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832)Still viewing
people as intelligent creatures, contemporary liberals remain optimistic about our
ability to improve life.
- The concentration of wealth places power in the hands of those who
control the means of production
- People with economic power will use it to make themselves even more
powerful and at a greater advantage economically politically.
- Believe government can be used by the weak to make sure that they are
protected against the oppression of the powerful.
- More egalitarian than the classic liberal.
- Afraid that economic power can be used as political power
Moderates Moderates are fundamentally satisfied with the society, although they agree
that there is room for improvement and recognize several specific areas in need of
modification. However, they insist that changes in the system should be made
gradually and that no change should be so extreme as to disrupt the society.
Conservatives are the most supportive of the status quo and therefore are
reluctant to see it changed. The essential difference between the two viewpoints
rests on their respective confidence in when; the ideal can be accomplished.
Conservatives support the status quo not so much because they like it because they
believe that it is the best that can be achieved at the moment. Put differently,
conservatives oppose change because they doubt that it will result in something
better, not because they do not desire improvement.
-They do not believe human reason is powerful enough to even completely
understand, let alone solve, societys problems.
-Conservatives tend to favor authoritarian controls over the individuals in
-Conservatives tend to place great reliance for dealing with societys
problems on the passage of time, authority, institutions, religions, and traditions.
-The conservatives will see the War on Poverty problem as an issue that the
free market should solve.
Tories and Entrepreneurs
Those who are referred to as Tories, closely follow the prescriptions of
Burke. They make no bones about the fact that the excellent of society should rule,
but at the same time, they sh