Major Political Ideologies
Over the millennia, political philosophers have expounded on a variety of political ideologies, or ways governments and societies can be organized. Today, scholars generally talk about five major political ideologies: Anarchism
These political ideologies are, for the most part, mutually exclusive. So, a liberal government does not usually practice socialism, nor does an absolute ruler follow liberalism. The five major political ideologies have played a key role in history by shaping governments and political movements. Anarchism
The belief that the best government is absolutely no government is known as anarchism. This ideology argues that everything about governments is repressive and therefore must be abolished entirely. A related ideology known as nihilism emphasizes that everything—both government and society—must be periodically destroyed in order to start anew. Nihilists often categorically reject traditional concepts of morality in favor of violence and terror. Anarchism and nihilism were once associated with socialism because many anarchists and nihilists supported the socialists’ call for revolution and the complete overhaul of government and society in the early to mid-twentieth century. Example: Although neither violent nor strictly anarchist, members of the American Libertarian Party believe that government should be so small that it hardly ever interferes in citizens’ lives, thereby best preserving individual liberty. Russia
Russia has had a long association with anarchism and nihilism. Many prominent members of both movements were Russian, including Mikhail Bakunin, considered the father of anarchism. Russian nihilists engaged in a number of terrorist attacks in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including the assassination of Czar Alexander II in 1881.
Traditionally, much of Western civilization’s history was dominated by absolutism, the belief that a single ruler should have control over every aspect of the government and of the people’s lives. Absolute rulers had a variety of titles, including chieftain, king, shah, pharaoh, emperor, sultan, and prince. In some cultures, the absolute ruler was seen as a god in human form. Other peoples believed that their ruler had the divine right of kings, meaning that God had chosen the ruler to govern the rest. As a result, many cultures with absolute rulers practiced some form of caesaropapism, the belief that the ruler is head of both the governmental authority and the religious authority. Example: In the Byzantine Empire, the double-headed eagle symbolized caesaropapism. The two heads stood for church and state. This symbol clearly and graphically portrayed the unity of religious and secular power in one person. Advocates of Absolutism
A number of political philosophers have advocated absolutism. The Greek philosopher Plato, for example, firmly believed that the best government would be run by a benevolent absolute ruler who would have the people’s best interests at heart. English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, meanwhile, was perhaps the most persuasive proponent of absolutism. In his book Leviathan (1651), he argued that life without governments was “nasty, brutish, and short” and that people must willingly submit to absolute rulers—even tyrannical ones—in order to live longer, more stable lives. Absolutist Beliefs
A strong sense of order: Everything should be carefully structured, including society. Disorder and chaos are generally considered to be dangerous. A clear-cut law of nature (or law of God): This law must be obeyed. According to this law, some people are inherently better than others. A natural hierarchy (a power structure in which some people have authority over others) exists. Therefore, the superior should rule the inferior. This general view is called elitism, or elite theory. The wisdom of traditional values and...
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