Introduction: Understanding Ideology 1. The role of ideas 2. What is ideology? 3. Left, centre and right 4. The rise and fall of ideologies
All people are political thinkers. Whether they know it or not, people use political ideas and concepts whenever they express their opinions or speak their mind. Everyday language is littered with terms such as ‘freedom’, ‘fairness’, ‘equality’, ‘justice’ and ‘rights’. In the same way, words such as ‘conservative’, ‘liberal’, ‘socialist’, ‘communist’ and ‘fascist’ are regularly employed by people either to describe their own views, or those of others. However, even though such terms are familiar, even commonplace, they are seldom used with any precision or a clear grasp of their meaning. What, for instance, is ‘equality’? What does it mean to say that all people are equal? Are people born equal, should they be treated by society as if they are equal? Should people have equal rights, equal opportunities, equal political influence, equal wages? Similarly, words such as ‘communist’ or ‘fascist’ are commonly misused. What does it mean to call someone a ‘fascist’? What values or beliefs do fascists hold, and why do they hold them? How do communist views differ from those of, say, liberals, conservatives or socialists? This book examines the substantive ideas and beliefs of the major political ideologies. This introductory chapter considers the role of ideas in politics, the nature of political ideology, the value of the left/right spectrum in classifying ideologies, and the main challenges that confront ideologies in the twenty-first century.
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