Open Access (free)
Kevin Harrison and Tony Boyd

Conservatism is one of the major intellectual and political strains of thought in Western culture. Originating as something of a 'reaction' to the radical, liberal and, later, socialist movements during the early period of industrialisation in Britain and Europe, conservatism remains a powerful ideological force in Western societies. This chapter explores conservatism from its intellectual and cultural roots in the eighteenth century to developments in the early twenty-first century. Considerable attention is given to the historical experiences of conservative parties, especially in Britain, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, experiences that have been at least as significant in the development of conservative ideology as particular individual thinkers. The chapter emphasises conservative themes such as patriotism, freedom under the law, order, hierarchy, discipline, inequality and traditional institutions.

in Understanding political ideas and movements
Open Access (free)
Kevin Harrison and Tony Boyd

Liberalism has become the dominant ideology at the start of the third millennium. This chapter traces the origins of liberalism back to the late seventeenth century and the political turmoil in England that followed the civil wars of the middle of the century. It outlines and discusses the main themes of 'classical' and 'New' liberalism. The key themes include the individual and his/her rights; an optimistic view of human nature; a belief in progress; a commitment to freedom; limited government; the economy and liberalism; and a commitment to internationalism. The limitations of British liberalism began to become evident just before the First World War and it was almost eclipsed during the inter-war period. The chapter discusses the apparent renaissance of liberalism that followed the collapse of Soviet communism during the late 1980s and the apparent triumph of liberal capitalist democracy on a global scale.

in Understanding political ideas and movements
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Kevin Harrison and Tony Boyd

This chapter explores socialism, an ideology that sprang from the industrial revolution and the experience of the class that was its product, the working class. Though a more coherent ideology than conservatism, socialism has several markedly different strands. In order to appreciate these, and the roots of socialism in a concrete historical experience, the chapter also explores its origins and development, giving particular attention to the British Labour Party. Utopian socialism, Marxism, nonconformist Christianity, class struggle, trade unionism, Fabianism, vegetarianism, pacifism and New Liberalism all contributed to the development of British socialism in the form of the Labour Party. The Labour Party is one of the least ideological socialist parties in Europe but, arguably, one that has changed its society the most. The chapter concludes with some reflections on 'Blairism' and the 'Third Way', and the possible future of socialism as an ideology.

in Understanding political ideas and movements
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Kevin Harrison and Tony Boyd

Starting with Marxism, this chapter examines Karl Marx's theories of history, economics and politics. It discusses the controversies within Marx-inspired political organisations in the nineteenth century, particularly the challenge mounted to orthodox Marxism by the 'revisionist' school. The chapter then analyses twentieth-century attempts to establish concrete political systems claiming 'Marxist' legitimacy, with particular attention to the rise and fall of the Soviet Union. It examines attempts to reinterpret Marxism to make it relevant to twenty-first-century social and economic conditions. Turning to the wide-ranging form of political thought known as anarchism, the chapter discusses anarchist views of human nature, the state, liberty and equality, and economic life. The chapter concludes with a critique of anarchism and some thoughts as to its relevance to modern politics.

in Understanding political ideas and movements
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Kevin Harrison and Tony Boyd

Events have made 'fascism' a term of political abuse rather than one of serious ideological analysis. Moreover, self-proclaimed fascists have claimed that fascism is beyond intellectual analysis and have despised those who favour rational examination of their beliefs. Fascism is particularly resistant to rational enquiry, partly because fascists themselves scorn the intellect and partly because it has become a portmanteau term of political abuse. This chapter examines fascist values and the concrete actions of some of the regimes that have declared themselves fascist, notably Adolf Hitler's Germany and Benito Mussolini's Italy. It considers movements often described as fascist in modern Britain and elsewhere and consider whether facism is still a viable political creed. Fascist ideas can be grouped under the following: conflict, struggle and war; non-materialism; irrationalism and anti-intellectualism; nation and race; the leader and the elite; the state and government; and fascist economic and social theory.

in Understanding political ideas and movements
Kevin Harrison and Tony Boyd

Environmentalism and ecologism constitute one of the most recent ideological movements. This chapter examines the genesis of the movement in the explosion of concern at the apparent threat to the planet in the 1960s, and its subsequent evolution as an ideological force and political movement. It presents the various elements, spiritual and scientific, which have influenced the 'green' movement. The chapter also examines the critique of the ecologist position. It explores a number of themes that are fundamental to the ecological perspective: human nature and nature; green views on politics; and green economics. The green position is open to challenge in several key areas. These are: intellectual incoherence; scientific implausibility; and practical difficulties. Politically the greens have received little electoral support, especially in Britain, but green assumptions and values are increasingly becoming part of the wider political culture. Many European countries have green political parties.

in Understanding political ideas and movements
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Kevin Harrison and Tony Boyd

Feminism is one of the most important ideologies to emerge, although its origins can be traced far back into history. This chapter examines its historical roots and discusses the different forms of feminism. Female emancipation requires an analysis of the power relations between men and women in all areas of society. One can see this in a number of areas: sex, gender and 'sexism'; public and private spheres of life; and patriarchy. The chapter focuses on three 'waves' of feminism. The first, of about 1830-1930, was concerned chiefly with legal and political rights. The second, in the 1960s and 1970s, focused on much more fundamental personal and relationship issues. The 'third wave' in the last decade or so has been essentially a reflection on and reappraisal of what has been achieved. The chapter identifies four major strands of feminist thinking: liberal feminism; socialist feminism; conservative feminism; and radical feminism.

in Understanding political ideas and movements
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Kevin Harrison and Tony Boyd

Politics takes place within a framework of ideas and concepts, ideological and religious beliefs, and social and political institutions moulded by the struggles arising from their interplay. This chapter focuses on religion and politics, disabled rights movements, gay rights movements and animal rights movements. Religious identity plays a very important role in the creation of the national identity of most countries. 'Fundamentalism' was originally applied to an approach to religion in which it was assumed that the original purity of the faith had been compromised and that purification by means of a return to the well springs was required. In Europe and particularly in Britain, fundamentalism seems to have virtually no mainstream political impact. Radical secularism and the political pseudo-religions of fascism and communism have created as much misery and death as has religion during the twentieth century.

in Understanding political ideas and movements