Open Access (free)

Understanding political ideas and movements

A guide for A2 politics students

Series:

Kevin Harrison and Tony Boyd

In liberal democracies there is a belief that citizens ought to take an active interest in what is happening in the political world. Political debate in modern Western democracies is a complex and often rowdy affair. There are three fundamental political issues: 'politics', 'power' and 'justice', which feature in almost all political discussions and conflicts. The book assesses the degree to which the state and state sovereignty are disappearing in the modern world of 'globalised' politics, economics and culture and new international institutions. The main features of the nation and the problems of defining it are outlined: population, culture, history, language, religion, and race. Different types of democracy and their most important features are discussed. 'Freedom' is usually claimed to be the prime objective of political activity. The book discusses equality of human rights, distributional equality, equality before the law, the claims for group equality on the grounds of race, gender, class. Rights, obligations and citizenship are closely associated. Ideology is the driving force of political discourse. The book also discusses nationalism's growth and development over the last two centuries with particular reference to its main features and assumptions. It outlines the development of conservatism as a political ideology and movement in Britain during the last two centuries. An overview of liberalism, socialism, Marxism, anarchism, and Fascism follows. Environmentalism and feminism are also discussed. Finally, the book talks about how ideological change occurs and stresses the importance of rationality in politics.

Open Access (free)

Series:

Kevin Harrison and Tony Boyd

This chapter focuses on three fundamental political issues, including 'politics', 'power' and 'justice', which appear in almost all political discussions and conflicts. It also looks at some of the new issues involved in politics that might be of significance in the future: politicised religion, disabled rights, gay rights and animal rights. Next, the chapter looks at some major political thinkers and their ideas about power. It then discusses how ideological change occurs and focuses on the importance of rationality in politics. Following this, the chapter presents some key concepts discussed in this book. The book discusses some key concepts involved in political theory and debate, such as the state, the nation, liberty, equality, democracy, rights, which form the underpinning for the political ideologies and movements. It examines what is meant by ideology, what forms it takes, how it is transmitted and its impact in both international and domestic British politics.

Open Access (free)

Series:

Kevin Harrison and Tony Boyd

This chapter explores the concept of the state, looking at various theories of the state and identifying its major characteristics and then how far real states measure up to these characteristics. It identifies different 'types' of state in political theory and looks at the major challenges to practical state sovereignty in the modern world. The challenges include the structure of international society; the impact of globalisation; the spread of weapons of mass destruction; the growth of informal ties; the rise of new international actors; and neo-colonialism. State sovereignty has always been predicated upon political power: the practical ability of the state to defend its sovereignty against internal revolt and external enemies. The chapter examines the issue of whether the state is still as fundamental a political institution.

Open Access (free)

Series:

Kevin Harrison and Tony Boyd

This chapter discusses the concept of the nation first in general terms and then in relation to the nations of the United Kingdom (UK). The United Kingdom has great difficulty in being identified as a 'nation-state'. For most of its people there are two competing 'national' identities: 'British', associated with the UK, and 'English', 'Welsh', 'Scottish', and in Northern Ireland 'Loyalist British' and 'Irish'. The problem of nation and national identity can be investigated through a study of Northern Ireland, where issues of national and state identity have contributed to the political crisis. The chapter focuses on some features associated with the nation, identifying cultural and political aspects of nationhood: nation and state; race and nation; language and the nation; religion and national identity; government and nation; common historical and cultural ties; and a sense of 'nationhood'.

Open Access (free)

Series:

Kevin Harrison and Tony Boyd

This chapter focuses on 'liberal democracy', and examines the idea of democracy as 'the sovereign people' governed by consent. It explores arguments for and against democracy, and some reflections on the future of democracy in the twenty-first century. The chapter identifies a number of features of democracy. These features include democracy as a system of government, democracy and legitimising government, majority rule and democracy, equality of citizenship rights, public opinion in democracies, and the rule of law and democracy. There are two forms in democracy, including 'defensive democracy' and 'citizen democracy'/'republican democracy'. Defensive democracy sees a tension between citizens and the state, and a distinction between public and private spheres of life. Citizen democracy assumes greater involvement than merely voting with citizens taking an active part in the political system.

Open Access (free)

Series:

Kevin Harrison and Tony Boyd

Most people have some idea of what the word 'freedom' means, and most approve of it. This chapter examines the term more closely, exploring such themes as freedom of opinion, freedom under the law and economic freedom. It presents brief summaries of the ideas of a number of political philosophers on the subject. The chapter analyses the views of John Stuart Mill and Isaiah Berlin on 'negative' and 'positive' freedom. It focuses on the central issue of freedom and the state, concentrating on three major areas of dispute: conscientious objection, state acquisition of private property, civil disobedience and terrorism. The chapter concludes with some observations on the cultural environment conducive to freedom and reflects on the problems of freedom in the modern world.

Open Access (free)

Series:

Kevin Harrison and Tony Boyd

This chapter explores the term 'equality', defined in two ways: first, that which concerns equality as a starting point to life; second, equality as an outcome. It considers equality before the law, equal political rights and equal social rights. The chapter examines individual and group equality, and equality in terms of the class structure and international relations. It discusses the position of 'equality': has its value decreased in general esteem because of the almost universal acceptance of liberal capitalism and its emphasis on 'freedom' as the prime political and social goal. The chapter presents some anti-egalitarian arguments against the idea of foundational equality and some of the relevant egalitarian retorts. The two major areas governed by distributional equality are equality of opportunity and equality of outcome. The chapter focuses on the concept of 'group rights' to tackle these forms of inequality in society: gender equality; racial equality; and class equality.

Open Access (free)

Series:

Kevin Harrison and Tony Boyd

This chapter considers the development of the concept of 'rights' as being intrinsic to human beings because they are human. It focuses on various kinds of rights: 'natural' and 'human' rights; legal rights; civil rights; and welfare rights. The chapter analyses the idea of 'obligation' or 'duty', notably the obligations the citizen is said to owe to society and to the government. It examines various theories of such obligation. The obligations include moral obligations; legal obligations; civic obligations; and social obligations. The chapter looks at the fashionable idea of 'citizenship', and the various ways in which the term is used. It is a word capable of multiple meanings: legal citizenship; sociological citizenship; and participatory citizenship. The chapter reflects upon the implications of the British government's promotion of 'citizenship'.

Open Access (free)

Series:

Kevin Harrison and Tony Boyd

This chapter attempts to examine one's own ideological beliefs, to better understand the role of ideology in politics and society. It examines its relevance to modern history both in Britain and in other parts of the world. The chapter analyses the situation in contemporary Britain and considers whether it can be reasonably asserted that there is an ideological consensus in Britain or whether we are now 'beyond ideology'. It distinguishes between 'dominant ideologies' and 'ideologies of resistance', and also between 'restrictive' and 'relaxed' ideologies. The term 'restrictive ideologies' conjures up the image of rigidity, narrowness and bigotry in the ideological cause. Liberalism, conservatism, socialism, Marxism, fascism and the other ideological traditions and movements all have a recognised body of literature expounding the main tenets of their ideological belief systems.

Open Access (free)

Series:

Kevin Harrison and Tony Boyd

This chapter distinguishes a number of varieties of nationalism: liberal, reactionary and radical. It provides a brief history of nationalism from the pre-Renaissance period to the twentieth century. Then the psychological appeal of nationalism is examined, as is its impact on international politics, and on empires and multi-national states. The chapter considers the elements of nationalism: sovereignty of the people; ethnic nationalism and civic nationalism. It identifies a number of stages in the development of nationalism: proto-nationalism; early modern nationalism; nationalism in the age of revolutions; twentieth-century nationalism; and post-Cold War nationalism. The chapter also considers whether nationalism as an ideology serves particular political interests. Nationalism can fulfil a number of political functions such as promoting social change, creating social cohesion, or strengthening the hold of the ruling class. The chapter offers a critique of nationalism and some reflections on its possible future.