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Conservatism is one of the major intellectual and political strains of thought in Western culture over the last two centuries. 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 today. We explore

in Understanding political ideas and movements
A guide for A2 politics students
Series: Understandings

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.

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Criticisms, futures, alternatives

In the late 1990s Third Way governments were in power across Europe - and beyond, in the USA and Brazil, for instance. The Third Way experiment was one that attracted attention worldwide. The changes made by Left parties in Scandinavia, Holland, France or Italy since the late 1980s are as much part of Third Way politics as those developed in Anglo-Saxon countries. Since the early 1990s welfare reform has been at the heart of the Centre-Left's search for a new political middle way between post-war social democracy and Thatcherite Conservatism. For Tony Blair, welfare reform was key to establishing his New Labour credentials - just as it was for Bill Clinton and the New Democrats in the USA. Equality has been 'the polestar of the Left', and the redefinition of this concept by Giddens and New Labour marks a significant departure from post-war social democratic goals. The most useful way of approaching the problem of the Blair Government's 'Third Way' is to apply the term to its 'operational code': the precepts, assumptions and ideas that actually inform policy choice. The choice would be the strategy of public-private partnership (PPP) or the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), as applied to health policy. New Labour is deeply influenced by the thoughts and sentiments of Amitai Etzioni and the new communitarian movement. Repoliticisation is what stands out from all the contributions of reconstructing the Third Way along more progressive lines.

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Here we explore socialism – an ideology that, uniquely, 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, we explore its

in Understanding political ideas and movements

of the time influence what they do with that power when they have achieved it. Indeed, it is impossible to separate the two. This applies even to those who deny having an ideology. The use of power always takes place in a framework of ideology. Modern politics can only be properly understood by reference to the great ideological movements: conservatism, liberalism, socialism, fascism, and so on. Ideologies tend to have a bad

in Understanding political ideas and movements
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and development over the last two centuries with particular reference to its main features and assumptions. It is an ideology with the chameleon-like quality of adapting to the needs of countries, ideologies and the times. The impact of nationalism in both domestic and international politics is examined. 9 Conservatism Conservatism is ‘a policy of imperfection’, based on a pessimistic view of human nature

in Understanding political ideas and movements
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rights in Western countries. British socialism has been deeply influenced by the nonconformist Christian tradition. Conservatism in Britain and the Christian Democratic parties of Germany and Italy have been closely identified with particular forms of the Christian tradition (Anglicanism in Britain and Catholicism in Germany and Italy). However, the Christian tradition in Western Europe is declining in

in Understanding political ideas and movements
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Liberalism has become the dominant ideology at the start of the third millennium. Like conservatism it cannot be easily identified with one particular political party. We trace 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. After this, liberalism’s ‘golden age’ during

in Understanding political ideas and movements

should deliver opportunities. Giddens also uses the alliterative slogan ‘No rights without responsibilities’, 10 which has been utilised in New Labour’s public discourse. Giddens’s approach is underpinned by what he describes as ‘philosophic conservatism’, which, he explains, is a commitment to modernisation in order to pursue a pragmatic programme that can cope in a world which

in The Third Way and beyond
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Congress, 1st December 1862) Many powerful concepts and ideologies have motivated humans. It is difficult to identify a concept more powerful in shaping political activity than the ‘nation’, or any ideology that motivates people to greater sacrifices or crimes than that of nationalism. Some political movements, such as conservatism and fascism, strongly identify with the nation and

in Understanding political ideas and movements