These are the basic political ideologies that are prevalent in contemporary times. Of course, these are largely simplified, and most people don’t adhere purely to one ideology, but adopt concepts from multiple ideologies. Still, most political works can be broadly defined as falling into one of the following categories.
Please note, the following categories are ideological
. Several groups running in Real Life
elections often use these terms, but to refer to their political bloc rather than as an indicator of their actual ideological leanings. For instance, the contemporary United States’ meaning of ‘liberal’ refers to ‘social liberalism’ here, for the most part, while ‘conservativism’ combines some tenants of classical liberalism (where it concerns free-market capitalism, that is) and Oakeshottian/Burkean conservatism (morals and fear of change).
A Note on Context
A political ideology does not arise in a vacuum. A political ideology is usually the product of a series of beliefs about how human beings are, how they acquire knowledge, how they should
interact with each other, and how they should
be governed (if at all). For instance, one who believes Hobbes Was Right
will come to very different political conclusions to one who believes Rousseau Was Right
. While their theorists are almost exclusively European, the ideologies themselves are near-universally applicable and are known worldwide. None of these ideas is more than 300 years old, and their heyday seems to have been the 19th–20th centuries (when they began to supersede religion as things people believed in).
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The following political ideologies arose from two periods in human history: the Enlightenment and the Counter-Enlightenment (the trope Romanticism Versus Enlightenment
is basically Counter-Enlightenment versus Enlightenment).
During the Enlightenment, the prevailing beliefs amongst philosophers were that human beings were rational
beings that could understand the environment around them, and thus learn to manipulate it to their benefit. In short, the Enlightenment was a period where most people were confident in human ability, human progress and self-determination of the individual (or free will).
Enlightenment philosophers can be divided into two camps; the British or Empirical
enlightenment, and the Continental or Rationalist
enlightenment. These camps had different theories about how reason worked; the empiricists believed it worked on the basis of human experience. The rationalists believed it worked by making logical deductions from intuitively-known first principles.
Regardless of this difference, both camps agreed on the broad points stated above: humans were rational beings with free will capable of progress and advancing their condition. As such, the dominant ideology of the time was Liberalism (see below). Both Empiricists (e.g., John Locke, John Stuart Mill) and Rationalists (like Kant, Spinoza, Descartes) generally agreed with liberalism (albeit for different reasons, see the section on liberalism for more).
When the Counter-Enlightenment rolled around, things changed. On the British side, Empiricism had been pushed so far that many began to embrace Skepticism (in the philosophical sense — the belief we cannot reach knowledge). Arguably, they were following on in the wake of David Hume (although also arguably they were going much further than he did). On the Continental side, Rationalism had been pushed to extremes that argued reason has a nature which shapes its user. This is arguably derivative from Kant, but many additions were made by Kant’s intellectual successors (known as the German Idealists). For instance, Fichte argued that one’s nationality shapes one’s consciousness. Hegel took this even further, arguably diminishing the role of human beings as free agents in favor of making them voices of larger forces.
The skeptical British Counter-Enlightenment eventually produced British Conservatism (see below). The Continental (German Idealist) Counter-Enlightenment gave us Hegel (who was a great influence on Karl Marx (see Socialism, below), although Marx arguably was inspired by the Enlightenment as well as the Counter-Enlightenment) and Fichte (who has been called the father of German Nationalism and was arguably a great influence on Fascism).
The Counter-Enlightenment overall constituted a rejection of the Enlightenment view of humanity as rational beings capable of understanding the world and possessing free will. The British Counter-Enlightenment cast doubt on the efficacy of our reason. The Continental Counter-Enlightenment did so as well, by asking how much of our minds and selves were conditioned by external forces (Zeitgeists, Nationalities, Economic conditions, et cetera).
It is in the context of the Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment that the following political theories originated.
Nationalism — For the Nation!
Nationalism is so unquestioned and all-pervasive today that it is more a belief than an ideology. As it has nothing to say about individual people and their well-being, it has no set opinion as to how or what political/social/economic structures should be favored. Hence its paradox of being both particular and to a degree universal.
Over the years, several theories and schools have emerged
, such as Primordialism,note
The argument below makes use of the Modernist view.
Nationalism in this light provides two basic tenets: First, everyone on earth belongs to a ‘nation’, an imagined community which exists because people who identify with it believe it does
. The second tenet of nationalism is that every ‘nation’ on earth should have a state that governs an amount of territory, and that all the people of that ‘nation’ should live within that territory.
You can see how these beliefs are trouble
especially when taken to their extreme conclusions. By valuing nations above people, virtually any sacrifice of a nation’s people (short of sacrificing absolutely everyone of that nation) in the name of that nation is acceptable … let alone the sacrifice of people of a different nation. A true, pure nationalist, free from the influence of all other political ideologies, would regard the genocide of absolutely everybody on earth save 10,000 people of one’s own nationnote
as the only acceptable solution to the problem of the existence of other nations.
As we said at the outset, though, nationalism doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Most nation-states save the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea
would be severely criticized for making such a trade-off as the one just outlined. While most nationalists value their own nation and members of it more than they do foreign nations and foreign people, they probably wouldn’t believe that their nation is such an important cause that all those people should die in its name. In many respects this attitude is a return to the nineteenth century, back when the word ‘nation’ was redefined from a vague word denoting ‘group of peoples who spoke the same language’note
to a unified ‘racial’note
group that should have its own state and must dominate the earth or surely go extinct, for only one nation can ultimately survive
. While nationalism in this sense remains a strong force in the world today there can be no doubt that it is far weaker than it was in the 20th century due to the events of the World Wars as well as the power of liberalism, which opposes nationalism on the grounds that real individual people are not worth sacrificing for any kind of ‘imagined’ community, no matter how strongly people may feel about it. On the other hand, the myriad forms of nationalism and resurging influence in more recent times mean that the devil really is in the details
It should also be said however that nationalism is to be distinguished from patriotism
, which is more akin to a personal affinity or loyalty to one's country
, or, to paraphrase George Orwell
, a love for one’s homeland that has no intention of imposing it upon others. But though patriotism is more in line with liberalism, more jingoistic fervor
nonetheless overlaps with nationalism in a classical sense. When combined with anti-liberal and -socialist politics as well as militarism, the result tends to become Fascism
Liberalism — For Freedom, and Reform!
The chief objective for liberalism is human freedom … with reasonable limits. ‘Freedom’ means the ability to do what one wills with one’s own life and property. Liberals differ from Anarchists in that they believe that people need to be ‘oppressed’ by governments in order to be free in other respects — though they value government only for the freedom it brings, and don’t consider it something valuable or desirable in itself. Classical Liberals contend that government should only police the country and prevent interference from foreign governments because this allows people the maximum amount of freedom (negative freedom), whereas Modern/Social Liberals say that government must proactively give freedom to its citizens by making sure they’re not oppressed or disadvantaged or dying (positive freedom).
Also, as far as Classic Liberals are concerned, Liberalism has nothing to do with equality
. Modern Liberals disagree on the grounds that an unequal society is an unfree society
for the majority of poor and disadvantaged individuals — whom their rich and privileged minority counterparts are free to oppress if the government doesn’t protect them.
There have been some splits in liberalism over time. The first important split is the one between natural-law liberalism and utilitarian liberalism. Natural-law liberalism holds that humans, due to divine or natural law, have certain rights that no government should infringe upon. These rights are due to self-ownership, meaning that you own yourself, and no other human
does (though you may belong to God
, according to early liberals, you do not belong to any other person
). John Locke was a major proponent for this view, which was also influential in The American Revolution
Utilitarian liberalism grew in popularity in the 19th century, and it holds that the best course of action is to pursue what would bring the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people. Since only the individual knows what would bring the greatest happiness to himself or herself, then governments should pursue a policy of personal autonomy, letting everybody pursue their own happiness. The most influential advocate for utilitarian liberalism is John Stuart Mill.
The other great split is between classical liberalism and left-liberalism. The split between classical liberalism and left-liberalism (also known as social liberalism) is arguably due to different concepts of rights. To the classical liberals, rights are nullifications
of the power of the State
(i.e. the ability to legitimately initiate the use of force), meaning no individual or groups thereof can use force, fraud or threats thereof to stop any other individual from performing a specific action. For instance, if you have the right to free speech, this means that no individual or institution can start
the use of force or fraud against you in order to stop you from speaking in a specific way (provided, of course, said speech constituted neither fraud nor coercion).
To social liberals, rights are seen as entitlements to the ability to perform specific actions
. For instance, if you have the right to education, this means that other people (or groups thereof) must act in order to provide you an education if you cannot provide it yourself.
So, to classical liberals, rights are things others cannot use force to stop you from doing
, and to social liberals, rights are things that others must enable you to do
. Isaiah Berlin referred to the former as “negative liberty” and the latter as “positive liberty.”
Classical liberalism argues that economic activities should be treated the same way that all other liberties are (or, further, that a meaningful distinction between economic and non-economic liberties cannot be made). Thus, economically speaking, any activity that does not involve force, fraud, or threats thereof (i.e. coercion) is just as much a right as free speech. As such, classical liberals are generally skeptical and/or hostile to government intervention in economic matters. This stance is also known as laissez-faire free-market economics (which some people call “Capitalism,” although that term has other definitions depending on who you ask).
Social liberalism argues that negative liberty is an insufficient condition for full human freedom. Social liberals in general do accept a significant level of negative liberty is indeed a necessary component of human freedom, but they argue a certain level of positive liberty is required as well. The typical rationale that social liberals give for this position is that the proper objects of positive liberty (according to social liberalism) will not be available to everyone in the absence of positive liberties to these objects. Whilst the proper objects of positive liberty have been debated by social liberals, they are usually justified as being necessary for ‘human flourishing’ and ‘human development.’
Note that this division is one of means
rather than ends. Both classical and social liberals believe that the kinds of things which social liberals consider proper objects of positive liberty are good things! The division is over how they should be provided
; social liberals argue that the State should provide them and classical liberals argue the State should not (there are several rationales for this position; ‘the State is too incompetent to do it,’ ‘empowering the State is inherently dangerous for further liberties,’ and/or ‘it is immoral to sacrifice negative liberties for the sake of positive ones’).
During the mid-twentieth century, the boundaries between social liberalism and social democracy (the latter being ideologically a product of socialism (see below), even if it had a centrist political platform) began to get blurry due to the popularity of socialism amongst many of the cultural elites of the time. During these decades, a resurgence of classical liberalism began to form. This resurgence is often called “libertarianism” (see also below) and occasionally seen as a separate ideology, but this is partly due to the fact that it originated as a rebuke
to the intellectual hegemony of socialist ideas. Fundamentally, it was merely a modern reformulation of the classical liberal case.
This resurgence had two separate origins, the first in academic economics. The Austrian School of economic thought gained notoriety for an argument known today as the Economic Calculation Problem
which began in 1920 with Ludwig von Mises’ publication of “Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth.” In this article, Mises argued that State Socialism (defined as an economy wherein which all means of production was owned by the State, ostensibly on behalf of the Proletariat) rendered economic efficiency impossible
because without market prices for capital, there was no way to make efficiency-based decisions between various methods of production for a specific item.
Socialist economist Oskar Lange argued that Mises identified a genuine problem (a lack of economic accounting), which he argued could be fixed by replicating market prices. Lange’s solution was disputed by Friedrich von Hayek in his article “The Use of Knowledge in Society.” Hayek argued that the preference data from which market prices are ultimately generated rests within individual human minds, and that this data only gets expressed via voluntary trades in a free market. Assuming a lack of Instrumentality
, there is no way to access this data and as such any attempt to replicate market prices would fail.
In academic economics, Hayek (and by extension, Mises’ initial argument) is generally regarded as Vindicated by History
(although this has been disputed
) and his works on knowledge and spontaneous, undesigned order have been influential in fields ranging from sociology to research on artificial intelligence. As such it is hard to overstate his importance (and that of the Austrian School in general) to modern classical liberals. In terms of the utilitarian-natural law liberalism split, Austrian School economics generally made its case in utilitarian terms, but is embraced by classical liberals from both sides of the division. At least one famous Austrian economist, the anarcho-capitalist Murray Rothbard, was a natural law libertarian in terms of personal political philosophy, and the strain of anarchism he inspired, called anarcho-capitalism (generally best seen as a fusion of Austrian economics with Lockean Individualist Anarchism) is very natural-law-oriented.
The second origin of this resurgence came from a surprising source; popular novelists. As stated before, the intellectual milieu of the mid-twentieth century was generally anti-individualist and against most values that liberals (both classical and
social) profess. Novelists such as Robert A. Heinlein
and (most infamously) Ayn Rand
produced novels explicitly defending individualistic, anti-collectivist values. In the case of Rand, her work ended up becoming the basis for the philosophy of Objectivism
, which has been significantly influential on many modern classical liberals. Of course, Rand’s philosophy, most specifically its moral component, is a controversial and divisive subject that quite a few classical liberals do not necessarily agree with; some even reject it outright. Whilst they often acknowledged the utilitarian case and considered it true that classical liberalism produced the greatest good for the greatest number, they did not accept that the moral
justification for classical liberalism was utilitarianism.
As for social liberalism, it is arguable that (in recent times) the doctrine has been replaced by or assimilated into various forms of social democracy. Some even argue that social liberalism was always a front for socialistic ideas but this is a highly controversial claim. Since the division between social liberalism and social democracy is primarily one of values rather than political program (and the division between social and classical liberalism being one of political program rather than values), the categories can get muddled. Additionally, political programs contain matters of degree; social liberals can advocate either relatively moderate amounts of government intervention (arguably, some of the more moderate libertarians fit here) or similar levels of government to a social democrat, depending on what the liberal believes is required to enable full human flourishing.
It is also worth pointing out that while classical liberals are often painted as being opposed to all government intervention in the marketplace, this is not strictly true. Adam Smith, for example, actually supported subsidies to the unemployed as well as fledgling businesses (although he was uneasy about the latter due to his fears that businesses would lobby against being removed from the subsidy rolls), as well as progressive taxation, while Milton Friedman and Friedrich von Hayek proposed replacing the existing welfare programs and minimum wage with negative income taxes that would provide living wages to all citizens, not the complete elimination of welfare. Where Friedman and Hayek stopped short of social liberalism was in opposing redistribution of wealth for the sake of bringing living standards closer together, although they have been criticised by others further to the right economically for supporting any redistribution at all.
Conservatism — For Tradition, and Skepticism!
Conservatism is defined by pragmatism, the ability to compromise in the name of sensible policy, and good governance using tried-and-tested methods. Where change is a good idea, or inevitable, conservatism seeks to steer change down the safest course — for the public good.
Despite problems in attempting to define “conservatism” and referring it to any specific single ideology, it has its commonalities by many different political groups in many different ways, in different countries and, more important, different times. The core of conservatism politically is “conserving” (preserving, defending and promoting) the established state of society, politics, economics, and institutions of high regard. Restoring society as it was in the past would be considered reactionary
but a part of conservatism as well.
Conservatism is in many ways more about philosophy than just about politics. The French Revolution was philosophically motivated by very strong rationalism (i.e. the belief that all truth can be worked out by making logical deductions from first principles). Conservatism, the product of the Counter-Enlightenment, is based on a rejection of this philosophy. Rather, conservatives tend to be very cautious about new ideas. They tend to focus on practical matters and ‘what has worked before’ rather than what would necessarily be the ‘best’ thing to do. Conservatism is very suspicious of ideologies that claim to have all the answers. In short, conservatism is skeptical and cautious about novelty, and ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’ applies.
This translates into a reverence for tradition
. Tradition is seen as something that has survived a very long time because it has been useful. It is also seen as vital to the maintenance of order and social stability. It is order and social stability that are the key values
of Anglosphere-style conservatism; this is a great contrast to liberalism’s favouring of freedom and reform above all else. Edmund Burke has often been called the father of conservatism. While maintaining some liberal goals, he was very concerned with maintaining social stability. Traditions and social institutions should not be summarily cast aside, according to Burke, as they prevent society from descending into chaos
. A society is a partnership between the living, the dead, and the unborn, and they must all be considered when dealing with national policy. Although it may surprise some that Burke was actually a Whig, he was an “old Whig” (or conservative Whig) and since the Tories by his time were not so much a party as such a philosophy, he took on many of the Tory principles anyway as a Tory at heart. He was a staunch supporter of British liberties because they were ancient national traditions, but also an “ordered liberty.”
Another British philosopher who exhibited these views is Michael Oakeshott. Arguably, Oakeshott is the Trope Codifier
for Anglosphere conservatism; he was anti-rationalist, staunchly empiricist to the point of outright skepticism, and as a result argued that our traditions were the only things we had in order to guide our social organizations.
Besides Anglosphere conservative thought, there was also a notable Continental trend, known as Continental conservatism and developed by the other
father of conservatism, Joseph de Maistre. Both varieties put an emphasis on tradition and are skeptical of 18th-century rationalism. The difference, however, is in how far they are willing to go. While Burke’s conservatism can roughly be boiled down to a doctrine of political skepticism, Maistre’s variety is much stronger. Originally a cautious supporter of the French Revolution, Maistre grew to despise it, and after the revolutionary French army invaded his native Savoy, he began to advocate a strictly counterrevolutionary doctrine of hierarchic order, religion (specifically, Catholicism), and monarchism.
Backing himself with Biblical references, Maistre reasoned that traditional order is not just ‘good because it works’ but it is good in itself — instead of ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,’ he went for ‘if it was meant to be broken, God would have done it by now.’ His stance on monarchy was that any attempt to derive the right to rule on rational ground leads to discussions over the legitimacy of government, and to question the government is to call for chaos. Thus, a government should be based on non-rational grounds, e.g. religion (through the Divine Right of Kings, and papal recognition — after all, you can argue what best serves the common interest, but how can you disprove ‘because God said so’?), which the subjects wouldn’t be allowed, or even able, to question.
By now, it is a good time to return to Burke: because his branch of conservatism allows for change, as long as proper caution is exercised, it is known as evolutionary
. Maistre’s branch, on the other hand, considers even a small change too much; it is also willing to fight actively to restore the old order where it’s been removed, a thing Burke’s conservatism would rarely if ever advocate. For this reason, Maistre’s conservatism is called reactionary
It is when we look at American conservatism that things get confusing. “Conservative” as used in the U.S. is not just an ideology, but also a coalition of many different ideological groups. Many self-proclaimed conservatives are ideologically in tune with classical liberal tenets but with conservative goals. There are also self-proclaimed Oakeshottians in American conservatism as well, such as Andrew Sullivan.
Religious or social conservatism is a strong element in American conservatism, but it differs from any of the previous subgroups of conservatism (it is probably closest to Maistre’s branch). Like Anglosphere-style conservatives, religious conservatives argue that specific traditions are vital for social stability and thus deserve State protection. However, unlike British-style conservatives, they argue that it is adherence to a specific set of religious traditions and moral beliefs that keep society together, and they also (very
much unlike Anglosphere-style conservatives) are not
skeptical about the possibility of knowledge. Rather, they argue faith is a means to perfect knowledge. This attitude is neither Enlightenment nor
Counter-Enlightenment; it is a pre-Enlightenment attitude.
Another American phenomenon is paleoconservatism and neoconservatism. Developed during the mid-to-late 20th century, these brands of conservatism dealt with how conservatism can move forward and even what it should be. On one hand, paleoconservatism were those who share much with classical conservatism, albeit with classical liberal tenets. On the other hand, neoconservatism started when non-conservatives, particularly those on the left, have moved to the conservative camp after becoming disillusioned with their own. As such, neoconservatism shares tenets of U.S.-style conservatism, such as political liberty and free markets, with the progressive attitude and revolutionary tendencies of the Left. Thus, neoconservatives have been known for their approval of welfare and big government, to paleoconservatives’ deep disapproval. In the economy, they support capitalism but endorse state interventionism. However, neoconservatism has garnered most of its criticism from its foreign policies, where these progressive tendencies resulted in doctrine of belligerency, a disdain for diplomacy, and aggressive promotion of capitalist democracy
. Altogether, this might've been forgettable, but then the USA suffered a terrorist attack in 2001, aaaaand …
Of course, American conservatism is still fundamentally a coalition of varying ideological groups as it is an ideology in its own right. Thus, there have been many attempts to bridge these philosophical differences. For instance, Frank Meyer of the conservative National Review
magazine argued “libertarians” should argue for the use of a conservative brand of classical liberal policies as means to conservative goals. William F. Buckley, Jr., also of the National Review
, argued in a very Oakeshott-like manner that conservatism is fundamentally based on skepticism and caution about new ideas, and thus a preference for tradition and against ideology. However, he also argued for the incorporation of both religious/social conservatism and
a conservative brand of classical liberalism, primarily because they all faced the common enemy of Soviet-style communism.
In short, Anglosphere-style conservatism is characterized by an aversion to rationalistic and/or ideology-based political programs and instead a preference for proven, pragmatic policies in the pursuit of maintaining social order by protecting established traditions from radical change. Continental-style conservatism is Anglosphere-style taken Up to Eleven
with a strong religious and optionally monarchist element. American-style conservatism is based on an ideological makeup of Anglosphere-style conservatism, religious/social conservatism, and conservative-style liberalism, in varying proportions depending on numerous variables.
Christian Democracy — For the Family!
Christian Democracy, popular in much of continental Europe and South America since post-World War II
, is often thought to be a regional variant of conservatism, though others say it’s a brand of centrism that is simply ‘closer’ to conservatism than either Liberalism or Social Democracy. Conservatism and Christian Democracy both have in common a reverence for tradition, though it’s mainly Christian religious tradition in the latter case.
Christian Democracy is derived from traditional Christian/Catholic political thought (thus, ultimately, from the Counter-Enlightenment), but with a greater acceptance of liberal and democratic principles (derived from the Enlightenment); it is mainly centered around the family as a fundamental human institution and cornerstone of society, and as such tend to be quite skeptical of divorce, single-parenting, same-sex marriage, procreation technologies, and other things seen as threats to the traditional family.
It also asserts human dignity from conception to natural death, which in practice, means opposition or skepticism towards both abortion and euthanasia.
On other issues, Christian Democrats tend to have varying positions, depending on local context and political alliances. They usually consider the cultural Christian heritage of their country to be something important. They also acknowledge a need for ‘solidarity’, but at the same time, prefer a decentralized economy and society, with strong individual initiative and little bureaucracy, and as such tend to be staunchly anti-socialist in many countries. However, some Christian Democrats proclaimed social/egalitarian values, criticized wealth inequalities and pushed for state intervention, which made them clearly different from both liberals and more traditional conservatives. In fact, the origins of Christian Democracy are thought to lie in the Church’s response to workers’ misery in the late 19th century.
Historically, they have also been the main political force to bring support for the European Union.
Socialism — For Equality!
The chief objective of socialism is equality … with provision for the way that every person is different. Socialism holds that an unequal society is unfair and unfree, and seeks to replace rule by the upper class and organised crime with the rule of law. Socialism wants society to be run by a just, efficient, and charitable government that will govern in the best interests of all its people instead of just the rich and powerful. The nature of this government is where classic/dictatorial and modern/democratic socialism diverge — Classic Socialism sees nothing wrong with this government being a dictatorship as this means it will be able to take decisive action to get things done, whereas Modern Socialism thinks this is a spectacularly
bad idea because the transparency and accountability of democracy is required to make sure that the government doesn’t start serving the upper classes again
Weirdly enough, and this is a good ‘in’ to the many flavours of socialism, “Democratic Socialism” (with capital letters) is actually about classic/dictatorial fascism. Like Fascism it believes that, while a government should embody the will of its people, it shouldn’t be transparent or accountable to them and there shouldn’t be any (meaningful/real) elections (i.e. it’s a ‘populist’ dictatorship, a dictatorship that tries to get people to like it). On the other hand, “Social Democracy” is about modern/democratic socialism — it’s keen on transparency, accountability, and elections.
Note that as far as classic socialists are concerned, though modern socialists fervently disagree, Socialism has nothing to do with freedom
The common threads running through all socialist ideologies are the overarching goals of improving outcomes for the poor and bringing about equality of opportunity
for everyone. To that end, socialism is broadly against the capitalist system, in which industry is operated and services provided by private entities (corporations, etc.) for the purpose of profit-making. Socialists argue that this arrangement is inherently exploitative, as the few owners of those entities (the upper class) can use their control over essential services to make themselves ever richer at the expense of the people who depend on said services with no other recourse (the working class). Instead, socialism is in favor of a system in which production of goods, providing of services etc. are in public
hands instead of private hands. One of the main causes of ideological division within socialism is exactly in what capacity
these things are put “into public hands.”
, the most commonly-known variation of socialism, takes the approach that industry, services etc. should be nationalised, i.e. owned and operated by the government. State socialism is internally divided into different schools of thought regarding the method of government administration: a planned economy
is one where every aspect of production — what to produce, how much, how to distribute, what price to set — is planned ahead of time and implemented by a government agency; a state-directed economy
is a lesser version of the same, where general goals are set by the government but most actual managing is done by workers within the industries themselves; a self-managed economy
is one where the management of industries is entirely autonomous.
is different in that it involves publicly-owned enterprises operating with a for-profit objective. As a rule, proponents of market socialism are against central economic planning and promote a self-managed economy.
Other forms of socialism such as libertarian socialism
are against state ownership of industry, and instead promote a system wherein each industry is structured as a cooperative
with every worker having equal part-ownership of the workplace and an equal say in management decisions and so on (this type of management is referred to as “workplace democracy”). These ideologies tend to be anarchist in nature (see the below section on Anarchism).
Additionally, socialism as a whole is also
divided regarding the structure of government in which such a system is implemented and how it should come about. Democratic socialism
(also known as Fabian socialism
) holds that a socialist state must have a democratic system of government, and is generally in favour of implementing socialism through peaceful reform. Socialist ideologies which have their root in Marxism-Leninism
(e.g. Stalinism, Trotskyism, Maoism, et cetera; not
necessarily Marxism in general) focus on a single vanguard party
bringing about socialism through revolution and destroying the existing capitalist state. They differ on what kind of parties they advocate in order to achieve change: the former focus upon a broad left spectrum which is inclusive of the left as a whole (the classic example being the pre-World War I
German Social Democratic Party, which contained reformists like Bernstein and revolutionaries like Luxemburg), whereas the latter advocate a party only for revolutionaries, without a reformist wing (the classic example being Lenin’s
Bolshevik party). Proponents of the latter tend to criticize the former for being ineffective in practice, and for attempting to work within a system it ought to hold as illegitimate, morally bankrupt and only worth being overthrown; proponents of the former in turn criticize the latter for inherently not representing ‘the will of the people’ if it doesn’t enjoy democratic support, and of being hypocritical in effectively creating its own new ‘elite class’ of party heads who control everything without being democratically accountable and thus nullifying any beneficial effect their revolution may have had
. Reformists also argue against the sectarianism of vanguard parties. It should be noted that there’s plenty of fracturing among the proponents of revolution (thus the splintering into Stalinism and Trotskyism, and, later, Maoism, Hoxhaism, et cetera).
Similarly, the ideology of socialism is mainly focused on economics and can vary wildly when it comes to civil rights and social freedoms. In Western culture, socialism is generally associated with being socially liberal and antiauthoritarian on such matters; on the other hand, many nations which have implemented some form of socialist system (e.g. Stalinist Russia) have been very
socially conservative and authoritarian. Economic social-democratic Communist successor parties in Eastern Europe are also far more socially conservative than their counterparts in the West even today.
It’s worth noting that the different ways of dividing socialism (by democratic versus nondemocratic, by degree of state control over planning, et cetera) all cross-cut each other. Although certain countries have obviously implemented particular combinations, they don’t inherently go together and you’ll find proponents of every possible combination somewhere out there. And likely as not, they all hate each other
Below are two subsections on notable variants or subsets of socialism:
Social Democracy — For Freedom and Equality!
Social democracy is basically a kind of compromise
between capitalism and democratic socialism. While socialism proposes that all industries come under state or cooperative ownership and control, social democracy instead proposes the nationalising of only certain essential services while still allowing private enterprise for the rest. The rationale is that certain services do not operate in the interests of the public good in a for-profit environment and inevitably result in inequality, but free enterprise is still necessary for innovation and competition (and indeed, social-democratic systems can and do involve private enterprises acting in direct competition with the nationalised services). Essentially, it’s democratic socialism within a capitalistic framework.
“Essential services” can refer to education, public transport, health insurance, welfare, water, electricity, and so on. In fact, the truth is that most government systems that self-identify as capitalist are also social-democratic in some way or another, with most services above nationalized: even the USA, which is infamously wary of socialism as a nation, has such programs as Medicare (nationalized health insurance for citizens over 65) and so on.
In terms of influence outside general Marxism, Social Democracy tends to draw heavily from the Enlightenment. Social Democratic parties tend to push the platform of secularism, progress and a technocratic/democratic approach to governing more so than other political parties in nations they are found in (thus making it Enlightenment liberalism turned Up to Eleven
Marxism — For the Working Class!
Marxism is a subset of socialist ideology based upon the ideas of the nineteenth-century thinkers, Karl Marx
and Friedrich Engels. It has had many different variations, but is most commonly associated with Red October
and the state socialism of Soviet Russia
. Marx was influenced by several different schools of thought: these were fundamentally German philosophy (particularly that of Hegel), English political economy (most importantly Adam Smith and David Ricardo) and French socialism (thinkers such as Henri de Saint-Simon).
There are essentially three fundamental building blocks to Marxist ideology: the theory of historical materialism, the critique of political economy (Marxist economics) and the belief in a socialist revolution. Marx’s theory of historical materialism is a derivation of Hegel’s ideas about the development of history over time. Hegel argued that history is moving towards increased human freedom through the development of the realm of ideas. He used the dialectical method in order to show the development of these ideas. Dialectics essentially argued that there is a contradiction in reality between two different poles of thought; this contradiction becomes resolved into a higher level, which maintained essential features of the earlier levels while transcending them. Marx adapted this method and applied it to the history of the material rather than the ideal.
Marx argues that man is essentially a tool-making animal and that this relationship between man and nature is what makes us human: the fact that we can conceive of a plan and put it into reality. Marx essentially argues that the development of the forces and relations of production and the class struggle drive history. The forces of production are the technological capacities of a particular society, and the relations of production are factors such as who owns the forces of production. The forces of production can develop to an extent that causes the relations of production to be thrown into crisis (see below).
The idea of class struggle is inherently associated with Marxism; as he famously stated in The Communist Manifesto
“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle.” Marx argued that societies were divided into classes and the class divisions are defining of particular societies. The feudal age can be defined by the division into peasants and landlords, the capitalist age by the division between the bourgeoisie (the owners of capital) and the proletariat (the working class). These two classes are in conflict due to them having fundamentally divergent interests: the bourgeoisie acts as the “personification of capital” and acts to ensure the accumulation of capital, whereas the proletariat’s interests are in overthrowing the system and creating a communist society. This is because the proletarian’s existence is unstable (as they are not guaranteed to get work from the capitalist) and their work is dull and alienating, and thus they are unable to develop their full capacities as human beings.
The Marxist critique of political economy is complicated, so it is impossible to give anything but the basics of the theory here. Marx believed that the capitalist system was based upon the aforementioned division between classes. He also believed that capitalism was a system based around commodity production, i.e. production for a market rather than production for personal need. Former systems such as feudalism contained elements of commodity production, but it was not the main form of production unlike under capitalism. Marx argued, like the other economists of his day, that value is based upon the labor used to produce a commodity; this is known as the labor theory of value. Marx argued that the mechanism by which capitalists make a profit is based upon a hidden form of exploitation. Workers sell their labor power to capitalists who pay them a wage for their labor power, and then employ that labor to create more value than the wage it is paid. This is called the Marxist theory of surplus value. Capitalists are fundamentally in competition with each other for market share. Because of this competition, each capitalist has an incentive to produce as many commodities as possible. Thus capitalists have a clear incentive to introduce more technology into the production process in order to produce more commodities with less labor time. However, this constant need to introduce technology undermines capitalism. This is because only labor creates value, technology does not; the addition of technology reduces the amount of value in the commodity and the price the commodity would fetch upon a market. This leads in the long run to the law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, which is a cause of crisis within the capitalist system. Mountains of ink could be spilled on the complexities of the contradictions of capitalism in Marxist theory. For a good introduction see here
Marx believed in the necessity to overthrow the capitalist system, and the necessity to establish a communist society. Marx did not describe the idea of communism in great detail, but the impressions from his work are that people would not be restricted to one trade. The productive forces of capitalism would lay the basis for socialism by greatly increasing the productivity of labor. As the means of production would be held in common they would be used to meet the needs of the community rather than capitalists. People would have more freedom for self-realisation within the community.
Different forms of Marxism (bear in mind that Marxists would dispute which forms of these are actually Marxist
- Leninism: The key elements of Leninism are the Leninist view on the state, the theory of imperialism, and the vanguard party. Lenin believed that the bourgeois state could not be reformed from within by a socialist party winning elections; it had to be smashed by the proletariat, who had to create their own instruments of rule. These were workers’ councils, or in the Russian, soviets. The workers would create their own armed groups to resist counterrevolution. Lenin saw imperialism as the monopoly stage of capitalism, that is, a very few companies and countries had most of the economic power. The Leninist theory of the vanguard party is very controversial. Most critics of Leninism (from liberals to anarchists and even some Marxists) see the vanguard party as primarily an instrument of tyranny and domination which rules over the working class in the name of socialism. Leninists would defend it as a democratic institution that ensures the victory of the revolution. The fundamental point to emphasize is that the vanguard party is explicitly a party of revolutionaries, and revolutionaries only. Unlike other parties of the time, such as the German Social Democratic Party, which contained both reformists and revolutionaries, the Bolshevik party contained only revolutionary socialists. It is run on the principles of “democratic centralism,” which Lenin described as “freedom of discussion, unity in action.”
- Trotskyism: A form of Leninism that accepts Lenin’s rule of Russia and Lenin’s ideas but rejects Stalin’s. Other influential ideas of Trotsky are his theory of fascism and the idea of permanent revolution. Trotsky argued that fascism (see below) was the consciousness of the petty bourgeoisie, who in a time of capitalist crisis could be rallied to the far right. Trotskyists’ depiction of Stalinism portrays it as the counterrevolution to the Bolshevik revolution, although there are many different Trotskyist views of the USSR from the view of it as a “degenerated workers’ state” to the idea that it was “bureaucratic state capitalism.”
- Orthodox Marxism: A collection of Marxist movements dating from the Second International (roughly the turn of the twentieth century) that opted for a strictly "by-the-book" approach to communism. Nowadays, it's mostly used in contrast with Leninism, which reinterpreted large swatches of Marxism to suit Russian economic conditions. Aside from rejecting vanguardist putschs in favor of "bottom-up" organization, as mentioned above, they criticized Lenin for attempting communism in an under-developed and largely rural nation, claiming it did not have the industrial foundation or ideological mindset among the masses required to sustain socialism, and thus went against the spirit of historical materialism. In turn, they were criticized by reformists for their refusal to democratically change capitalism from within the system, which even Marx advocated wherever possible. With the rise of fascist oppression and the consolidation of Russia as the center of communism, Marxist Orthodoxy faded away in favor of Muscovite Orthodoxy.
- Stalinism: The ideology promoted by Josef Stalin including the doctrine of “socialism in one country” rather than spreading the revolution. Generally it has four features: Institutional, Ideological, Political, and Economic. Institutionally it included a state bureaucracy with top-down instructions being given to lower levels of society (enterprises, trade unions, et cetera). Ideologically it promoted “socialism in one country,” productivism, and the personality cult of the leadership. Politically, rule was carried out by the Party, although Stalin had the fundamental power, and used it to promote terror and purge his rivals from the party. Economically, it was focused around five-year plans, rapid industrialization, and the collectivization of agriculture.
- Revisionism: The criticism of Stalinism by later leaders who ruled the USSR, most notably Khrushchev. Most famously voiced in the so-called “Secret Speech” of 1956, in which the excesses of the Stalinist personality cult and the purges were critiqued.
- Titoism: Opposed to Stalinism. This version of socialism is more focused upon socialist self-management than Stalinism, and Tito formed state enterprises in Yugoslavia managed by their workers.
- Maoism: Upholds a rural peasantry, rather than an urban working class, as the force capable of transitioning from capitalism to socialism. Focus on the guerrilla struggle as the means to transform society.
- Frankfurt School: A trend within Marxism that is much more skeptical of the Enlightenment elements of Marxism than other forms. Whereas most other Marxist ideologies like to crank Enlightenment ideas to extremes, this view generally saw the rationalism and technocratic approach of the Enlightenment as a form of domination over man in itself, so that man’s ideas become completely subordinated to the technocratic machine. They also criticized the culture industry as part of a system that helped create false consciousness within the masses and as a lowest-common-denominator kind of entertainment. They were critics of both the Soviet state and Western capitalism, and also often drew on the ideas of Sigmund Freud. Important thinkers in this tradition are Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, and Herbert Marcuse, and they also influenced the philosopher Jurgen Habermas.
- Marxist Humanism: Arose in the 1960s as a response to the Soviet bureaucracy. The main idea it took from Marxist theory was the idea of alienation. It’s generally related to the Frankfurt School. Since Marxist humanism and the Frankfurt school largely rejected many aspects of Orthodox Marxist theory such as materialism and technological determinism while lacking a focus on economics, many Orthodox and pro-Soviet Marxists like to consider these variants as ‘false’ and ‘not true’ flavors of Marxism.
- Autonomism: An anti-Leninist Marxism that rejects the notion of the vanguard party. In many ways it overlaps with social anarchism (see below). This is distinguished from other forms of Marxism by its focus not on the economic laws of society, but on the crises and reformulation of capital being down to capital needing to respond to the creativity and activity of the working class. On this view, for example, the restructuring of production in the 1970s and 1980s by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan was a response to strikes and other forms of resistance from workers. This theory generally arose in Italy around the late 1960s and early 1970s. Thinkers in this tradition include Michael Hardt, Harry Cleaver, Antonio Negri, and Nick Dyer-Witheford.
Adherents of Marxism, Marxism-Leninism and its derivatives are commonly known as “communists.” As all modern nations under “communist” control have had political systems which are state socialist in nature, state socialism and communism have often become conflated in the popular consciousness. In fact, Marxism regards state socialism as merely a necessary intermediate stage and communism as the final ideal system for society.
A note for comparative purposes: the Marxist approach to knowledge is very much the opposite of the British Conservative approach. British Conservatism is a highly skeptical philosophy with some leanings to empiricism. Marxism is the opposite; it is highly rationalistic
(in the same Cartesian sense that the French Revolution was).
Fascism — For Our Nation, Our Leader, and Victory!
The chief objective of Fascism is strengthening the nation and increasing its prestige through warfare — i.e. Type 2 Patriotic Fervor
taken to its extreme. Fascism shares Nationalism’s belief that only ‘nations’ matter (and individual/actual people don’t) but completely rejects Liberalism and so hates individuality and all
other non-national senses of identity. Fascism opposes equality between nations as it wants its own to either be the only one in existence or merely (the most) powerful, but has no set opinion on equality within its nation (let alone other nations). Fascism has no opinion on capitalism or economics and loves war
because Fascism is about passion and national honor, not numbers and planning
. Fascism may overlap with ‘race’ and ‘racial theory’ insofar as it defines who belongs to the nation, but not necessarily.
Philosophically, it arises from a Continental Counter-Enlightenment philosophical context, influenced by such thinkers as J.G. Fichte, Martin Heidegger, and Georg Hegel. Its origins have some overlap with that of socialism, with Benito Mussolini (the proverbial father of fascism politically) being a former Marxist. Historically, its roots can be searched for in the ethos of stormtrooper formations of late World War I
; many ex-soldiers carried on this spirit of aggression and elitism as they went on to dabble in extreme politics, among them Mussolini himself. Whereas Marx replaced Hegel’s “Zeitgeist” (or “spirit of the age”) with the prevailing economic system
, fascists replace the zeitgeist with the spirit of the nation
. Fascism argues for an organic conception of a nation with the State seen as the embodiment of the national spirit: as such, fascist regimes feature strong central governments which are authoritarian in nature. Individuals are seen, fundamentally, as products of the nation (similar to how Marxian “methodological collectivism” views individuals as products of their economic class) — hence, fascism requires a strong identification with nationality and national identity on the part of the people, rejecting all individualism or identification with economic class. Fascism often claims to represent the entire nation, subservient to the State and unified behind the Leader, undivided e.g. by class struggles; in the eyes of a fascist, a popular autocrat is a better representation of the people’s interests and desires than an elected parliament, which is viewed contemptuously as a den of immorality
and ineffectual bickering. Given this stance, fascism is inherently undemocratic and autocratic.
Strong national identification involves a veneration of not just the nation in abstract, but of practices seen as fundamental to national identity: this results in a reverence for tradition. Traditions are seen as important rituals that connect people to the national spirit. Furthermore, fascism tends to support social policy positions which are regarded as conservative or right-wing. However, these policy positions are conservative in the Oakeshottean
sense of the term: they are considered the right policies because they are consistent with national traditions, rather than because of any pre-existing moral commitments. Indeed, to a fascist, a moral commitment that ‘pre-exists’ inside an individual’s mind independently of said individual's nationality is a ridiculous notion, as they believe individuals are ‘socially constructed’ by their nationality as was stated before. Many argue that ethical relativism (i.e. what is good for Nation X may not be good for Nation Y) is thus an integral part of fascism and a logical consequence of fascism’s belief in ‘national spirits.’ It should also be kept in mind
, however, that while fascists do use reverence for tradition and national identity, those in themselves are not fascist.
That does not mean that fascism doesn’t have a system of ethics and values, however — instead, that system of ethics is rooted in concepts of struggle, Power, and obedience. Typically this is expressed in the form of an extreme cultural militarism, with the military being an expression of the power and might of the State, and the mentality of eagerness and action for action’s sake.
The most infamous element of fascism is its support for Social Darwinism
of various sorts. In Mussolini’s and Hitler’s regimes, a level of internal “creative tension” within the components of the nation was seen as beneficial in directing competitive desires towards the service of the State. Furthermore, Hitler's version of fascism (National Socialism, a.k.a. Nazism) combined this Social-Darwinist ethos with an institutional belief in white supremacy to posit an evolutionary struggle between various races. We all know where this led
, so further elaboration is not necessary.
Things get more complicated when outlining fascist economics. Since fascism is used as an epithet and it is popularly believed that if Fascists did it, then it is bad
, a long intellectual battle has been waged over how to characterize the economics of Fascism.
Typically, the term “corporatism” is used to describe fascist economics. It describes a situation wherein all the large privately-owned economic institutions (corporations, industry cartels and the like
) are brought into collusion with the government and become part of the apparatus of the State’s economic planning. Additionally, private ownership and ability to do business become contingent on service to the State. Thus, while ownership
of the means of production (the stuff used to produce other stuff) remains in private hands and continues to be operated with a for-profit objective, ultimate control
is exercised by the State. Fascist governments also exercise further control over the economy via methods such as price-fixing.
The fascist economic system is in keeping with the ideology’s totalitarian nature, where no other institution can be allowed to rival the State in power and influence. This quality also leads to a hostility toward labour unions and other organised worker groups, with such institutions typically being repressed and dissolved. Mussolini’s Italy did in fact see the creation of new trade unions following the dissolution of the old ones: these new unions were owned and operated by the State.
This system invites comparisons with many forms of state socialism
, as both ideologies involve a centrally-planned economy with the State in control of the means of production. Although ownership remains private in the fascist system, many classical-liberal critiques of fascism have argued that “ownership without control” is a senseless, inherently illogical notion, and that fascism is economically indistinguishable from state socialism and therefore is
a variant of state socialism. Still, even a cursory look at the two ideologies will demonstrate the radical differences in ethos, even if comparisons in actual outcome are legitimate.
Marxist critiques of fascism, conversely, argue that fascism is a form of capitalism, in the sense of Marx’s initial definition of the term (see the “Marxism” subsection above). Despite being highly regimented and controlled by the State, fascist economies still have private ownership of industries by an upper class who make profit from the labor of workers; as profit still exists, the economy is still exploitative and thus a form of capitalism. Fascism is on the whole strongly anti-Marxist and anti-socialist, and the two ideologies are usually rivals in attempts to take power during crises like economic depressions — Marxism thus considers fascism to be at best a power play coming out of the petit bourgeois
, and at worst little more than a group of violent thugs controlled by the capitalist class brought in as enforcers to defend the old order (and whether or not it acknowledges this status is regarded as irrelevant, since in practice they still end up defending capitalism).
However, ultimately economics in fascism is usually a secondary concern
; they claim the “Third Position” on the issue between capitalist and communist.
Contemporary fascist groups can only succeed by the use of fantastic lies to deceive the public. Whether through conspiracy theories, Holocaust denial or scare tactics, people aren’t likely to side with a group at odds with their liberties unless they convince the public that the powers that be will enslave them anyway. Most often, this comes down to conspiracies blaming some sinister cabal
of ceding their nation’s sovereignty to the UN by destroying national identity through immigration which is Insane Troll Logic
at its finest.
Anarchism — For Absolute Freedom!
People are fundamentally good and don’t need to be coerced into treating each other with decency
. Government isn’t a ‘necessary’ evil at all.
The definition of anarchism to most people means ‘belief the state is bad and shouldn’t exist.’ However, while all anarchists are anti-statists, it is not the only or in most cases even an essential part of their ideology.
is the belief that rulership
as a whole (not just the state) should not existnote
and that people should instead organize their social relations and institutions through voluntary cooperation without hierarchies of power. Politically, most forms of anarchism support replacing the nation-state and representative democracy with a free federation of self-governing communities and direct democracy — mainly organised through local networks of participatory, face-to-face, neighborhood assemblies.
Economically, anarchists oppose capitalism (with the exception of anarcho-capitalists) and instead advocate replacing private corporations and wage-labor as the primary forms of enterprise with self-employment, worker-run cooperatives, commons-based peer production, and other economic institutions organised on a horizontal, rather than hierarchical, basis. However, they are divided on what specific form a post-capitalist, post-statist economy should take, as well as the best means for achieving it — with some calling for the armed overthrow of the state and corporations, and others calling for a nonviolent ‘dual power’ strategy in which federations of democratic cooperatives, popular assemblies, affinity groups, and other institutions work together to replace hierarchical society gradually by opting out of it.
Anarchists tend to reject the traditional dichotomy of individualism vs. collectivism as a false one. Instead, they promote what political theorist Alan Ritter calls “communal individuality”: the view that the free flourishing of the individual and self-realization are only truly possibly in a liberated society of equals, where the autonomy of one is the precondition for the autonomy of all. As such, they see the fight for individual freedom and social justice as one and the same.
The issue of capitalism might seem from the outside to be a divisive one for anarchists, although this is only due to terminology. Most anarchist literature, and most anarchists, define “capitalism” in the same way Marxists do (the system of wage-labor, which according to Marxism is exploitative). However, the term “capitalism” is also commonly defined by non-anarchists (and by most self-proclaimed capitalists as well) as “free-market economics” (i.e. when all economic activity must take place outside the realm of the state). Most anarchists consider the two meanings to be separate concepts, with “capitalism” being used in the Marxist sense and “free market” being used to refer to the second definition.
For the remainder of this article, “capitalism” and “free market” will be used with these definitions. Therefore, a person can be both anti-capitalist and pro-market (i.e. arguing for a society of self-employed people interacting and exchanging on a purely voluntary basis; the mutualists and individualist anarchists share this position). This was in common with classical liberalism. On the other hand, someone can be pro-capitalist and anti-market by such definitions (arguably, Mussolini-style corporatism fits this). Hence, the anarchists from Proudhon on were opposed completely to what they called capitalism (i.e. the existence of wage labor) with only the so-called “anarcho-capitalists” supporting it. They find commonality, however, in opposing the coercive mechanisms of the state, though often for different reasons.
Anarchistic ideas and notions have arguably existed throughout most of human history, with traditions such as Taoism, Buddhism, and Ancient Greek Cynicism containing many notions with anarchist characteristics. Many tribal societies from pre-history to the present, such as the Nigerian Nuer or Iroquois Confederacy, also had or have methods of non-hierarchical organisation which mirror the anarchist ideal of a society without rulership or centralised political authority. However, while philosophical
anarchism can be identified in many places and in almost every time period, political
anarchism did not emerge as a self-aware school of thought until the 19th century in Europe. According to German anarchist Rudolf Rocker, anarchism could be seen as the confluence of two earlier social and political philosophies: liberalism and socialism, or more accurately, classical liberalism and democratic socialism. Thus, the alternative term for anarchism, libertarian socialism.
The words ‘anarchy’ and ‘anarchism’ arose in the mid-1600s during the English Civil War as an insult hurled at fringe radical groups. While this epithet for the most part had no basis in fact, two groups which were active at the time — the Diggers and the Ranters — had ideas and practices which were quite close to anarchism. Some view the English radical William Godwin as the first modern philosophical anarchist, from his work Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and its Influence on Modern Morals and Manners
(1793) in which he espoused proto-anarchist views about the state and the then-emerging economic system of capitalism in England.
French writer and politician Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was the first thinker to call himself
an anarchist however, with the 1840 book What Is Property?
from which came the famous slogan: “property is theft.” It's important to note that Proudhon did not mean all
forms of what we could call “property” by it, only those not defined by personal possession. In other words, he supported personal property (defined by use and occupancy) but opposed “private” property (when defined by absentee ownership), which he felt was based on theft of others’ personal property.
While Proudhon and a few other thinkers called themselves anarchists in the 1840s and 1850s, anarchism didn’t really get organised as a cohesive movement until the mid-1860s within the famous socialist group the IWMA (International Working Men’s Association), also called the “First International,” as it’s had at least three successors. Although the First International is most well-known today because Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels were members, for a time it actually contained more anarchists than Marxists — that is, until they were expelled in the early 1870s by Marx himself.
Having developed out of the same European socialist movement that spawned Karl Marx’s writing, anarchism’s relationship to Marxism has always been ambivalent. While many anarchists accepted Marx’s critique of capitalism and (with nuance) the Marxian school of economics, they strenuously rejected Marx’s politics, in particular the tactic of taking state power as a way to bring about socialism. For anarchists like Mikhail Bakunin (Marx’s rival in the First International) the state was inherently an institution of class rule, and could never be used to bring about a classless society as it would just corrupt whatever group laid their hands on it. They also tended to reject the Marxist conception of history — historical materialism — which claims that economic and technological factors are the fundamental driving force of human development. Anarchists saw this perspective as reductionist and ignoring important social factors that weren’t directly related to economics. Also, while Marxists see the proletariat (the urban industrial working class) as the fundamental agents of revolution, anarchists also saw revolutionary potential in the rural peasantry and social outcasts (the lumpen-proletariat) which Marxists tend to dismiss as ‘backward.’
Views on economics among anarchists could be divided into four different but overlapping schools of thought, each of which developed at different times in response to different economic and social circumstances.
- Mutualism: Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who started writing in 1840, argued that property, except when based in personal possession (i.e. occupancy and use) was theft. He espoused his rationale exhaustively in What Is Property?, with most if not all anarchists accepting it. Opposition to “private property” (anything besides actual possession) in addition to the state is near-universal to anarchism, though some have used the term in a positive way to support property that is the product of one’s own labor. Along with this most opposed sexism, racism, homophobia, classism and social hierarchy generally. Proudhon did not in fact oppose the concept of a free market, supporting workers associations (cooperatives) and mutual banks (similar to modern credit unions) to compete away industrial capitalism. His school of thought is termed mutualism. While it fell out favour for a long time, it has recently been revived by the economic theorist Kevin Carson, who has integrated it with elements borrowed from the thought of other left-wing, pro-market writers.
- Collectivism: Mikhail Bakunin, a Russian noble-turned-radical writer who was imprisoned for his politics, escaping into exile, followed Proudhon and broke with him on many issues, supporting collective work without markets and workers’ self-management. Bakunin also linked opposition to religion, especially organized, hierarchical forms, to his view of anarchism, seeing God as the ultimate authority. He turned a saying of Voltaire’s on its head: “If God really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him.” He was a strong rival of Marx in the First International, and the two fought a long war of words over control of the organization until Marx’s followers expelled Bakunin’s. Bakunins school of thought is called anarcho-collectivism, and could be considered a sort of middle way between mutualism (markets but with cooperatives instead of corporations) and communism (in which markets and even money would be abolished). It’s important to note that the term collectivism here is purely an economic term, not a social one. It refers only to the collectivisation of industry, not giving priority to the collective interest over that of the individual. Participatory Economics (Parecon) and Inclusive Democracy (ID) could be considered contemporary forms of collectivist anarchism.
- Communism: Peter Kropotkin, a Russian prince who, like Bakunin, gave it all up for radicalism, advocated full libertarian communism on the principle “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” favoring abolition of money in favor of free access to communally-owned goods although with voluntary, direct democratic participation: anarcho-communism. Many on first impression may find the idea of communist anarchism odd given the modern day associations of the word ‘Communism’ with the statist, centrally planned economies of the former Soviet Union. In the 19th century, though, the word ‘communist’ simply referred to any economic system that lacked both a state and money, where goods were distributed according to need. It is this original sense of the word that anarchists refer to when talking about communism.
- Individualism: Meanwhile, in the United States, a very different brand of anarchism emerged. American writers such as Benjamin Tucker, Lysander Spooner, William Green and others set out an ideal very close to Proudhon’s, with even more emphasis upon an ‘anti-capitalist free market’ in which self-employed craftsmen, artisans or farmers were paid their ‘full wage’ and land title was possession-based only. In short, individualist anarchism argued for a society where every individual was a ‘capitalist’ (in the Marxist sense, i.e. an owner of capital). Essentially, they held to the Labor Theory of Value along with support of free markets — “cost is the limit of price” was among their key slogans. Their ideal was a stateless economy comprising mostly self-employed artisans and shopkeepers. This school of thought began slowly dying out in the late 19th century as social anarchism (collectivist or communist) took over, with immigrants from Europe such as Emma Goldman bringing it to the forefront of U.S. anarchism.
- Social and Market Anarchism: As they stand today, the four main economic schools mentioned above could be grouped into two categories:
- Market anarchism (containing mutualist anarchism and individualist anarchism) which seeks a non-capitalist free market made up of self-employed professionals and worker-run cooperatives, and …
- Social anarchism (collectivist anarchism and communist anarchism) which seeks to replace the market with decentralised, directly-democratic planning of the economy, either by community assemblies or worker councils, or some combination of the two.
While differences in terms of desired outcomes do exist between these two tendencies, most anarchists don’t have a problem with each self-governing free community in an anarchist confederation deciding for itself what particular economic system they want to have. Ericco Malatesta, although himself a social anarchist, conceived of various different municipalities practicing collectivism, communism, mutualism, and individualism all existing side-by-side.
At around the same time Proudhon was penning his socialist attacks on property and the state, another writer, Max Stirner, wrote a similar attack on these and other authoritarian institutions from a more individualist perspective in The Ego and Its Own
Stirner did not label himself an anarchist, but his rejection of the state, capitalism, and, well, all institutions basically, means he has been counted with them. He believed that rights, property, the state, conventional morality and God were all ‘spooks’ holding back the individual from themselves, since all these are placed above them. It’s worth noting Stirner, while believing the individual’s right to act was unlimited, advised that it would be best if they respected each other as individuals, to let each flourish, even saying people could not have their full self-expression absent communion with others, so they could join together voluntarily in a way he called the “Union of Egoists.” Here
is a classic text by the Situationist International, advancing a collectivist form of egoism. Stirner denounced authoritarian communism of his time, but a kind that respected individuals and lent them full expression of themselves is viewed to be compatible with his ideas.
In the late 19th century Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy
(who, like Bakunin and Kropotkin, was a Russian noble who renounced his title) embraced a form of Christian, pacifist anarchism — though like Stirner and Godwin before him, he didn’t use the label anarchist himself. Unique among anarchist trends for its total rejection of violence, even in defence of oneself or others, Tolstoy advocated essentially the same ideas as Bakunin or Kropotkin, his countrymen and more famous anarchists, but with complete pacifism. His work deeply influenced Mohandas K. “Mahatma” Gandhi
(who knew Indian anarchists in London early in his activism, while disagreeing with them over the issue of using violence) in addition to Civil Disobedience
, by Henry David Thoreau. Critics argued his ideas were fit only for saints (though many think Gandhi was such).
The turn of the 20th century saw another trend, which advocated for revolutionary unions to overthrow capitalism and the state using militant industrial organizing, sabotage, general strikes and overall working-class solidarity. This is called anarcho-syndicalism
from the French for labor union — “chambre syndical.” It was less a separate school of thought than tactical view, since followers were invariable social anarchists in the collectivist or communist mold. The Spanish Revolution, often pointed to as their greatest (albeit doomed
) triumph by social anarchists, utilized this in the CNT (Confederación Nacional Del Trabajo
— National Confederation of Labor), which organized a workers’ revolt in 1936 following the military coup led by Francisco Franco against the elected Spanish Popular Front government. The CNT and FAI (Federación Anarquisto Ibérica
— Iberian Anarchist Federation) ran much of northeast Spain, centered in Catalonia, along anarchist lines with no small success for the next three years until a combination of Stalinists and Francoist forces
crushed the revolution.
It is important to note, however, that while syndicalism is typically associated with anarchism, this does not mean that all syndicalists are anarchists; some of them are actually very authoritarian. Mussolini in fact called his economic model National Syndicalism, as did Franco, though this meant something completely different, as fascist ‘syndicates’ were government-created trade associations which ran industry
. It’s like a Venn diagram, in that there are non-anarchist syndicalists and non-syndicalist anarchists who favor other tactics for achieving libertarian socialism.
The school of “anarcho-capitalism” emerged in 1950s–’60s America with the writer, economics professor and Libertarian Party activist Murray Rothbard, expanded upon by later thinkers like David D. Friedman (son of Milton, although going much further in his advocacy of free-market economics) and Rothbard’s student Walter Block. Rothbard agreed with the classical anarchists that government is oppressive and illegitimate, but disagreed with them by concluding that private property and free markets were always good. Though admiring the individualist anarchists, he followed the Austrian School of Economics, which rejects the Labor Theory of Economic Value (in favor of the Subjective Theory of Economic Value) most strenuously and, as a consequence, rejects the view that wage-labour is exploitative (which the mutualist and individualist anarchists accepted). Along with this, Rothbard was far more devoted to classical liberalism and natural-rights theory than the individualist anarchists, who followed aspects of it (while Benjamin Tucker eventually gave it up for Egoism as well). This view on ethics differed even more from the social anarchists, who tended towards consequentialist and virtue ethics rather than Rothbard’s particular form of deontology. Rothbard accepted voluntary collectivism and communism, even advocating that businesses funded by the state be expropriated or ‘homesteaded’ as they used stolen capital, i.e. taxed income. However, he certainly accepted property more than for ‘occupancy and use’ provided this had been homesteaded or received peacefully. He felt that provision of government services, such as police, militaries, courts, roads, et cetera, could be far better under the auspices of common law by private institutions.note
Agorism is to anarcho-capitalism essentially what anarcho-syndicalism is to social anarchism, namely a tactic advocating using the black and grey markets to live ‘off the grid’ and bring down the system from within through ‘counter-economics’ in competition with the system. Mutualism called for similar methods, and is now being somewhat revived by Kevin A. Carson, who attempts a fusion of the Subjective and Labor Theory of Economic Value in his work, Studies in Mutualist Political Economy
, available free here
Since the late 1960s new trends in anarchism emerged which added an environmental focus to its antiauthoritarian ideas, eventually leading to a new tendency called eco-anarchism or green anarchism.
These started partly with the philosophy of Social Ecology
coined by Murray Bookchin, whose book Our Synthetic Environment
was released six months before the better known Silent Spring
by Rachel Carson, the book widely credited with kickstarting the modern environmentalist movement. Social Ecology takes the anarchist perspective of seeing social problems as stemming from hierarchy and domination and applies it to humanity’s relation to nature: seeing the negative way humans treat the environment — such as pollution, landscape spoiling, and animal cruelty — as being rooted in the negative ways humans treat each other. As a solution, Social Ecologists seek to utilize technology for ecological rather than profit-driven ends and to decentralize institutions into small-scale eco-communities operating through direct-democracy. Other green anarchist movements such as Deep Ecology and anarcho-primitivism came later and see ecological problems lying not in the authoritarian ways humans treat each other, but in humanity itself as a species. Deep Ecologists believe that all life forms have a right to existence apart from or even in opposition to human needs, and society must be radically reformed to accommodate this. Primitivists move even further, believing the human population must be significantly reduced, with the few humans that remain going back to a hunter-gatherer way of life, leaving behind all technology more sophisticated than those found in the Neolithic era. As you might expect, these groups do not
like each other.
“Post-left” and “lifestyle” anarchism has become widespread in modern times, something Bookchin disapproved of. These are marked by a tendency to reject classical social anarchism’s left-wing, working-class organizing and goals or at least complement them with ecological or animal rights issues. Veganism and Dumpster diving (combined as “freeganism” — eating only food that is reclaimed after being discarded) have become common for such lifestyle anarchism, in addition to using the system (especially where it has an ecological impact) to the lowest degree possible. The group Crimethinc are the most prominent exponents of this brand of post-left/lifestyle anarchism.
In addition to this, there are other different anarchist movements that don’t focus on the organization of an actual anarchist society, but rather on the means to bring it.
- Propaganda of the deed: Not a school of thought, rather the tactic prominent in the last decades of the 19th century of killing powerful figures in society, both to avenge their perceived abuses but also to inspire revolt through such “attentacts” (acts that would draw attention). Needless to say, this backfired spectacularly, allowing the anarchist movement to be painted as mindless terrorists. A few made this even worse by targeting random people. Heads of state assassinated included the President of France, the Empress of Austria, the King of Italy, and the President of the United States in 1901, around the time propaganda of the deed ended. Few anarchists today actually advocate this, so it could be considered something of a Discredited Trope in philosophy.
- Illegalism: Similar to the above, it advocated illegal acts for their own sakes, to bring down legal authority. Illegalist targets were usually things such as banks they could justify stealing from since they were a part of the capitalist order. Most other anarchists denounced this as giving them a bad name, or simply being an excuse for illegalists to gain money, which they pointed out also came from working people, not just capitalists, in places like banks.
- Christian anarchism: Related to philosophical anarchism, this is the view that the teachings of Christ are compatible with, or even require, a non-hierarchical stateless society. They also argue that early Christian communes were anarcho-communist in nature. Often connected with anarcho-pacifism, as in the work of Leo Tolstoy.
- Anarcha-feminism: Movement for women (especially led by anarcho-communist Emma Goldman) popular in the early twentieth century, which claims that society is inherently male-dominated and that anarchist societies should be egalitarian in nature. The individualist anarchist Voltairine de Cleyre was also a significant voice in this tendency.
- Queer anarchism: Same as above, but replace ‘women’ with ‘sexual minorities’ and ‘male’ with ‘heterosexuals’.
- Post-left anarchism: A movement within anarchism that rejects left-right political distinctions. Often associated with ecological and ‘lifestyle’ trends.
- Agorism, as mentioned above, is more of a tactic of revolution than an ideological system.
- Anarchism without Adjectives, which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
Feminism — For Sexual and Gender Freedom!
The chief objective of Feminism is the relative equality of women with men and liberation from stereotypes about gender and sexuality. All
stereotypes about gender and sexuality. Feminism is actually not so much a single ideology as an umbrella-term for several different gender-focused philosophies; some of which could be seen as complementary, but also others which want nothing to do with each other due to fundamental disagreements. Though all its different tendencies would agree on a few baseline issues.
Classic Feminism was very much a movement focused on securing the legal equality of women (who had lesser rights under the law) to men and reducing the incidence of the rape and abuse of women. This kind of feminism is still alive and kicking in the three fifths of the world that isn’t the Global North and China, where Feminism taken a new form. Contemporary feminism seems to be in the process of recognising that men’s issues, chiefly mental health
and a general attitude that men are more expendable than women, have been neglected
and is seeking to correct this. Feminism is also associated with sexual freedom and a general attitude that who one loves and has sex with are nobody else’s business (especially not that of the government).
In the history of the movement it is generally divided into different ‘waves’:
First-wave feminism in the early twentieth century focused on votes for women. Second-wave feminism from 1960 onward focused on challenging accepted gender roles and sexual/reproductive freedom. Third-wave feminism started in the early 1990s and tends to focus on achieving greater equality for women in political and economic institutions as well as challenging more hidden forms of sexism in the media and culture.
While many would argue that we are still in the third wave of feminism, some have claimed that since the early 2010s we have entered a ‘fourth wave’ which carries forward the aims of the previous three while also trying to take into account the experiences of women who had been historically neglected by mainstream feminist theory, such as LGBT women, nonwhite women, and women in the Global South. The fourth wave is also far more political than the third wave (and somewhat closer to the second in spirit), being linked primarily to left-wing social movements like anarchism and socialism.
In addition to the three waves, which are divided by time periods, feminism is also divided internally over which issues are of most importance and what is really at the root of gender inequality.
- Radical feminism: Probably the most militant form of feminism and the source of many of the negative stereotypes — mostly from conflating it with feminism as a whole. It sees the problems women face as resulting from patriarchy (social power relations being slanted to favor males over females) and sees all other struggles as subordinate to it. Most radical feminists oppose pornography, which they see as inherently oppressive towards women, and other forms of sex work such as prostitution, with most radical feminists today supporting the ‘Scandinavian model’ of criminalizing the buyer of sex but not the seller. While once very popular, it has gotten a lot of flak in recent years for being ‘anti-sex’, seemingly ignoring issues of class, race, and sexual orientation, and because of many radical feminists having expressed opinions viewed as transphobic (anti-transgender).
- Marxist feminism: Sees the source of women’s oppression not being due to the concept of patriarchy as such, but due to the unequal structure of a capitalist economy. For this reason it sees struggles for gender justice and economic justice as inseparable. They hold that only by getting rid of capitalism can gender equality be achieved.
- Socialist feminism: A fusion of radical feminism with Marxist feminism. It sees capitalism and patriarchy as mutually reinforcing systems with one making possible the other.
- Liberal feminism: Agrees with Marxist feminism that the source of women’s oppression is economic, but isn’t anti-capitalist. Instead it focuses on breaking through what they call the ‘glass ceiling’ in economic institutions that concentrates men at the top of corporate and political professions while keeping women in subordinate positions in companies. This is probably the most popular and mainstream form of feminism in the present day, though radical feminism still tends to dominate in academic and activist contexts.
- Black feminism: Shifts attention towards the experiences of women and girls of African descent. Argues that feminists need to take account of racial problems in addition to gender problems. The writer bell hooks is a prominent voice in this tendency.
- Lesbian feminism: Shifts attention towards LGBT women and incorporates elements of queer theory into feminist discourse. It’s also tends to be heavily inspired by postmodernist philosophy and tries to deconstruct ideas of what it means to be a woman. Judith Butler’s 1990 book "Gender Trouble" is a pretty good summation of lesbian feminist ideas and queer theory as a whole, although the high levels of academic jargon have made it notoriously difficult to read. There's also a minority of lesbian feminists who despise queer theory and focus on "political lesbianism"; that is, separating themselves from males for political reasons. This section has more overlap with radical feminism than with queer politics.
- Ecofeminism: Emphasises the woman’s relationship to nature and champions the supposedly feminine values of ecology while attacking the androcentric worldview that allegedly treats the earth as something to be used and dominated in the same way patriarchal men treat women. Other environmental philosophies — especially Social Ecology — have criticised ecofeminism for claiming that women have an essentially deeper connection to nature than men, given that many of the ‘feminine’ traits of nature are merely coded as such rather than innately gendered. Plus the fact that many ecofeminists are close to New Age thinking with many even worshiping a Mother Earth Goddess.
- Anarcha-feminism: Sees the domination of women as one form of power-based social hierarchy among many along with racism, homophobia, transphobia, capitalism, and statism. It opposes all of the above and argues that a fight against any one of them is incomplete without seeing them as part of a mutually reinforcing network of different oppressions. This idea is called intersectionality and also has applications outside of gender issues. The Russian-American writer Emma Goldman is considered the grandmother of this school of thought.
There's also a big split going back to the so-called ‘feminist sex wars’ of the 1980s over attitudes towards sex and sexuality. Some feminists see things like pornography, prostitution, BDSM, and other issues related to sexuality as fundamentally against women: these are known (mainly by their opponents, it should be added) as ‘sex-negative’ feminists. Others view the above not as exploitative in and of themselves but only in the context of women’s lack of autonomy within them, and that forms of sexual expression could be potentially empowering and liberating
for women if only there was equality of power between the men and women engaged in them. These are called ‘sex-positive’ feminists.
While few dispute the notion that relative equality of the sexes is a good thing, there is some debate today about whether feminism is still relevant-at least in the affluent parts of the world-with many antifeminists claiming that the issues feminists seek to address in western Europe and North America are not ‘real problems.’
Others have complaints about feminism that range from somewhat legitimate — at least to certain forms of it — to being based on a misunderstanding of what feminism actually is. The most frequent complaint of the latter category originating from the (false) notion that feminism is about female supremacy over men.
Some common complaints frequently voiced today are as follows:
- ‘If it’s about equality between the genders, why is it called feminism and only focuses on one gender?’
Because the movement originated at a time when women were clearly considered inferior to men socially and institutionally. It focused on the female sex because most men were already in positions of power in society relative to women. It was women that needed to be brought up to the level of men, who were perceived to already have power. As for the accusation of being sexist for only focusing on one gender, a counterargument would be that this would make the black civil rights movement racist because it only focused on black people, or the gay rights movement bigoted because it didn’t also focus on the problems of straight people.
- ‘Okay, so classical feminism may have been about genuine equality, but modern feminism is full of misandrists who hate all men and privileged women who only care about superficial problems.’
There's no such thing as "modern" feminism in the sense of a unified movement with the same aims and ideas in the present day. As noted above, while the different waves of feminism are divided by time periods, feminism as a theory is more accurately divided by its different political tendencies. What critics tend to think of as ‘modern’ feminism is actually just the views of its loudest
contemporary tendencies, though not necessarily its most numerous, with the alleged misandry mainly coming from radical feminism and the alleged focus on superficial problems (only relevant to privileged women) coming from liberal feminism. In fact, many feminists from other schools of thought have criticized radical and liberal feminism for the exact same reasons.
- ‘This thing feminists claim to oppose, “patriarchy,” doesn't exist. Surely most men have lives just as hard as most women.’
This is a somewhat understandable criticism given that the word ‘patriarchal’ is used colloquially to refer to male power, with the counter-claim generally arguing that if we take power to mean ‘control over your own life,’ then men are just as deprived of power as women are. However, what patriarchy really means is not that men have more power as a whole, but that males tend to have more institutional
power; i.e.: that decision-making ability with regard to the running of societies is chiefly held by men and wielded primarily to perpetuate this hierarchical division between male and female. Defining power as ‘control over your own life’ is actually just one kind of power, which feminists refer to as “power-to.” There is another kind of power which refers to the control some have over the lives of others, referred to as “power-over.” Feminists mean “power-over,” not “power-to,” when discussing patriarchy. And not even all feminists agree about what causes patriarchy. Marxist and socialist feminists believe that its roots lie in the early division of labor between men and women that private property gave rise to, while anarcha-feminists argue that it coexists with several other intersecting hierarchies, and that there exist contexts where men may be disadvantaged relative to women.
- “If it’s about equality, shouldn’t it be called “equalism”?’
One problem with this is that feminism is not just about equality. As many such as Germaine Greer have pointed out, it is also concerned with women’s liberation from the concept of fixed gender roles, not simply equality with men. The term equalism, if adopted, would leave out a crucial theoretical aspect of the movement.
- ‘If it’s about equality and liberation for all people, shouldn’t it be called “humanism”?’
There is already a philosophy called humanism. It had its origins in the Enlightenment era and has never had anything specifically to do with gender issues, which is what feminism has always been concerned with (although most humanists today do support feminism).
One of the more legitimate complaints is that while there is an entire movement and theory dedicated to addressing the needs of women, males also have problems that deserve attention but can’t be addressed by a philosophy that defines itself in its relation to females. However, most feminists do not object to ‘masculists’ who focus on male problems as long as it they view themselves as complementary to feminism rather than antagonistic to it. As the feminist writer Laurie Penny has said "men and boys are discouraged from talking about their pain. Thinking in a new way about sex, gender and power - call it feminism or 'masculism' or whatever the hell you like as long as you do it - can help men to process that pain".
On the other hand, they have no time for so-called “men’s rights activists” who claim that feminism has ‘gone too far’ and left men as subordinate to women. Many men’s rights activists claim not only that men are more oppressed than women now, but that males have always
been the more oppressed sex throughout human history, with women being able to lead cushy lives in the home while men have been valued for nothing but as their source of money
, powerless because of their inability to resist women’s sexual allure
Environmentalism — For the Environment!
Environmentalism is an ideology and social movement that is centered on the defense of the natural environment against pollution, deforestation, biodiversity decline and other threats, to foster better health and well-being for everyone. Today, it mainly involves fighting global warming, opposing nuclear power, refusing GMOs, pushing for renewable energies such as wind, water and solar power, and other issues considered as being of importance within the movement.
While some ideas associated with the movement are Older Than They Think
, its ultimate origins are debatable. While there are parallels between Environmentalism and ideas found in Romanticism, many ideas found in early socialist and classical liberal authors from the Enlightenment period to the mid-19th century, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Henry David Thoreau in particular, could be considered proto-environmentalist. Some socialist authors’ (including Marx’s, arguably) reactions to the Industrial Revolution also spawned the same kind of early environmentalist ideas. William Morris in particular presented an ecological form of socialism in his utopian novel News from Nowhere
Anyway, environmentalism truly emerged as a distinct ideology, and gained momentum in the Western world, during the 1960s and 1970s, as part of the larger counterculture of the time, and thanks to concerns related to DDT and other chemicals; in particular, Silent Spring
by Rachel Carson is said to be very influential, as well as the founding of Greenpeace.
There is also a large connection between environmentalism and peace movements (and pacifist/nonviolent ideals more generally). In particular the push for disarmament and the worldwide banning of dangerous weapons are mainstream proposals within the environmental movement. Lately, environmentalism has also developed a close relationship with indigenous peoples’ movements, especially in Latin America and Asia, as many of their ancestral homes and means of subsistence are being ravaged by state and corporate desire for the natural resources on or underneath their land.
That said, environmentalism consists of various factions and groups covering other ideologies along the political spectrum. The relationship of the movement with actual science is ambiguous and often decried as selective by its opponents and even other environmentalists. While they tend to be the most active political current when it comes to push the fight against global warming, their positions about GMOs and nuclear power tend to be less rigorous in science. On the fringes, there are various New Age-y outshoots with more or less weird beliefs as well as so-called “Hard Green” cliques who believe that the likes of Greenpeace don’t go far enough. There are also disagreements over the issue of technology, with so-called Deep Ecologists having a mostly negative view of it as inherently degrading and exploitative towards nature, while Social Ecologists view technology as potentially liberating for both humanity and the environment if only it were used for ends that promoted ecological stewardship rather than treating the natural world in a dominative and extractivist manner.
Some environmentalists also tend to be critical of modern Western societies and the values associated with them, especially the “Growth Imperative” that associates progress with increased GDP and the increased size of industrial output, which may explain why such groups tend to be very socially liberal and economically left-leaning in many countries. Eco-socialists and Social Ecologists go even further in seeing capitalism itself as innately anti-ecological, and hold that only by dismantling it can we have any hope of curing the ills of the planet.
Works that promote or are heavily influenced by a particular ideology:
Note that most of these authors are generally considered classical liberals rather than social liberals, although confusingly, there is a great deal of difference between e.g. the classical liberalism of Adam Smith (who actually reserved some rather strong barbs for the upper class) versus the classical liberalism of Ayn Rand, who was much more right-wing (and therefore much more controversial). Among the writers of nonfiction on this list, Isaiah Berlin, (sometimes) John Stuart Mill, Thomas Paine
, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, John Maynard Keynes, Karl Popper, Paul Krugman, John Rawls, Joseph Stiglitz (probably the only person on this list who could be considered a social democrat, although Rousseau is arguable), and to a lesser extent Benjamin Constant are generally the exceptions; they are usually considered social liberals. Amongst the fiction authors, Heinlein is an interesting case because he actually drifted from social liberalism (For Us, the Living: A Comedy of Customs
and Beyond This Horizon
, for example, although these actually border on socialism, advocating an economy called Social Credit which is effectively a mixture of socialism and capitalism) to classical liberalism (much of his later writing with the arguable exception of Stranger in a Strange Land
, which generally doesn’t discuss economics) throughout his writing career; The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
could actually be considered to advocate a form of individualist anarchism.
- Second Treatise on Civil Government, by John Locke
- The Declaration of Independence, by Thomas Jefferson
- The Social Contract, Discourse on Inequality, and Émile, by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
- Political Writings, by Benjamin Constant
- On Liberty, by John Stuart Mill
- The Wealth of Nations, by Adam Smith
- The Law and Economic Sophisms, by Frédéric Bastiat
- The Rights of Man, Common Sense, and Agrarian Justice, by Thomas Paine
- A Theory of Justice, by John Rawls
- Morals by Agreement, by David Gauthier
- The Libertarian Idea, by Jan Narveson
- Two Concepts of Liberty, by Isaiah Berlin
- The General Theory of Money, Interest, and Employment, by John Maynard Keynes
- Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, by Joseph Schumpeter
- Capitalism and Freedom, by Milton Friedman
- Economics in One Lesson, by Henry Hazlitt
- Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth and Human Action, by Ludwig von Mises
- The Use of Knowledge in Society, The Road to Serfdom and The Constitution of Liberty, by Frederich von Hayek
- The Open Society and Its Enemies, by Karl Popper
- Free to Choose, by Milton Friedman and Rose Friedman
- Eat the Rich, by P.J. O’Rourke
- Globalization and Its Discontents, by Joseph Stiglitz
- The Conscience of a Liberal, by Paul Krugman
- The Globalization Paradox, by Dani Rodrik
- The West Wing, so very modern liberal.
- Red Eye With Greg Gutfeld on Fox News Channel—unlike the socially conservative fare that composes the rest of Fox’s lineup—is pretty libertarian. Greg, the host, once noted “Hanging out with leftists made me become conservative. Hanging out with conservatives made me become libertarian.”
- John Stossel’s news/talk shows generally examine current issues from a libertarian perspective.
- Firefly is widely considered to be a libertarian-leaning show, as it carries a strong antiauthoritarian message. Naturally, the same can be said about The Movie that concluded its storyline, Serenity.
- Parks and Recreation gets to have it both ways about being a ‘liberal’ show: Leslie Knope is the main social liberal character, Ron Swanson the principal classical liberal. Though Ron is the more popular character, Leslie is shown clearly to be The Hero.
- Rush (classical early on, somewhere in between classical and social liberalism now)
- Frank Zappa (somewhere in between classical and social liberalism, but leaning more towards classical)
- Loudness (classical liberalism, especially during the Masaki Yamada era, though social liberalism seems to be the hat of Minoru Niihara)
See also Wikipedia’s list of liberal theorists
- Reflections on the Revolution in France, by Edmund Burke
- The writings of William F. Buckley, Jr., founder of National Review magazine
- Leviathan, by Thomas Hobbes
- Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays, by Michael Oakeshott
- Right Nation: Conservative Power in America, by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge
- The Decline of the West, by Oswald Spengler
- The Gulag Archipelago, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
- The Conscience of a Conservative, by Barry Goldwaternote
- The Conservative Mind, by Russell Kirk
- Intellectuals and Society, by Thomas Sowell
- 1985 by Anthony Burgess
- Logans Run by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson
- The Clouds, by Aristophanes
- The Dark Knight Returns, by Frank Miller
- Judge Dredd
- Prince of Sparta and pretty much the whole CoDominium/Empire of Man/Warworld œuvre of Jerry Pournelle (and, sometimes, Larry Niven)
- The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson depicts a clash of Western neo-Victorianism and Chinese neo-Confucianism, both being a society’s re-embrace of highly conservative culture of old.
- Arguably Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, though like BioShock below, it’s mainly by default. The novel can be seen as highly critical of many concepts, including socialistic utopianism, social liberal/individualist hedonism, hierarchical eugenicism, Fordian productivism, conditioning and authoritarianism. The focus on sexuality means the book may be seen as Christian Democratic, though it was written before the emergence of modern Christian Democracy (and amusingly, the author himself definitely wasn’t a Christian Democrat nor a conservative).
- Firing Line, hosted by William F. Buckley and broadcast on PBS, was many modern conservatives’ first exposure to conservative philosophy. They generally involved Buckley interviewing a guest, sometimes agreeing, sometimes disagreeing with them.
- JAG (spinoff NCIS is a bit more towards the middle)
- Modern Country Music tends to skew towards conservative themes.
- Land of Hope and Glory, the official anthem of the British Conservative Party
- Vulgar Display of Power, by Pantera
- Ted Nugent
- BioShock spins from ideology to ideology, deconstructing the idea of utopia along the way before finally landing on this one. The first game showcased the failures of classical liberalism with an Ayn Rand-inspired villain. The second game shows an equally flawed collectivist society, featuring a state-run cult. BioShock Infinite then skewered both fascism (filtered through American Neoconservatism) and anarchism, deftly tying up the themes of the previous games by positing that the issue is not politics, but method: runaway zealotry towards any political ideal without careful consideration and skepticism—as in British-style Conservatism in the vein of Burke—almost invariably leads to bloodshed and different shades of totalitarian society. Of course, that’s just one interpretation: other gamers concluded (to their frustration) that the game was less making a statement of any value and more shrugging awkwardly, muttering “Eh, what can ya do, am I right?”
Socialism & Communism
- The Communist Manifesto, by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
- The German Ideology and Capital, by Karl Marx
- State and Revolution, by Vladimir Lenin
- Christianity and the Social Order, by William Temple
- The Accumulation of Capital, by Rosa Luxemburg
- The Prison Notebooks, by Antonio Gramsci
- Homage to Catalonia and many other works by George Orwellnote
- From Class Society to Communism: An Introduction to Marxism, by Ernest Mandel
- On the Economic Theory of Socialism, by Oskar Lange
- The History of Madness and Discipline and Punish, by Michel Foucault
- Spectres of Marx, by Jacques Derrida
- No Logo and The Shock Doctrine, by Naomi Klein
- Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich
- The Supreme Object of Ideology and Welcome to the Desert of the Real, by Slavoj Žižek
- Again, anything by George Orwell is an endorsement of socialism. But 1984 and Animal Farm are the best known examples
- The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (pretty much all of his other work qualifies as well)
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck note
- The Time Machine and other works by H. G. Wells
- Looking Backward and Equality by Edward Bellamy (written in the 1880s and ’90s, depicting a socialist utopia a century in the year 2000)
- Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser (again, most of his work qualifies)
- Anything by William Gibson
- Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo
- Burning Valley by Phillip Bonosky
- They Live!
- Red Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson (there is some overlap with Green Anarchism here as well; Robinson is not explicitly anarchist but definitely a libertarian socialist)
- Jailbird, Breakfast of Champions, and to a lesser extent many other works by Kurt Vonnegut (again, there is overlap with anarchism here)
- The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson
- The Kurt Wallander novels by Henning Mankell
- The Story of Crime (a.k.a. the Martin Beck novels) by Mäj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö
- The Bas-Lag Cycle by China Miéville
- Daemon by Daniel Suareznote
- Star Trek: The Next Generation
- Red Faction
- The films of Luis Buñuel
- The films of Charlie Chaplin usually fit here, with their strong sympathy for the impoverished. (They also have some sympathy with anarchism, see below.)
- Most of Michael Moore’s films fit in here, though his most commercially successful endeavor, Fahrenheit 9/11, treads more into being modern liberal.
- Our Daily Bread, a 1934 film in which desperate, hungry Americans in the middle of The Great Depression wind up founding a Soviet-style collective farm.
- The Satanic Verses and various other works by Salman Rushdie
- Deadman Wonderland
- KMFDM - Overlaps with Anarchism
- Pink Floyd in the Roger Waters era. especially Animals, The Final Cut, and The Wallnote
- Rage Against the Machine and their side projects The Nightwatchman , Street Sweeper Social Club , One Day As A Lion there is an overlap with anarchism
- Dropkick Murphys: Started out singing the joys of being drunk/from Boston/Irish or any combination of the three, but have recently moved towards a strongly pro-union/anti-corporatist direction.
- Most of the original Post-Punk groups (particularly Gang of Four, The Pop Group and This Heat)
- Arguably Loudness here too, especially in the Minoru Niihara eras.
- The Coup
- Immortal Technique, given that he's a Marxist.
- dead prez
- Many folk singers especially Woody Guthrie , Phil Ochs , Billy Bragg, Pete Seeger , Ralph Mctell and The Nightwatchman
- The Clash
- Eddie Vedder as well as Pearl Jam and Temple Of The Dog
- Sun Rise Above
- Tim Minchin
- Lily Allen given that she supports the UK Labour Party which indorses democratic socialism. She also has several songs that tend toward this direction like "LDN" and "Fuck You"
- Anti Flag and Justin Sane's solo work probably counts too
- Manic Street Preachers
- The default political opinion of Oi bands. Particularly the Anti-Fascist Skinheads. Some might overlap with Anarchism.
See also Wikipedia’s list of contributors to Marxist theory
- Mein Kampf, by Adolf Hitler
- Men among the Ruins, by Julius Evola
- Das Dritte Reich by Arthur Moeller van den Bruck
- The Doctrine of Fascism, by Benito Mussolini and Giovanni Gentile
- Manifesto of the Fasci of Combat, by Alceste De Ambris and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti
- Political Justice, by William Godwin (Philosophicalnote )
- What Is Property? and The General Idea of the Revolution, by Pierre Joseph Proudhon (Mutualist)
- God and the State and Statism and Anarchy by Mikhail Bakunin (Collectivist)
- The Conquest of Bread and Mutual Aid, by Pyotr Kropotkin (Communist)
- Walden and Civil Disobedience, by Henry David Thoreau (Green and Philosophical, respectively)
- No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority by Lysander Spooner (Individualist)
- Instead of a Book by a Man Too Busy to Write One, by Benjamin Tucker (Individualist)
- The Production of Security by Gustave de Molinari (Individualist/Capitalist)
- The Soul of Man under Socialism, by Oscar Wilde (Communist; interesting in that Wilde gives an Individualist argument for it)
- The Kingdom of God Is Within You, by Leo Tolstoy (Christian/Philosophical)
- Red Emma Speaks, My Disillusionment in Russia, My Further Disillusionment in Russia, and Living My Life, by Emma Goldman (Communist/Feminist)
- Anarcho-Syndicalism and The Great French Revolution, by Rudolf Rocker (Syndicalist)
- Collectives in the Spanish Revolution, by Gaston Leval (Syndicalist)
- The Anarchist Collectives, by Sam Dolgoff (Syndicalist)
- Post-Scarcity Anarchism and The Ecology of Freedom, by Murray Bookchin (Social ecologist)
- Man, Economy and State, For a New Liberty, and The Ethics of Liberty, by Murray N. Rothbard (Capitalist)
- The Machinery of Freedom, by David Friedman (Capitalist)
- The Problem of Political Authority, by Michael Huemer (Capitalist/Philosophical)
- Parecon: Participatory Economics, by Michael Albert (Collectivist)
- Economic Justice and Democracy and "Of the People, By the People'', by Robin Hahnel (Collectivist)
- Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, by Kevin A. Carson (Mutualist)
- Towards an Inclusive Democracy, by Takis Fotopoulos (Collectivist)
- A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn (Social Anarchist/Without Adjectives — Zinn wasn’t particularly committed to a particular brand of leftist anarchism)
- Chomsky on Anarchism and literally dozens of other works by Noam Chomsky (Syndicalist)
- The Democracy Project by David Graeber (Communist)
- Tao Te Ching by Laozi (Philosophical)
- The Masque of Anarchy by Percy Shelleynote
- America, Howl, and other works by Allen Ginsberg
- Dead Kennedys (before the resurrected group [minus Jello Biafra]’s Face-Heel Turn into the living embodiment of Money, Dear Boy)
- Death Grips
- Dir En Grey
- Dynamite Tommy (again, before Money, Dear Boy, but he still does seem to show some anarcho-socialist leanings … but not to the point of actually putting them into practice, unfortunately for anyone signed to his labels…)
- Godspeed You! Black Emperor and A Silver Mt. Zion
- The genre of anarcho-punk (Crass being probably the most famous example besides the Dead Kennedys)
- Napalm Death
- Wolves in the Throne Room
- The KLF
- Can (they frequently explained their name as a backronym for "Communism, Anarchism, Nihilism", implicitly identifying as anarcho-communists)
- Throbbing Gristle
- Taiji Sawada. Most noticeable in his autobiography, his D.T.R. solo works, and his work with The Killing Red Addiction.
- X Japan (1987–92) due to the presence of hide and Taiji Sawada, both of whom had strong punk sensibilities. None of their songs had outright anarchist themes, but the general thrust of the band’s ideals seemed to be very much toward the ‘break stuff and create chaos for its own sake’ variant of anarchism. They would lose this over time…
- Motorhead. It doesn't pop into their music that often, but "Orgasmatron" is one example where it does.
- Emceee Lynx
- Utah Phillips
- Skinny Puppy - Possibly. They are definitly left wing given their support of animal rights, peace and their criticism of the right wing
- Misery Index
- Against Me!
- Eclipse Phase. All forms of anarchism are present in the game, and the game literature tends to paint a rather favorable picture of anarchism and an extremely unfavorable view of the hypercorps and the conservative/fascist Jovian Republic.
An Anarchist FAQ
- Fallout: New Vegas. While the developers haven’t stated they’re anarchists, this is possibly the first computer game that allows the player to be an anarchist without being necessarily evil.
will prove to be an invaluable resource to those interested in the social anarchist perspective. A more general FAQ (the author is anarcho-capitalist, but does a reasonably good job presenting leftist anarchist perspectives as well; unfortunately, many of the links presented are now out of date) is this one