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There is a distinction, not entirely complete in all cases, between the form of a government, and the content of a political system. The term "government" in this sense relates to the formal structures within which politics is conducted, while "politics" relates to the objectives of political action. Any state that is not in a condition of civil war has only one government, but almost always has more than one political tendency. As with forms of government, political ideologies are not always clearly differentiated, and actual political tendencies may encompass more than one ideological tendency. Some states have political systems that are highly ideological, while others are pre or post ideological.

The year 2008 witnessed the most severe world-wide economic recessions since the Great Depression took place. This crisis took place in the context of what organizations like Freedom House were reporting a world-wide “democracy recession.” According to the Freedom House Report 2010 Global Erosion of Freedom, for the fourth consecutive year, freedom declines offset gains in 2009. This is the longest uninterrupted period of democracy’s decline in the 40 year history of the Freedom House series.26 Many countries around the world suffered an escalation in human rights violations, at the same time as non-democratic nations (e.g., Iran and Russia) became even more repressive.

In their often-cited analysis of the relationship between economic development and democracy, Przeworski et al.35 found that no democracy had collapsed where the country’s per capita income exceeded $6,000. In Latin America, however, only Chile and Argentina currently lie above that threshold, meaning that most Latin American countries enter an economic crisis without the “inoculation” protection of historically adequate levels of economic development.

Noting populist and nationalist forces making gains in democratic states last year, Freedom House declared 2016 the 11th consecutive year of a decline in global freedom. Of the 195 countries assessed in the Freedom House report, less than half were rated Free. Forty-nine countries were rated "not free", and of those, Syria, Eritrea, North Korea, Uzbekistan, South Sudan, Turkmenistan, Somalia, Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, and Saudi Arabia had the "worst" aggregate scores for political rights and civil liberties. The United States was listed as one of the countries rated "free," but also was said to have faced setbacks in "political rights, civil liberties, or both" in the "Freedom in the World 2017" report released Jan. 31, 2017.

Arch Puddington and Tyler Roylance wrote "In 2016, populist and nationalist political forces made astonishing gains in democratic states, while authoritarian powers engaged in brazen acts of aggression, and grave atrocities went unanswered in war zones across two continents. All of these developments point to a growing danger that the international order of the past quarter-century—rooted in the principles of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law—will give way to a world in which individual leaders and nations pursue their own narrow interests without meaningful constraints, and without regard for the shared benefits of global peace, freedom, and prosperity.

"In the United States, the presidential victory of Donald Trump, a mercurial figure with unconventional views on foreign policy and other matters, raised questions about the country’s future role in the world. Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, the collapse of the Italian government after a failed referendum on constitutional reform, a series of antidemocratic moves by the new government in Poland, and gains by xenophobic nationalist parties elsewhere in Europe similarly cast doubt on the strength of the alliances that shaped the institutions of global democracy.

"At the same time, Russia, in stunning displays of hubris and hostility, interfered in the political processes of the United States and other democracies, escalated its military support for the Assad dictatorship in Syria, and solidified its illegal occupation of Ukrainian territory. China also flouted international law, ignoring a tribunal’s ruling against its expansive claims of sovereignty over the South China Sea and intensifying its repression of dissent within its borders. And unscrupulous leaders from South Sudan and Ethiopia to Thailand and the Philippines engaged in human rights violations of varying scale with impunity.

"In the wake of last year’s developments, it is no longer possible to speak with confidence about the long-term durability of the EU; the incorporation of democracy and human rights priorities into American foreign policy... "


Today, the socialist ideology is said to be left-wing, and the conservative ideology is said to be right-wing. Communism is an example of radical, leftist extremism, and fascism exemplifies the extreme rightist view.


Anarchism is the political belief that government should be abolished and the state replaced by the voluntary cooperation of individuals and groups. Anarchists believe that existing governments tend to defend injustice, and they would do away with the institution of private property. They also believe that government is unnecessary and intrinsically harmful.


Capitalism is a political, economic and social system based on a high degree of private ownership. In theory, pure capitalism means production, distribution and exchange are completely under private ownership and control. In practice, even in countries such as the United States, that are recognised as thoroughly capitalist, there is a mixture of government and private ownership and some government legislation. Supporters of capitalism claim that it maximises production and provides goods and services at minimum prices. Critics claim that it has little concern for the welfare of workers and the underprivileged.


Conservatism is a general state of mind that is adverse to rapid change and innovation and strives for balance and order, while avoiding extremes. Originally, conservatism as an organized political creed arose as a reaction against the Age of Enlightenment. Conservatives advocated:

  • Belief in faith over reason
  • Tradition over free inquiry
  • Hierarchy over equality
  • Collective values over individualism
  • Divine or natural law over secular law

Conservatism emphasizes the merits of the status quo (existing situation) and endorses the prevailing distribution of power, wealth, and social standing. Political conservative thought is linked with constitutional democracy and individual rights as well as with orderly social and economic change. A conservative society is held together by customs and traditions; gradual changes can be made, but only when they have gained wide acceptance.


Liberalism is a political ideology emphasising social reform, tolerance and freedom of the individual. The philosopher and economist John Stuart Mill was an important influence on liberal thought in the mid 19th century. Early liberals were committed to the idea of progress and the abolition of aristocratic privileges. Socialism was a reaction against liberalism's emphasis on individual achievements and private rights at the expense of collective welfare.


Corruption and social inequality are closely related and provide a source for popular discontent. Yet, the recent track record of populist leaders in tackling this problem is dismal; they use the corruption-inequality message to drum up support but have no intention of tackling the problem seriously.

In the late 1800s, the United States experienced a tremendous growth in industrialization. In the midst of all this industrial growth and production of wealth, almost ten million Americans, or about one out of eight people, lived in poverty. Among the Americans left out of the prosperity were the farmers who experienced difficult economic times. From 1870 to 1897, wheat prices fell from $1.06 a bushel to 63¢ a bushel, corn from 43¢ to 30¢ a bushel, and cotton from 15¢ a pound to 6¢ a pound. In July 1892, agrarian leaders held a convention in Omaha, Nebraska. The agrarians created the People’s or Populist Party. Third parties have never won national elections and the Populist Party was no exception.

In the 1896 presidential election, the Democratic Party nominated William Jennings Bryan and adopted a platform that included several planks from the 1892 Populist platform. After much discussion, Populist leaders decided to support Bryan and in so doing, signed the death warrant of the Populist Party. Bryan lost three presidential elections as the nominee of the Democratic Party.

The modern dismissal of populism involved more than the relegation of a peripheral set of phenomena to the margins of social explanation. What is involved in such a disdainful rejection is the dismissal of politics, and the assertion that the management of community is the concern of an administrative power whose source of legitimacy is a proper knowledge of what a "good" community is. Populism was linked to a dangerous excess, which put the clear-cut molds of a rational community into question.

Political scandals, the degradation of the environment in the name of progress, the perceived failure of the globalization of trade to help the disadvantaged and the economic crisis that cast doubts on the establishment’s ability to manage the economy all act in synergy to fuel the rise of populist sentiments in South America, Europe and North America. The very nature of populism is antielitism.

In the new radical populism, the democratic process is undermined to decrease rather than protect individual rights. Some leaders tap into deep-seated frustrations of the failure of democratic reforms to deliver expected goods and services. By tapping into these frustrations, coupled with frustrations caused by social and economic inequality, the leaders are able to reinforce their radical positions.

The threat emerges when it becomes radicalized by a leader who increasingly uses his position and support from a segment of the population to infringe gradually upon the rights of all citizens. This trend degrades democracy and promises to concentrate power in the hands of a few rather than guaranteeing the individual rights of the many.

By 2017 people aroudn the world were increasingly looking to populist leaders who promise to tackle corruption, but are likely to make the situation worse. “In countries with populist or autocratic leaders, we often see democracies in decline and a disturbing pattern of attempts to crack down on civil society, limit press freedom, and weaken the independence of the judiciary,” said Jose Ugaz, chair of Transparency International, as the group released its report 25 January 2017. “Instead of tackling crony capitalism, those leaders usually install even worse forms of corrupt systems.”


Nationalism is a movement in which the nation-state is regarded as paramount for the realization of social, economic, and cultural aspirations of a people. Nationalism is characterized principally by a feeling of community among a people, based on common descent, language, and religion. Before the 18th century, when nationalism emerged as a distinctive movement, states usually were based on religious or dynastic ties; citizens owed loyalty to their Church or ruling family. Concerned with clan, tribe, village, or province, people rarely extended their interests nationwide.

Improvement in communications gradually extended the knowledge of people beyond their village or province. Through education, people learned of their common background and tradition and began to identify themselves with the nation. The introduction of national constitutions and the struggle for political rights gave peoples the sense of helping to determine their fate as a nation and of sharing responsibility for the future well-being of that nation. At the same time, the growth of trade and industry laid the basis for economic units larger than the traditional cities or provinces.

Most modern nations have developed gradually based on common ties of descent, religion, and language. Several exceptions exist - Switzerland, Israel, and India.

  • Switzerland is a nation in which no common religion or language was ever established. The Swiss include many adherents to both the Roman Catholic and Protestant religions; they have no linguistic unity, for German, French, and Italian are spoken in distinct regions of the country. Swiss nationalism was fostered primarily by isolation in a mountain region and the determination to maintain political independence.
  • Israel was formed almost entirely from the immigration of diverse national groups of Jews who shared a common ideal based on religious nationalism. After World War II, more than a million refugees from many different countries immigrated to Palestine. They learned Hebrew, created national language, and established a new state with Judaism as the state religion.
  • India is a nation in which Hinduism served as the cohesive traditional element in uniting peoples of various races, religions, and languages. India achieved national unity through the influence of Western ideas, notably those of British origin, and in struggle against British rule.

The rise of nationalism coincided generally with the spread of the Industrial Revolution, which promoted national economic development, the growth of a middle class, and popular demand for representative government. National literatures arose to express common traditions and the common spirit of each people. New emphasis was given to nationalist symbols of all kinds; for example, new holidays were introduced to commemorate various events in national history.

Nationalism can be a good thing or a bad thing.

  • Nationalism can give people a pride in and a sense of belonging to a nation. This can make them take a constructive interest in the affairs of their country and respect its institutions and laws.
  • It can make a group more independent. Nationalism demands played a large part in persuading Britain, France, Holland and Portugal to grant independence to their colonies.
  • It can cause a state to become aggressive. For example, Hitler demanded that all German-speaking people (such as those in Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland) should join the German Reich or German State. These foreign policies led to the Second World War.
  • It can lead to instability where people in one country identify with more than one nation. For example, the Protestant "loyalist" majority in Northern Ireland identifies with Britain and wishes to remain within the United Kingdom.


Fascism is an authoritarian and anti-democratic political philosophy placing the corporate society, as embodied in the party and the state, above the individual, and stressing absolute obedience to a glorified leader. Fascism prevents any independent political and economic activity. Nationalism and militarism are its logical products and thus it has close ties with Nazism. "Fascist" has become a term of abuse for many because of the ugly aspects of fascism, and is often used of anyone whose views are very right wing.

Mussolini, the founder of the Italian Fascist Party, began his political career as a Marxist. In 1912, he opposed both capitalism and militarism. By 1914, however, he had changed his attitude, calling on Italy to enter World War I and moving towards the political right. Mussolini’s Action Squads, first set up in 1919 and called “Blackshirts” gave the movement effective muscle and set a fashion for fascist paramilitary style. In 1922, Mussolini seized control of the Italian government, threatening a coup d'etat if his demands were refused.

At first governing constitutionally at the head of a cross-party coalition, he soon shook off remaining curbs on his authority and established a dictatorship. All political parties, except the Fascist Party, were banned, and Mussolini became Il Duce – the leader of the party. Labor unions were abolished, strikes were forbidden, and political opponents were silenced. Fascist movements spread to most western countries between WWI and WWII following in the wake of the economic crisis. Dollfuss and Schuschnigg headed a fascist government in Austria from 1933 until its incorporation into Germany in 1938, Horthy led one in Hungary, Pilsudski in Poland, Metaxas in Greece and Peron in Argentina. The longest surviving fascist regimes were in Portugal under Salazar and in Spain under Franco and the Falange.


Socialism is an economic philosophy and political movement which aimed to achieve a just, classless society through public ownership and operation of the means of production and distribution of goods. As the movement developed, the concept itself acquired different meanings in different times and places.

Early socialists objected to capitalism on ethical and practical grounds. Capitalism, they claimed, was unjust: it exploited workers, degraded them, transformed them into beasts or machines, and enabled the rich to get richer while the workers faced misery. The transformation of socialism from a doctrine held by a relatively small number of intellectuals and activists into the ideology of mass working-class parties coincided with the industrialization of Europe and the formation of a large proletariat (working class).

Some of their goals included:

  • Universal suffrage
  • Equal rights for women,
  • A social protection system of national insurance and pensions
  • A universal medical service
  • The regulation of the labour market aimed at introducing the eight-hour working day
  • Full legalization and recognition of trade unions

Socialists assumed that all their demands could be achieved peacefully in democratic countries. Many advocated the use of the mass general strike as a revolutionary weapon to be deployed when required. In Great Britain, the powerful trade unions at first tried to influence the Liberals rather than forming a separate working-class party. Not until 1900 was a Labour party created. It adopted a socialist program aimed at common ownership only in 1918. Elsewhere, socialists accepted all the basic rules of liberal democracy: free elections, civil rights, political pluralism, and the sovereignty of parliament.


Communists believe that everyone should have the same living standards, money and belongings. There is no individual freedom in communism. In present communist countries, the communist party in power controls the government, the defence force, the public service, banks, land, shops, education, television, radio and newspapers. The people only learn, hear, know and have what the communist party wants them to.

The term communism was originally used of communities whose members enjoyed common ownership of all property and material provision for all according to need. Communism is a political doctrine that developed from the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their Communist Manifesto in 1848. Communism was developed along a number of different lines during the course of the 20th century by various communist states and parties throughout the world. All communist parties share the general belief that a state-run economy is superior to private-enterprise and that land should be organized for communal cultivation. Communism differs from socialism in its adherence to the doctrine of revolution.

The Russian Revolution (1917), led by Lenin, was the world's first successful communist revolution and Russia became the center of world communism. On Lenin's death (1924) a schism broke out in the form of a power struggle between Stalin, whose priority was to strengthen socialism within Russia, and the internationalist Trotsky. It was the first great rift in the world communist movement. Stalin's repressive policies produced further rifts, such as that between Yugoslavia and the USSR (1948), throughout the European communist bloc as well as among communist parties in non-communist countries.

By the 1970s, there were communist movements in most countries throughout the world. Attempts to build broad-based parties in West had mixed results. Widespread and outspoken hostility to the regime in Poland, beginning in 1980, called attention to the failures of a communist economic doctrine. At the time, Soviet inability to put down resistance to the communist puppet regime in Afghanistan underscored the limits to Soviet military power.

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Page last modified: 04-07-2018 08:58:50 ZULU