Understanding Political Ideas and Movements


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Major Political Ideologies

Further material: Immigration and nationality. Eugenic ideologies existed before fascism, and although they were discredited by their association with medical murder and the holocaust they have resurfaced in recent years. They are characterised by the nineteenth-century belief that socially constructed characteristics, like poverty, crime or sexuality are inborn, and that they will inevitably find a way to emerge unless breeding is regulated. Repeated attempts in social science have found no empirical support for the belief that such characteristics are replicated between generations.

The extreme right in Europe is mainly racialist and nationalist rather than collectivist. In Greece, however, Golden Dawn has adopted an authoritarian, collectivist ideology referring directly to fascist tropes. Despite the ambiguity; some generalisations are possible: in each sense, poverty can be identified with a lack of well-being.

Individualists and economists define well-being as a property of 'individuals'. Social well-being is the interests of people in groups, which is not always the same as the people within it; there are often conflicts between the interests of individuals, families and communities. For example, it is generally considered to be in the interests of a nation to defend itself against attack, even where people within it suffer directly as a result.

Individual and social welfare coincide because people are interdependent, social creatures, and people rely on social mechanisms like social interaction, exchange, the division of labour, and education for their personal development and well-being. The basis of solidarity is mutual obligation. This is mainly expressed through reciprocity, or exchange.

Often, though, reciprocity is "generalized"; there is no simple balance, but people give because they have received something in the past, or because some future reciprocity is possible.

Understanding political ideas and movements

For example, parents give to children because their own parents gave to them; people support pensioners in the expectation that future generations will support them when they are pensioners. Generalized reciprocity is the norm within families, but it also occurs in mutual insurance. Solidarity can be difficult to distinguish from 'altruism', but there is no reason to suppose that the motivation is unselfish.

The central problem of solidarity is that it is often exclusive - confined to a special group. External link: Catholic social teaching.

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Rights are rules: they can protect liberties or impose duties on other people. Moral rights are rights which are backed by a moral claim; legal rights are backed by a legal sanction.

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Rights to welfare can be general applying to everyone or particular applying, like contractual rights, only to specific people. The welfare states of continental Europe have mainly developed particular rights, related to membership of schemes and individual rights; this has proved a very effective way of promoting social protection, most notably in the area of pensions, but it does not necessarily extend to the whole population. The model followed by the UK attempted to extend rights to everyone, on the basis of citizenship. Citizenship is the right to have rights. T H Marshall called citizenship as 'a status bestowed on those who are full members of a community.

Human rights are a further class of general rights, which apply to everyone, regardless of whether they belong to a political community. Several international organisations, including the United Nations and the Council of Europe, promote human rights beyond citizenship. The UN's Guiding principles on extreme poverty and human rights treat poverty as a violation of human rights.

Justice begins with a presumption of equality ; people should not be treated differently without a reason. There may, though, be many reasons. The criteria which have been proposed as the basis for distribution are complex: they have included need, desert, contribution to society, hereditary status, and many others. Freedom has three elements. A person must be free from restraint, to do something.


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Individualists argue for a model of freedom where people's freedom depends on their independence. Social welfare and state intervention are seen as undermining independence, and so freedom. A social model of freedom begins from the view that freedom depends on interdependence. To be able to act, people have to have the power to choose in society.

In this model, poverty negates freedom. Social welfare empowers people and enhances their freedom. Welfare provision has grown hand in hand with democracy. The state is a general term for the institutions, agencies and procedures related to government. The idea of the 'welfare state' suggests that social policy is mainly a governmental responsibility, though in practice many of the functions of welfare states are undertaken by agencies beyond the government. If governments are concerned about the welfare of their citizens some are not , they will have some responsibility for social protection.

This responsibility may be residual confined to those who are unable to manage in other ways , but most states have found that it is impossible in practice to confine their actions only to support in the last resort the model of the Poor Law. The reasons are partly administrative strict selectivity is costly and inefficient , but mainly political: the pressures for expansion are irresistible.

The welfare states are institutional forms of social protection, where the state has come to set the terms on which social protection is delivered. Some writers have argued that states should confine themselves to a more limited range of activity, but if the same activities can legitimately be undertaken by non-state agencies it is difficult to see why they cease to be legitimate if a properly constituted government does them.

Religion is a pattern of social organisation, and as such it can be distinguished from the teachings of prophets or scripture.


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  4. As a pattern of organisation, religious practice has important implications for social policy. The first dimension of religious influence is based in moral teaching. Many religions offer guides to morality, but there may be several strands of moral belief which co-exist. There is no necessary inconsistency between these principles, but different balances imply different social policies. A second dimension of religious teaching lies in the extent to which religion is integrated with political institutions.

    Some religions, and some countries, have made a firm distinction between the secular and religious spheres of their societies - there are examples in Catholic France or the predominantly Protestant USA. Others have established religions and churches, including the formally Christian United Kingdom, the Jewish state of Israel or the Islamic Republics of Iran or Pakistan.

    Some religious groups are radical, arguing for fundamental political and social change; others are conservative, arguing either for support for established regimes or at least acceptance of the status quo. Third, there is religion as a means of forging common identity. Ethnicity - though commonly confused with 'race' - is a matter of culture and descent, and it is through culture and descent that religion is principally transmitted.

    It makes perfectly good sense, in those terms, to describe someone as ethnically Muslim, Jewish or Hindu; the distinction between Protestant and Catholic, Sunni and Shi'ite, is as often a matter of affiliation as of belief. Other religious movements aim deliberately to form a communal identity or sense of membership. Haynes distinguishes movements that are. Understanding the role of religious values in social policy often depends, then, on the interplay of these different dimensions - moral responsibility, political orientation and identity.

    So, for example, the primary issues in the USA lie in the tension between individualist and communitarian interpretations of religious principle; in Turkey they fall between secularism and political Islamism; in much of Africa and South East Asia, they are often based in ethnicity. External link: Social welfare in Islam. It was Jawaharlal Nehru, leader of the Indian National Congress and a staunch opponent of the Muslim nationalist agenda, who famously declared that in order for Muslims in India to claim nationhood they had first to reject the historical past they shared with other communities in India.

    What emerges from this is a fresh understanding of Pakistan as an idea that transcended the limits of the colonial state to play out on a larger international stage—another example, one might say, of the Zionist paradox that would internationalise the nation. His many speeches and statements serve as ample proof that it was not so much the discourse of history, but the language of law that animated his politics.

    It would seem not. These circumstances precluding any idea of the nation couched in the language of territorial and historical integrity also favoured an anti-territorial view of the Muslim nation and national sovereignty. But their adoption also produced a certain distorted logic. In doing so, both projected a vision that was as radical and fantastical in its politics as any revolutionary ideal heralding the onset of a new era—a Year One—purged of the past and its memory.

    Instead what Devji offers us is a breath-taking vista—a vista as much of the past as the future of Pakistan.

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    And it is precisely this keen eye to the future of Pakistan combined with a profound consciousness of the ambiguity of its nationalist past that makes Devji one of the finest chroniclers of this troubled country. Kumaraswamy, P. Nasr, S.

    Essentials of Political Ideas - Andrew Heywood - Macmillan International Higher Education

    A journal promoting comparative and fieldwork-based research on society, culture and politics in South Asia. South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal. Contents - Previous document - Next document. Book Reviews. Full text PDF Send by e-mail. Top of page. Browse Index Authors Keywords.

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