Political ideologies refer to belief systems that explain and justify favored economic and government positions regarding the society. Political ideologies offer strategies for maintenance and attainment of preferred courses of action and give sense to public events, policies as well as personalities (Harrison 17). Curtis defines a political ideology as a person’s views regarding government policy (20). For instance, an individual might have conservative ideologies such as the ones held by the American Republican Party. Besides, someone might have liberal political ideologies such as those represented by the American Democratic Party.
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Political ideologies are significant in understanding modern day politics. This is because they determine how societies work and the appropriate way of realizing the ideal arrangement. They provide the tools to pursue the envisioned goals and secure the legitimacy of the governing regimes. Besides, ideologies help to channel collective will towards the goal. An understanding of political ideologies will enable objective analysis and evaluation of the performance of a governing regime (Harrison 50). An example would be the different stands on same sex relationships in America. President Obama, a democrat, recently declared that he supports gay marriages (Associated Press 3). This declaration reverberated well among the democrats as it favored their liberal nature. On the other hand, the republicans were largely silent or critical of the move, in line with their conservative nature. We must not dismiss this declaration as a means of gaining political mileage, but judge it using an ideological perspective.
Nationalism refers to feelings of national pride and patriotism. It might also refer to the belief that one’s country is superior to any other state (Curtis 17). The popularity of the idea arises from its promise of offering national pride and a sense of self-determination. People like the idea that they can control their destinies without foreign influence (Harrison 25).
Positive consequences of nationalism are, of course, the promotion of a patriotism and national pride. It also promotes civic pride and coherence as individuals favor national wellbeing rather than selfish goals. The negative consequences are that it can lead to bigotry and intolerance. Racism and ethnic conflicts are examples of such tendencies. In extreme cases, it leads to fascism. An instance is the case of Nazism where Adolf Hitler ordered the killing of the Jewish population. Nationalism also creates false enemies. The ideologist mostly relies on the concept that some people or concepts are the enemy. This might be homosexuals, religious groups or foreign powers, among others. In reality, such people or concepts do not pose the perceived threat. The result is that nationalism brainwashes the people and makes them mindless drones easily exploited by the leaders (Curtis 20).
This is a theory that addresses questions on the organization of societies as well as the legitimacy of the power of the state over individuals. Locke’s description of the social contract was that people give up their right to demand retribution for crimes. In exchange, they get an impartial justice that has the backing of an overwhelming force (Harrison 67). This means that people keep their right to life and freedom, and gain rights to just and impartial protection of their property by the state. On the other hand, Hobbes’ idea of the social contract was that people came together and gave up some individual rights so that others would give up theirs too (Harrison 70). For example, an individual might give up his right to kill another person if the other person does the same thing. This idea led to establishing the state, which is a sovereign entity just as the individuals had been before surrendering their rights. The state, as a result, established laws that govern social interactions (Curtis 50).
There are some similarities in the ideas of the two theorists. Both Locke's and Hobbe's definitions of the social contract arose from the idea of natural law as envisaged by Saint Thomas Aquinas. They attempted to address questions on the origin and legitimacy of the authority of the government over the individual. They both agreed that there was tacit or explicit consent by individuals to surrender some freedoms in order to get protection of the remaining rights. Besides, both theorists focus on the relationship between natural and legal freedoms and rights (Curtis 55).
On the other hand, there are glaring differences between the two theorists. First, Locke argued that man is, naturally, a social animal. He believed that, naturally, men kept their promises and paid their obligations. Although the society was insecure, it was peaceful and pleasant. In contrast, Hobbes posited that, naturally, man was not a social animal. Hobbes argued that the society would not exist if it were not for the power of the governing authority. In the absence of the society, there would be constant fear and danger of death. The life of man would have been solitary, impoverished, brutish and short.
Besides, the theorists differed regarding knowledge of natural law. Locke believed that men naturally knew right from wrong. They were, as a result, capable of resolving conflicts among themselves. He emphasized that man inherently knew what belonged to him or to another person. In contrast, Hobbes believed that man's knowledge on right and wrong was so imperfect that it could not suffice to resolve practical disputes (Curtis 55). According to him, people did not know what rightly belonged to them or to others. Thus, property and rights existed at the will of the state.
In my opinion, both theories have outstanding strengths. Locke's social contract is more progressive than Hobbes’ as its ideas are in agreement with modern day conventions and sources of law, for instance religion. On the other hand, Hobbes theory might provide insights into seemingly unsound actions by the state. For example, President Bush's 2003 invasion of Iraq was largely unpopular among the people. However, the state deemed the invasion appropriate and went ahead to undertake it despite the peoples’ opinions, an instance that reflected Hobbes theory. Thus, both theories are relevant in explaining modern day political phenomena.
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