Home Introduction to Political Science POLITICAL IDEAS AND MOVEMENTS


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Ideology is a very crucial aspect of politics. It is a gateway to the understanding of political action and indeed, interpenetration of politics. In this respect, it guides, supports, restrains and rationalizes political action. According to Okwudiba Nnoli, it can act as a great mobilizing energy to galvanize mass political action. Ideology is a very pervasive aspect of politics: it antedated it, is enmeshed in it, envelops it and conditions it.

The ideology at a time was used to designate the study of ideas towards the end of the eighteenth century in France. In the mid nineteenth century, Marx and Engels in their work The German Ideology, described the young Hegelians as ideologists of the bourgeois system for holding tenaciously to Hegelian philosophy.

This unit will explore the various ideologies, examining their basic principles and characteristics. The major ideologies and movements known in political history are examined in different section. At the end of the units, self-assessment questions are provided to test you preparedness and understanding of the topics taught.


At the end of this unit, you should be able to:

  1.  examine the various political ideologies and movements that were prevalent in the Western political history 
  2. understand how these political ideologies and movements have contributed to the current state of political science and indeed other social sciences 
  3. provide the basic characteristics of the political ideologies · evaluate your grasp of the topics through the sample questions provided at the end of the unit. 


3.1 What is Ideology?

 Ideology is a systematizsed and interconnected set of ideas that direct and guide the action of political leaders. It is the fundamental principle or philosophy of government by which the socio-economic and political organisation of society revolves. It contains ideals, ends and purposes that the society should pursue. Ideology as a philosophy explains the nature of man’s humanity, an economic programme which suggests the appropriate political structure for the pursuit through the relevant economic programme of the ideals of humanity. Ideology can be distinguished from other forms of political thought such as political philosophy, political theory, etc

3.2 Characteristics of Ideology

  1.  Most ideologies tend to arise in conditions of crisis. They are either designed to help those who are subjugated in a society or help the oppressor to justify their privileges. 
  2. The varying scope of an ideology can also be seen from the range of facts or phenomena which a given ideology seeks to incorporate. 
  3. Ideology is a systematic pattern of political thought. Just, like a theory, ideology is an abstraction from reality embodying only the most essential elements of the reality it seeks to describe/ explain and change. 
  4. Each ideology includes both empirical and normative elements. The empirical elements consist mostly of the features of reality, social, political or economic, which are more or less observable, while the normative element in an ideology consists of all those features of reality which even though not observable are considered desirable. 

i) Most ideologies tend to be exclusive, absolute and universal in character. Each ideological system is usually characterized by a claim of exclusive relevance to the problems of a given age and time. All ideologies also share the main feature they claim universality for the aims and objectives which they seek to attain. For example, the capitalists believe that it is a universal system, and the socialists attempt also to universalize the system.

j) Ideology is a persuasive argument designed to motivate active involvement on the part of its adherents. k) Ideology tends to be personalized, scriptualised and programmatic. That is, it can be turned into religious beliefs.
l) Ideology undergoes development but is resistant to fundamental

change in its world view.

3.3 Functions of Ideology

In view of the nature and importance of ideology for society generally, it follows that ideology performs very useful functions in the organization of modern society. These functions include:

  1.  Legitimisation of Leadership: This implies that those who occupy political authority often justify their positions and actions on the basis of certain principles. By so doing, ideology provides government with legitimacy and helps it obtain compliance from the people. 
  2. A cognitive structure for looking at the society generally. By so doing a given ideology enables members of a society to explain, justify and order several existential conditions which would otherwise prove impossible to master or explain. Thus, in the hands of the ruling class it can be and often is a potent instrument for the consolidation of state power. 
  3.  Ideology provides a prescriptive formula, a guide to individual action and judgment. This has to do with the legitimation of the acts of those in positions of power, for it is only when the exercise of power is seen as to conform to certain ideological norms and values that the power of force can be transformed into authority, power based on the felt need to comply without force. 
  4. Ideology also serves as an instrument for conflict management and the integration of society since it limits the basic value and issue areas over which the members of society can disagree. Ideology has been found to be potent tool in the process of consolidating state power. It provides the basis for addressing issues as they affect the society instead of personalizing them. 
  5. Ideology provides individual or groups a means of self- identification. This helps to satisfy specific personal needs, a means for self-evaluation and social solidarity. 
  6.  Guide to policy choice and assessment of conduct. It provides the framework for making policy choices by the government and the parameters for assessing the conduct of officials and the performance of government. 
  7. Dynamic force in life, that is every ideology provides an explanation of reality to its adherents and seeks to motivate them to action.


Define Ideology and explain its major characteristics.
3.4 Liberalism Liberal component of liberal democracy is derived from the liberalism, which is pre-democratic political ideology that asserts that there should be as much individual freedom in modern State as is compatible with the freedom of others. Liberalism is an individualist creed, which developed in the 17th and 18th century mainly as a reaction against unrestricted absolute monarchs in Europe.

The development of capitalism and Western democracy arises from the doctrine of liberalism. Liberalism was an ideology or doctrine which became pervasive among the European potentates or bourgeoisie (the middle class businessman, intellectual professionals, etc.). The ideology arose as a movement against monarchical absolutism and the church in Europe during the late eighteenth century. The underlying principles of classical liberalism include:

  1. a recognition of the rights of individuals to opportunities to demonstrate their innate potentials; 
  2.  an insistence that political power should be in the hands of those who own property and those who have demonstrated ingenuity and the capacity to lead; 
  3. the conception of the duty of government to be restricted to the protection of the individual and his rights to own property;
  4.  a recognition of the right of individuals to equal economic and political participation. 

Classical liberalism was an ideology that tends to justify the total control of society by the middle class. The Industrial Revolution in Europe and the rise of ‘laissez-faire’ economic doctrine brought fundamental changes and the revision of some classical tenets of liberalism. Although, it still extols individuals liberty and insists that it be the individual rather than the State or any collectivity that is of primary importance.

3.5 Democracy Democracy does not have a universally acceptable definition. Different scholars attempted to give their own interpretation. Abraham Lincoln is famous definition of democracy “as the government of the people, by the people and for the people” remains most valid up till date. This explains why modern democracy is a representative democracy, which marked significantly from the classical democracy of Athenian type. In Ancient Athens, democracy was characterized by the following: first, supreme power was vested on the “ekklesis” which is the assembly of all male citizens at which each was entitled to participate by discussing and voting this may be called ‘direct democracy’.

In an attempt to describe democracy, five basic elements are discernible: These are equality, sovereignty of the people, respect for human life, the individual. It is simply equal right and opportunity of all citizens to hold political office.

Democracy has certain principles which have universal application. First, the principle popular consultation, that in a democracy decisions are taken after the citizens have been widely consulted. Second, political sovereignty, this implies that in a democracy power belongs to the people (electorate). Third, political equality. Democratic equality as one of the basic tenets implies one man one vote, irrespective of social status, wealth, religion, etc. Fourth, majority rule and minority rights this implies that, the majority will always have their ways while the minority opinion must be respected. Fifth, fundamental human right which includes the right to life, liberty and property. Sixth, independent of the judiciary that the judiciary must be independent in order to play its role as an arbiter. Seventh, it opposes arbitrary rule by the leaders Eight, the obedience of the rule of law.

There are contending views of democracy among scholars. Some see it as some kind of power in which citizens are directly engaged in “self-government and self regulation” or as a means of conferring authority on those periodically voted into office. According to Held, this disagreement has given rise to three basic variants or models of democracy. These are first, the direct or participatory democracy in which citizens are involved, as in ancient Greek City States. The second model, is the liberal or representative democracy, in which the citizens elect their representatives to represent them and make decision on their behalf and rule them within the framework of “rule of law”. The third model of democracy is the “Marxist tradition”. This is popularly referred to as people’s democracy”. The Marxian thought of democracy is that it seeks to explain how equality of all citizens from the political, economic and social life is to be guaranteed in the society.
Marxists and neo-Marxist insist on how the means of production and distribution will be based on equality; in other words, to allow equality in the ownership of the means of production through the nationalization of major enterprises. While equality in the social life can be achieved through the institutionalization of rights to education, medical care, insurance, employment, etc. The collapse of Soviet Communist bloc in Eastern Europe has raised some questions as to the applicability and validity of the Marxist model of democracy as alternative model for liberal democracy.

Larry Diamond defines democracy as a “Meaningful and extensive competition among individuals and organized groups (especially political parties) either directly or indirectly, for the major positions of governmental power in addition to popular participation in the electoral process and respect for the civil and political rights of the people”. Although, it has been observed in most liberal democracies especially in the new democracies existence of numerous parties and the conduct of periodic elections may not result in popular choice of leadership. Democracy in a nutshell is a set of ideals, institutions and processes of governance that allows the broad mass of the people to choose their leaders and that guarantees them a broad range of civic rights. However, this conception of democracy may appear to be inadequate as it is only concerned with formal political rights and processes to the exclusion of economic rights. Modern day democracy is essentially social democracy, with the emphasis on poverty prevention or reduction. In other words, the conception of democracy should include social and economic upliftment of the masses.

A democratic system can only be evaluated according to the degree of its commitment to those basic principles or conditions. Democracy thrives where competition for power is not secretive but open; where

there are periodic elections based on universal suffrage; where pressure groups are able to operate to influence government decisions; where there is tolerance of all shades of opinion and adequate protection of minority rights; where the civil liberties of the government are not unnecessarily even encroached upon and the government is responsible, responsive and accountable to the citizens.

The practice of democracy varies from place to place. Some countries operate it at a much higher level than others. A system is considered than others to be democratic when the people have a basic freedom which must be preserved; when the people can manage their own affairs and when governments exist for the good of the majority. The political systems such as USA, Britain, France, Sweden, Germany and few other European countries are usually described as liberal democratic States.
3.6 Liberal Democracy Democracy as a political ideology originated from the Greek City State of Athens. The version of Athenian democracy was quite different from the contemporary liberal democracy. The difference lies in the number or category of people who were eligible to participate or vote. For instance, the numerous slaves in Greek Society, all women and much property–less people were excluded. Similarly, before 1860s, the US Constitution formally excluded black slaves from citizenship and voting rights were given to only people holding property. Interestingly, also, after slavery was formally abolished there were restrictions on black people’s political and civil rights, until 1960s following the Black Civil Rights Movement.
The growth of modern liberal democracies dates back from the 1970s and 1980s. The 1970s saw quite number of West European States moving towards democratic rule after many years of authoritarianism. In the 1980s and 1990s, there was democratic movement in parts of the world, notably, in South America countries of Brazil and Argentina, in Africa and South East Asia e.g. South Korea, Taiwan. After the collapse of Soviet bloc in 1989, the Soviet satellite countries joined the clubs of democratic States.

The world today has fully embraced liberal democracy. In Africa, the movement for democratization and liberalization of political life has become the norm. A successful democratic election in South Africa in 1994, in Ghana, Nigeria in 1999, and most recently in Liberia, which marked the end of more than two decades of civil war. As more and more countries are moving towards democratic governance, the crusades for human rights begin to be fully entrenched. A liberal democracy is a political system where:
i) periodic “free and fair” elections take place to determine how governments are formed and how the legislature is constituted, with free political competition for groups and political parties and

some reasonably efficient system for assuring majority rule; and ii) fundamental civil liberties are protected by law and constitutional safeguards, while legal enactments and rules are equally and

impartially enforced by an independent judicial and legal system. The liberal conception of democracy emphasizes majority rule, protection of civil liberties. It is reasoned that without the protection of civil and political liberties the government will become tyrannical; although there is always a limit to the enjoyment of such liberties. All liberal democracies guarantee to the citizens the rights of political participation in one form or the other, but such rights are limited through certain laws. For examples, there are laws against armed subversion, terrorism and other undemocratic actions that undermine the general principles of democracy.


Discuss the major features of Liberal Democracy.
3.7 Capitalism Capitalism is an economic and social system in which individuals and groups are allowed to own, manage and control any aspect of the economy according to their ability and resources. Capitalism arises from the doctrine of liberalism and laissez-faire economic system. It replaces feudalism which was the oldest of government in Europe in the medieval time. The period 14th to the 17th centuries was the mercantile period in Europe when the Kings or monarchs were in total control of commerce and trade. This was marked by massive accumulation of wealth through trade and plunder for the aggrandizement of European powers. Mercantilism became an ideology for the purpose of merchants themselves as independent political units and active participants in domestic and foreign affairs.

Classical capitalist doctrine is dated back to the period Adam Smith wrote his book titled: “The Wealth of Nations”. The classical era gave a central role to the market system which it held, had the capacity to stimulate, regulate and coordinate the economic activities of individuals. Adam Smith argues that the market system, what he calls the “invisible hand” contains a self-generating and self-correcting mechanism which functions so well that, the government should keep its hands off the economy. Capitalism opposes to strong State intervention in the

economic planning. The political principles that under gird capitalism includes the following suppositions:

  1. that the role of the government should be limited to the maintenance of law and order, upholding the sanctity of contract, regulating currency, raising taxes and containing external aggressions; 
  2.  that economic power should be diffused among many property owners rather than be concentrated in the hands of one owner that is, the state and 
  3.  that government should not engage in any effort to redistribute economic reward since the system ensures that wealth goes to those who serve the needs of the society best while poverty goes to those who contribute little. 

The development of capitalism falls into a number of stages, characterized by different levels of maturity and each of them recognizable by fairly distinctive traits. If we begin with the consideration that capitalism as a specific mode of production, then it follows that we cannot speak of a special period of “Merchant Capitalism” as it is usually the case. The beginning of capitalism was when changes in the mode of production occur, in the sense of a direct subordinate of the producers to a capitalist. It is argued that, the appearance of trading class – merchant capitalism have no revolutionary significant influence on the economic pattern of society than the appearance of a class of capitalist whose fortunes are inadequately linked with industry and that, while a ruling class whether of slave-owners or feudal lords may take to trading or enter into close alliance with traders, a merchant class whose activities are essentially those of an inter-mediary between producer and consumer is unlikely to strive to become a dominant class in quite that radical and exclusive sense.

The history of capitalism began in England in the 16th and the early 17th centuries when capital began to penetrate production on a considerable scale, either in the form of a fairly matured relationship between capitalist and hired wage – earners or in the less developed form of the subordinate of domestic handicraftsmen, working in their own homes, to capitalist on the so-called “putting-out system”. Maurice Dobb argues that, prior to 16th and 17th centuries, that craftsmen had lost much of his independence through debt or in the face of monopoly of wholesale traders, and also depended on a merchant, who possess the capital. In the 14th century there was a good deal of what Maurice Dobb termed Kulak types of enterprise – the – well – to – do peasant in the village or the local trader or worker – owner in town handicrafts, employing hired labour.

The 17th century was one of the decisive moments in the political and social transformations, including the struggle within the chartered corporations and the parliamentary struggle against monopoly, reaching its apex in the Cromwellian Revolution in England. The other decisive moment consist of the industrial revolution of the late 18th and in the early half of the 19th century, which primarily of economic significance; it had a less dramatic, but far from unimportant reflection in the political sphere. So decisive was it for the whole future of capitalist economy, so radical a transformation of the structure and organization of industry did it represent, as to have caused some to regard it as the birth pangs of modern capitalism and hence as the most decisive moment in economic and social development since the Middle Ages.

To be consistent in our argument of the origin of the capitalist mode of production, we must add the third decisive moments in the transition from the medieval mode of production to capitalist. This was the period that marked the disintegration of feudalism. The 14th century witnessed a crisis of the old feudal order, following closely on the needs of the rise of corporate towns to a large measure of local autonomy political and economic as well as to a greatly enhanced influence in national affairs. In this crisis the feudal mode of production, based on serfdom, was seriously shaken and reached an advanced stage of disintegration, the effects of which were seen in the malaise of landlord economy in the following century. However, it is true that the disintegration of the feudal mode of production had already reached an advanced stage before the capitalist mode of production emerged within the womb of the old. To avoid misapprehension and misinterpretation of issues, the history of capitalism and the stages in its development, do not necessarily have the same dating for different parts of country or for different industries, it will be right at times to talk of a collection of histories of capitalism and not a single history because all of them having a general similarity of shapes, but each of them separately dated as regards its main stages.

In the transitional stages of the development of capitalism, there was a major transition from one form of class harmony to another and minor transitions which mark stages within the life-span of given economic system. Where a new class, linked with a new mode of production, makes itself the dominant class and ousts the representative of the old economic and social order who previously held sway, the influence of this political revolution must necessarily be felt over the whole area of whatever is the political unit within which power has been transferred and the immediate consequence must in this case be approximately simultaneous throughout this area. It is this change of policy and hence the direction in which its influences is exerted at a national level that

gives to such moments as the English Revolution of the 17th century or 1789 in France or 1917 in Russia their special significance.

The developmental stages of capitalism through the main phases into which its history falls has been associated essentially with technical change affecting the character of production and for this reason the capitalists associated with each new phase have tended to be initially at least a different structure of capitalists from those who had sunk their capital in the older type of production. It is indeed crucial at this stage to link the periods when the policy of the State in a class society moves in the direction of economic regulation with periods of actual or apprehended labour scarcity and periods when State policy is inspired by a spirit of economic liberalism with an opposite situation. The reason which prompt the State at any time towards intervention in production may be various and complex; as are also the possible forms and objects of intervention. State intervention intended to grow in countries of Western Europe in the 14th and early 15th century, which was a period of almost universal labour scarcity; whereas, the 19th century witnessed a period of an abundant labour reserve and rapid increase of population and the greatest triumphs of laissez-faire.
The 20th century, saw the growth of the welfare state. The mainstream liberal democratic theorist J.S. Mill accepted the need for a large scale welfare states to stabilize capitalism and meet the pressure from social democratic parties. The war time experience of democratic governments controlling and directing industrial production and directing labour as indicating that the state economic planning advocated by social democrats and Marxists was much more feasible than they had previously thought (Dumleavy, 2004). In the 1930s laissez-faire position seemed less plausible as state intervention in economic and social policies proved successful in President Roosevelts’ New Deal in pulling the USA out of the Great Depression. With the onset of the Second World War, State planning was in all the major combatant countries to organize production, in the UK and USA.

The general picture of State policy in capitalists system is its grave for freedom, since only in the absence of regulation and control can it find favourable conditions for expansion. Capitalism in this context is against any legal restraint and monopoly, and monopoly is the product of illegitimate intrusion of the state into the economic domain, in pursuit of power instead of plenty or of social stability at the cost of commercial prosperity. Freedom could only be sustained by minimizing the growth of the state.
There is no doubt that modern capitalism has been progressive in a high degree: accordingly to the well-know tribute paid to it by Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels in the Communist Manifesto, “the bourgeoisie has played an extremely revolutionary role upon the stage of history… it was the first to show us what human activity is capable of achieving… (it) cannot exist without incessantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and, consequently, the relations of production”. The progressive influence of capitalism is some how halted because of some enduring quality of the system, which thrives on continuous innovation and unusual buoyancy of markets as well as with an abnormal rate of increase of its labour supply.
Basic Characteristics of Capitalism There are certain features that distinguish capitalism from socialism. These are as follows:

  1.  Private ownership, management and control of the means of economic production, distribution and exchange; 
  2.  The production of goods and services is usually for profit, not for general use. Individuals organize their business in such a way as to make profit.
  3. It insists on government protection of fundamental human rights of individual. This is the political aspect of capitalism, because it ensures that the rights of the individual are guaranteed, there is the practice of multi-party system; 
  4.  Existence of two dominant classes- the owner of capital (bourgeoisie) and the workers (proletariat). The workers sell their labour to the owners of capital and receive wages in return. (v) Private and free enterprise – individuals are free to do any type of business they desire in accordance with laid down rules and regulations by the state. 
  5. Property could be owned both by the individual and the state. 


 Capitalism as a dynamic system of production has made great contribution to human development” Do you agree?

3.8 Socialism Socialism has often been misinterpreted because of its complex nature. It is perhaps, the most complete political ideology because its goals are all encompassing. It is both an economic system and social, political and moral philosophy. Socialism can be conceived as an ideology and also a political movement or a method to bring about social, economic and political transformation. Socialism refers to a system, in any country of the organization of economic production, distribution and exchange. It is a system in which the major factors of economic production, distribution and exchange are in the hands of the state.

Socialism is a political movement for the establishment of a socialist system of government. It is also a method as well as a doctrine for the organization of socialist political parties and trade unions. Socialism represents a stage or epoch in the historical transformation of societies from capitalism to communism. Socialism is a protest against capitalism, which emphasizes private ownership of property or means of production, distribution and exchange. Communism is the last stage of socialism, which will lead to the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat or workers.

Leon Baradat (1997) provides three basic features of socialism. In other words, socialism can be divided into three basic features. Two of them ownership of production and establishment of the welfare state, are mechanical and are not necessarily related to each other. The third is the belief in the socialist intent, which is the most fundamental aspect of socialism and must exist together with one or both of the mechanical feature, otherwise, true socialism cannot be said to exist. We shall return to these issues later in this section.

In the development of socialism, it is traditionally understood to mean the application of collective production and consumption to an entire nation. The argument is that socialism became feasible with the Industrial Revolution, when the resources for national coordination of an economy had come into existence. Rosseau opposed great differences in property ownership among citizens because the disparity would create unequal political powers among them. This is the foundation of socialism, as it advocates for economic equality as fundamental to a just society. It is only in an environment of economic equality is the full potential of each individual completely free to develop. Hence, though primarily economic in nature, socialism is also a political ideology.

Socialism is based on the premise that individuals should produce as much as they can, and in the spirit of social conscientiousness, to share their product with the society at large. By this means, it is assumed that each will get the greatest benefit, thereby creating the best possible life for all.

Utopian socialism movement developed from a sincere desire for equality within the society and from genuine compassion for the masses at the bottom of the social structure. Members of this movement concluded that lavishing sumptuous wealth on some while allowing others to languish in squalor was immoral, since the economy produced enough for all to live comfortably if goods were distributed more evenly. Many utopians believed that there was an ideal equalitarian social order that, if discovered and implemented, would lead humanity to a more profound level of prosperity and happiness. Utopian socialists also believed that only the workers create wealth, therefore, they held that society should adjust its social, economic, and political systems to prevent unequal distribution of wealth.

The utopian socialist movement originated with the help of three personalities – Saint-Simon, Robert Owen, and Charles Fourier. Important as these utopians socialists were to the development of socialism, their influence is largely limited to their own generation. For more important to socialist theory was Karl Marx. Prior to Marx, the basis of the proposed socialist societies had been the humanitarian hope that people would treat each other better as their material conditions improved. Though Marx was compassionate as he never based his conclusion of socialism on a humanitarian desire for a better life. His theory postulates certain “laws” of human motivation and conduct (economic determinism and dialectic materialism). It concludes that socialism is the unavoidable goal of human historical development. This view became so dominant and superior to his predecessors that he captivated the socialist movement until his death in 1883.

Origins of Socialism

The origin of socialism is traced to pre-Revolutionary France. Jean Jacque Rousseau, though not a socialist, gave leftist foundations of equalitarianism on which socialism is based. After the French Revolution, utopian socialists deplored the suffering caused by early capitalism and claimed that humanity was destined to live communally. But the failure of utopian socialist to explain adequately and in a more scientific manner about social relationship that informed Marx’s “scientific socialism”, which came to dominates the movement.
After Marx’s death the socialist movement shattered into three distinct and competitive variants. First, the orthodox school, which rejected any significant change to Marx’s works and rapidly became obsolete. The second was the revisionists and the Fabians that challenged most of the fundamental Marxist theories preferring more gradual and peaceful development of the socialist goals. Their ideas had a great impact on almost every modern non-Marxist socialist movement in Europe and America. The third is Marxism-Leninism that developed after Marx’s death.

V. I. Lenin was more practical than Marx, though his ideology was not as consistent as Marx. The central argument of Marxism-Leninism is that capitalist institutions such as imperialism discouraged the spontaneous proletarian revolutions that Marx had predicted. Lenin created an elite group of dedicated revolutionaries who would lead the rebellion and govern after the capitalist system collapsed. When the bourgeois ruler had been replaced by the dictatorship of the proletariat, a system that rewarded people according to their work would be established. Through education, material rewards, and elimination of the worst dissidents from society, the proletariat would grow until it was the only economic class in the society. Then the system would evolve into the classic Marxist utopia communism.

Scientific Socialism of Karl Marx Scientific socialism is an attempt to demonstrate or apply scientific interpretation of human history. It is argued that man is governed by material needs and this reduces him to an “earth bound beast with no spark of the lofty and divine” (William E. Bernstein, 1993, p.34). As Karl Marx lived during a time when belief in science was at its peak. Marx believed that he had discovered the economic laws that governed human, social development; hence, his supporters called his theory scientific socialism. It is assumed that humanity was on the verge of a new era of knowledge and understanding of things. Engels who was a collaborator with Karl Marx, was convinced that Marx had done for social history what Darwin had done for biological sciences. To Engels, “as Darwin discovered the law of development of organic nature, so Marx discovered the developmental law of human history” (Baradat 1997, p. 108).
The idea of scientific socialism according to Marx is to distinguish it from utopian socialism. The essence therefore is that revolution which will sweep away class exploitation by the bourgeoisie of workers and class privileges would inevitably occur out of a class struggle between the ‘haves’ (bourgeoisie) and the ‘have nots’ (proletariat).
Scientific socialism rests on the theory of historical materialism, which is in terms of dialectics of history. The underlying principle of materialism is a protest against capitalism. The work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels Das Kapital is a critique of the capitalist system. Marxism posits a materialist interpretation of human history. It is assumed that the mode of production of goods and services and the manner of exchange of these goods and services constitute the bases of all social processes and institutions. Marx insists that it is the economic structure that determines the politics. In other words, the most fundamental assumption in Marxism is economic determinism.

Economic determinism suggests that the primary human motivation is economic. “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence”, Marx argues, “but their social existence that determines their consciousness”, that is, what we value and what we do politically is determined by our economic circumstances. This view has gained a lot of ground in academic discourse in political economy, that economics plays an important part in determining political behaviour.

Marx saw all societies as composed of two parts: the foundation and the superstructure. The foundation of any society, is the material condition. In other words, the economic system is at the base of the society. Marx divided the economy into two basic factor: the means of production and the relations of production. The means of production are the resources and technology at the disposal of a particular society, and their interrelationship determines the kind of economic system the society enjoys. The relations of production (or social classes) are determined by the foundation. The superstructure is composed of all nonmaterial institutions in the society, and each is arranged in a way that suits the ruling class. The superstructure includes the values, ideology, government, education, law, religion, art, and so on.

Art dialectic process. He believed that technological change cannot be stopped: Resources will become depleted, and new means of production will inevitably evolve, resulting economic change. When the economy changes, economic determinism dictates that the entire foundation of the society must be transformed, forcing a change in its superstructure as well. Economic change cannot be prevented, because it forces social change, which, in turn drives political change. Violence is seen as necessary in this process because the rulers who control the economy feel their economic and political power threatened by the uncontrollable changes taking place in the means of production.

Marxist historical theory is the basis for the belief that Marx created a “scientific” theory of socialism. The dialectic is part this theory was taken from the thinking of Hegel. Hegelian thought was based on change. Hegel believes that the world was progressing toward a goal that was predetermined by God. This goal, he called the idea. Marx borrowed this concept of dialectic from Hegel, which they saw as a means of achieving historical progress through struggle.

The fundamental logic of history is the struggle that will ultimately bring about a change. Change itself is what is consistent. To Hegel, history was simply the process of change brought on by struggle. He argued that the dialectic was a struggle between divinely inspired ideas and that it led to changes in the earthly social or political environment (Baradat 1997,
Marx rejected Hegel’s meta-physical assumptions and adopted the dialectic as the fundamental logic of history. He however, agreed with Hegel that humanity would eventually reach the end of the process change. The state of affairs, which Hegel calls the thesis that will be challenged by a new idea, the antithesis. A conflict between the thesis and the antithesis will follow; this is called the dialectic process. The result of this conflict will, according to Hegel, be a synthesis of all the good parts of the thesis and of the antithesis. Then the synthesis becomes the new thesis to which another antithesis eventually develops.
Marx claimed that the dialectic was a conflict among worldly interests. He believed that human conflict was caused by social-class differences. Marx held that the struggle which occurred at the end of one historical era and led to the down of a new one was a struggle between opposing social classes. Further, he believed that humanity had passed through four historical stages and was about to enter its fifth and final era. Each historical era had been characterized by a particular economic system (the means and relations of production) leading to a specific political system (superstructure).

In the Marxian dialectic the four eras were the primitive communism when every person marked at producing, and people shared their produce with one another in order to survive; the era of slavery when the dominant people forced the dominated people into servitude; a new political – economic system had emerged, called feudalism in which a landed aristocracy provided police and military protection to the peasants, who soon became serfs (people legally bound to the land – “land slaves”) and farmed the nobles’ lands. The fourth revolution in the 1640s and the American and French upheavals of the late 18th century featured capitalism as its economic system. Marx called the new political systems bourgeois democracies.

Capitalism fostered factory workers, the proletariat (or wage slaves) a class that would act as the antithesis in the fourth historical era. Marx believed that the tension between the two classes would build into a new and final dialectic struggle.

Capitalism had increased human productivity to the point at which all basic material needs could be satisfied. Marx assumed that the victory of the proletariat was inevitable; it would be a victory of the exploited over the exploiter. He also believed that the proletariat itself would not be exploitative. To him, if all other classes were eliminated the source of all human strife would disappear and a new, classless society holding its goods in common would emerge, which is the communist society.
Basic Features of Socialism 1. Public Ownership of Production: The concept of public ownership and control of the major means of production is a fundamental principle of socialism. This is through nationalization and in advanced Western states cooperatives as a mean of socializing the economy.

ii. The Welfare State: This is to allow for equitable distribution of wealth throughout society. What is much more important to the socialist is the distribution of the goods and services and not just the production. For instance, in the 1930s, President Frankline Roosevelt introduced the new Deal, to give capitalism a human face. At this time, programmes such as social security, government supports for agriculture, unemployment and workers’ compensation, welfare programmes, federal guarantees for housing loans, government insurance for saving deposits, and so on were introduced.

iii. The Socialist Intent: Baradat (1997) argues that the first two features are mechanical in nature and not necessarily related to each other. To him, a society could socialize many, or even all, of its major means of production and still avoid creating a welfare state.

The goal of socialism is to set people free from the condition of material dependence that has imprisoned them since the beginning of time. The true socialist looks forward to a time when the productive capacity of the society will have been increased to the point at which there is abundance for all. As the general material conditions of the society improve, the specific differences in material status among individuals will decrease. This is as a result of technology that has created a situation in which people can produce enough to satisfy all their basic needs.

Since there will be plenty for all, traditional property values such private ownership, the use of money, and the accumulation of luxuries by one class while others live in squalor will disappear.

Socialism is an economic equivalent of democracy with individual political equality. Hence, socialism is compatible with democracy, since it is to the individual economically what democracy is to the individual politically

3.9 Dictatorial Ideologies

Essentially, all other political ideologies that do not share the same characteristics as democracy are dictatorial in nature. In this section, we attempt to bring out the basic elements that are common to all the dictatorial regimes in the history of mankind. The dictatorial ideologies that we shall be considering here are: authoritarianism, totalitarianism, fascism, autocracy, tyranny, etc. In this write up, we classified all of them as dictatorship.
Authoritarianism represents various forms of autocratic rule in which political authority is concentrated in the hands of one person or a small group of persons. This may be seen as oligarchy, that is, government by few individuals that are considered as elites. These could be in the military, that is, when the military regime is in power, it is usually made up few persons that constitute themselves as ruling clique. In such a system political power is highly centralized and the power which the regime wields is arbitrarily used.

Like all dictatorial regimes, political power is in the hands of one person or an oligarchy. Since dictatorship implies irresponsible exercise of political power with no moral or political control or restrain, no election and political opposition is allowed, etc. Political opposition may exist both in theory and not in practice. In practice, in a dictatorship, opposition may be emasculated. In a situation where opposition is allowed to exist, it is usually in a small scale and the regime at times adopts benevolent policies, which is aptly described as “enlightened dictatorship or despotism”. A despot is a tyrannt who induces fear on his subjects to compel obedience. A tyrannical ruler does not obey the constitution if there is any; arbitrarily laws are made without regard to fundamental human rights and rule of law.

Despotism and tyranny are extreme versions of dictatorship. In this case, despotism and tyranny display various forms of total control of the entire public and private life of the citizens. The citizens are subjected and subjugated in various ways by the leaders as it were in Fascist Italy under Benito Mussolini, Naz Germany of Adolf Hitler, Communist Russia under V. I. Lenin, Stalin, and so on.

Fascism is a kind of ideology which grew up on the 20th century. Fascism as a political doctrine or ideology was rooted from totalitarianism. Fascism a political theory came in Italy in 1922, during the expression which followed World War I. The Fascist leader Benito Mussolini spread the doctrine of fascism in all the nooks crannies in Europe. Fascist leader was seen as the most superior and controls all the instruments of coercion and violence. The leader believed in war and not peace. To Mussolini, “war is to man what maternity is to a woman”. The central political idea of fascism is the creation of a truly sovereign state with a sovereign authority. The state dominates all other forces within the country and is at the same time guiding the sentiments of the masses, educating the masses and looking after the interest of the masses. According to Mussolini, fascism is against international peace, socialism, pacifism, democracy and individualism. Fascism is thus, the totalitarian organization of government and society by a single party dictatorship which is intensely nationalist, racist, militarist and imperialistic.
Nazism which was a political movement in which Adolf Hitler ruled Germany between (1933-1945) shares the same political ideas or doctrine with fascism, except that Adolf Hitler emphasized the superiority or supremacy of the Aryan race, while fascism emphasized the supremacy of the leader over the state. Both fascism and Nazism were all rooted from totalitarianism.

Totalitarianism is an advanced form of authoritarianism. In an authoritarian government as earlier alluded, power is concentrated in an individual or in the hands of a group. Monarchies, oligarchies, and military governments are examples of authoritarian governments. Just like these forms of government, totalitarian state, does not allow majority of citizens any direct or institutionalized role in the process of decision-making. There are important limitations to political parties and elections. The political rulers often place greater emphasis on force and coercion to obtain political conformity and obedience. Totalitarianism therefore is a doctrine based on the use of terror or force to compel obedience. The entire life both political, economic, and social is in the hands of the state, represented by the leaders. Examples of totalitarian regimes or states include fascist Italy under Mussolini, Nazi Germany

the Soviet Union under Stalin. Communist China under Mao Tsetsung also pursued the goal of the dictatorship of the proletariat. All these political ideas and movements share the same characteristics except democracy. These are some of the basic characteristics of dictatorship.

  1.  The state defines the rights of individuals and what constitutes crimes against the state; 
  2. The conception of the state as a moral absolute deserving of unquestioning obedience by all; 
  3. Totalitarian state control all aspects of life of the citizens; (iv) The use of secret police or ‘Gestapo’ or ‘KGB’ to terrorise and intimidate the citizens and political opposition groups; 
  4. The concentration of political power on few individuals; 
  5. There is usually one political party like the then Soviet Union, where the C.P.S.U (Communist Party of the Soviet Union) was the only political party that was allowed to exist, opposition party was outlawed; 
  6.  Totalitarian state or regime is intolerance of socialism and liberalism; 
  7. There is emphasis on the use of propaganda as an instrument of control and terror; 
  8. There is the belief in the superiority of a particular race, which became a deliberate state policy in Germany. 
  9. Fascism opposes to international law, fundamental human right; etc. 


The Unit has carefully examined the major political ideas and movements. We have conceived ideology as a coherent body of idea which explains and justify a preferred social order which is either existing or is envisaged. Ideology guides and directs the action of political leaders in the state. We have identified the functions and characteristics of ideology. It is evident from our analysis that ideology plays important role in any political system. We have equally examined the doctrine of liberalism, and we attempted to relate it with democracy and capitalism. Socialism and capitalism are treated distinctively, while other political movements such as fascism, Nazism, totalitarianism are captioned as dictatorial ideologies that share similar attributes.


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