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Political Ideologies : Abnegation Or Fulfillment Of The State Intervention ?

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From the communist regime in the ex-USSR to the more liberal view in The United States of America, political ideologies have evolved over time and influenced the view on the role of the state. Through time and space, the intervention of the state has varied according to the intrinsic characteristics of political ideologies. Nowadays, the term of welfare state is well known and highly valued under certain ideologies whereas other consider the state as having no or playing a very limited role. In fact, what role does the state play?

In order to answer this question, different political ideologies and the state will be defined and considered, and the ideologies´ view on the role of the state in society. In the following section we will examine the role of the state in three distinct ideologies: liberalism, socialism and conservatism. With particular focus on classical liberalism, the gist of neo-liberalism, the specific core of social democracy will be pointed out. Thus, to fulfill this task, we will highlight the characteristics and the role of the state in these different models. Furthermore, it will be topical to ponder about the state intervention and the importance of the welfare state in these ideologies.

The state can be defined as the institutions of government in a narrowed point of view . State intervention aims at creating an atmosphere of stability and order. This purpose is nevertheless not always obtained by state intervention, as seen in a liberal state. The sovereignty of the state is a core feature when enforcing laws, a mean for security of the population.

Three distinct ideologies

Classical liberalism is “the earliest liberal tradition” , conveying in the nineteenth century an idea of a self-regulating market and “laissez-faire” . Institutions of government are negated any role, no external help is needed, neither for the market nor for the individuals whose merit are the key to success. The Darwinian attitude towards natural selection of the survivors is emphasizing the idea of a state where only the most deserving are rewarded . Classical liberalism has a fear for state abuse, thus Thomas Jefferson´s quote: “That government is best which governs least” . Individuals are given freedom of action, which they will make great use of as long as they are not in coercion. That is, a negative freedom of action with no external intervention.

On the other hand, socialism is based on a series of principles such as share, community, equality. Every human being has the same chances and remains equal. A socialist state would thus observe no hierarchy among its citizens, i.e. a classless society. Socialism evolved through time as a response to liberalism, and is therefore capitalistic critical. Socialism would be an alternative to liberalism before the implementation of communism worldwide. However, this Marxist project has turned out to eventually fail. By the mid-twentieth century appeared new liberal-democratic principles in socialism called social democracy , where a welfare state is developed even though it is a free-market economy.

Finally, conservatism arose during the French Revolution and is bound to tradition, historical inheritance and paternalism, which is authority coming from above as in a father-child relationship. Conservative characteristics are a society built upon community, solidarity, as individuals are nothing without their peers.

Individuals and their relation to state intervention

In order to understand the meaning and the role of the state, it is necessary to examine how the individuals will respond to the degree of state control. Indeed, in a nation where freedom of choices is extolled, as in the case of liberalism, the State will not be allocated a right for intervention. The extended majority will not port bail for any state regulation that would represent a threat for their individual liberty. In contradiction to a view where the minimal state is advocated, we find the socialistic model that stands for state intervention. Thereby, its aim is to provide stability and wealth through regulation and redistribution of resources. In opposition to liberalism, we also find conservatism that is in favor of state control. It ensures stability, which cannot be offered by the individuals characterized by human imperfection leading to incapacity of creating safety. Therefore, norms and institutions are necessary.

Influence of the essence of ideologies on intervention

Liberalism preaches the individual and its own interests. The essence of liberalism lies in freedom of action as every human being is given reason that enables him to pursue the satisfaction of his interests. Individual liberty is therefore a value that has a particular importance in that it permits each citizen to make choices . Thus, the state is not given any significance; it becomes a neutral actor where free market is superior to government. This is true in the classical form of liberalism, which relies on the idea of a minimal state. The individuals are seen as separate actors that are given freedom of choice in a mechanical view of the society. Indeed the society is atomistic , human beings are separate because responsible for their own destiny. This point stands in clear contradiction to the notion of organic society inherent to conservatism . In conservatism, individuals can only find peace and security by interacting and recognizing their obligations in the community. Indeed, the community is an essential feature of conservatism in that it provides values through which the individual will recognize himself. Whereas the liberal ideology provides a freedom of action and of creating one’s


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