An ideology can be defined as a body of ideas that reflects the beliefs and interests of a nation, political system, etc. and underlies political action. Ideologies can reflect beliefs and interests of a large group or even just a few people. Political Ideologies, though, are about organizing and directing action. There are hundreds of ideologies throughout the world because every nation and every state has their own beliefs, interests, ways of organizing, and directing action. Development of states into industrial societies has caused, in certain states and regions, there to be only a few main ideologies to stand out. Ideologies mainly reflect how the government is set up and work to maintain government stability by acting through the organized plan in which they think is best fit for the state. Also, time shapes and changes these ideologies. It forms the ideologies into what is important and present at that place in time, then those different interests get absorbed by differing ideologies. In Europe, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries there were three main ideologies that arose: conservatism, socialism, and liberalism. In the United States, there are two main ideologies, American liberalism and American conservatism, they both originated from one European ideology, liberalism.
The conservative ideology that originated in Europe is incredibly different than the American conservative ideology. One of the most influential thinkers on the development of conservative thought was Edmund Burke, an eighteenth century parliamentarian. His experiences and ideas were shaped by what he saw as excesses of the French Revolution (Shively 32). The idea of conservatism is based around the thought that social institutions are the product of gained knowledge and wisdom about how to regulate and maintain society with government. Also, conservatives believe that it can be risky and unstable to negligently change or eliminate prized institutions. Conservatives see having order and structure as a rather important in their society. Additionally, conservatives regard the maintenance of an ordered community and common values is the highest good in society (Shively 31).
Conversely, socialism is the idea that people are not seen as individuals but rather as classes. A class is a group of people who are similarly placed economically in society. Karl Marx was the greatest socialist writer of the nineteenth century. He believed that this division of classes causes constant conflict between them. Socialists, like Marx, believe that eventually classes will be eliminated and everyone will live socially, politically, and economically equal (Shively 35). Furthermore, socialists vision a society where the working class takes over the state and directs all industries.
The last of the main ideologies that originated in Europe is the ideology of classical liberalism. Liberalism is similar to socialism in the idea and belief that all persons deserve equal treatment by the state and should have equal opportunities to develop themselves (Shively 35). However, unlike socialism, liberalism believes that people can develop individually. Also, liberalism is suspicious of centralized or concentrated power in government and liberals believe that individuals should be predominantly free from governmental constraints. Liberalism is largely different from conservatism; whereas conservatives believe that the more government the better, liberals believe the best government is that which governs least. Liberals ideally vision a society where government should aid and regulate people as little as possible, because then people hold the responsibility for their own decisions and are able to learn from their experiences.
The two main ideologies in America are both stemmed from the same liberalism ideology into American liberalism and American conservatism. These ideologies started with the main ideas of what the United States was founded on, which is the idea that people should be free and that the government should have minimal control over the people. This idea was brought about after the American Revolution, where the people in the American colonies insurrected from Great Britain because they were unhappy with the control of the British government. American liberalism and American conservatism have distinct features that separates and makes each unique in their purest forms, although, most Americans find themselves somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, agreeing and disagreeing with specific features of both.
American liberalism, most distinctly, has a large support for the underdogs in society. They see a major concern in economic equality, as well as interests in support for ethnic minorities, women, and gays. American liberals also have a considerable care for environmental protection. Something American liberals believe that is very similar to the European origin of liberalism is the strong belief of individual freedoms. For instance, the freedom of expression and the freedom of privacy are two that liberals are particularly concerned for preserving and protecting.
On the other hand, American conservatism has a recognizable concern for maintaining an efficient and minimally regulated economy. Traditionally, American conservatives have emphasized on trying to keep governmental regulation of people’s lives to a minimum (Shively 25). A main feature of American conservatism reflecting this belief is the support for the right to own guns without governmental regulation. Recently, over the past few decades, there has been a significant component of American conservatism in which there is a high passion for maintaining common values of morality and spirituality. This includes the strong opposition to legalized abortion which also has become a prominent view of American conservatives.
In recent years, there has been a movement in America where people are fed up with the government and want to see a restoration of the ideas and freedoms that have been taken. These people have organized this movement into what they are referring to as the “Tea Party.” The Tea Party supporters share similar core principles of the original United States Constitution where the founders intended limited federal government, individual freedom, personal responsibility, free markets, and power to the States and people. The Tea Party is more of an ideology than an actual political party, because they have a set of beliefs and ideas that differ from the American ideologies. The Tea Party is a movement where members of different political parties and ideologies find some similarities in believing that the current system of government for the United States is broken and the government has itself too much power. It has been debated that the Tea Party falls more under the ideology of American conservatism rather than American liberalism.
I believe that the Tea Party goes back to the main ideology of the United States, which is classic liberalism. The Tea Party members believe that the government has gotten too big and they don’t agree with the concentration of power that has formed in the federal government. This belief is the same one found in the European origin of liberalism, where liberals vision a society that the government regulates and aids as little as possible. I think that current American conservatism has actually developed into having many ideas and theories similar to that of classic liberalism. For instance, American conservatism, classic liberalism, and the Tea Party all share the belief that oppose the regulation of people’s lives and the regulation of businesses. Contrastingly, I feel that current American liberalism reflects parallel ideals on institutions as to that of classic conservatism. For example, current American liberal views on institutions is that they want to maintain those established institutions, such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, welfare, etc. This follows the belief of classic conservatives where it is believed that it is reckless and foolish to carelessly change or remove established institutions.
Finally, I do believe the Tea Party beliefs fit mostly under the conservative ideology. I believe there are certain aspects of the Tea Party that most American liberals would agree with in addition to American conservatives, such as the keeping and maintaining of individual freedoms. However, as far the Tea Party’s views on limited government, personal responsibility, and free and minimally regulated markets, I think that those beliefs fit much more neatly in the current American conservative ideology.