Political ideology

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A political ideology (also ideologism , see -ism ) or current is the totality of ideas, conceptions and theories used to justify and justify political action. As with every value-neutral ideology , it is primarily the basic attitudes and values that are shared by their followers and are truebeing held. Political programs are always based on certain value systems. Typical of political ideologies is also the combination of certain interests and the strong intention of their concrete political and social implementation. An ideology not only wants to explain the world, but also to influence it, so that political ideologies are the expression of solidified political norms and attitudes with a normative claim to shape. They motivate people's political behavior and are therefore an essential part of political orientation.

The basic modern political ideologies are liberalism (emphasis on freedom), socialism (emphasis on equality) and conservatism (emphasis on social traditions).

From the ideological point of view to the main political currents

The greater the influence of a political direction and the more it differs from other directions, the more likely the term ideology is used in political discourse in the pejorative sense as a reproach to portray the opponent as unworldly, inadequate, corrupt, antisocial, etc. . It is assumed that a point of view is not valid because it is based on a political ideology. In contrast, one's own point of view is presented implicitly or explicitly in such a way that it would be based on a sober analysis of the truth , common sense or an ethics that cannot be questioned . In many cases, however, the respective opposing side could justifiably claim this for itself. Unspoken ideologemes (individual elements of an ideology) often dominate the political debate without always being aware of this in the discussion.

If the rulers of a state raise a system of views and statements about the political model - which mostly claims to be universally valid - one speaks of a doctrine . Not infrequently they enable socially endangering conditions (e.g. racism , sexism , anti- pluralism ) to extremely destructive actions (e.g. Inquisition , Holocaust , despotism, etc.).

Ideology itself must be distinguished from the mostly heterogeneous theorists to whom it refers. Usually only the basic elements of the political theories are used by political spokesmen in order to unite the represented population group into an assertive social movement . The extent of the theoretical structure is very different in the individual ideologies. While National Socialism, for example, made hardly any use of elaborate theories, the liberal and socialist theorists and masterminds to whom the relevant movements refer are very numerous.

Important political ideologies that developed in Europe as early as the 19th century as a result of the French Revolution and the emergence of the social question and which continue to represent the mainstreams today are liberalism , conservatism and socialism / communism . Other important political ideologies are nationalism , fascism and national socialism . Islamism, which has been burgeoning since the 1970s, has led critics of Islam to see this religion per se as a political ideology as well. “ Ecologism ” (or green politics ) has recently also been referred to as ideology by external attribution .


Since the 17th century intellectual circles discussed liberal and democratic ideas led to a deal simultaneously developing conservative counter-position. Through and after the French Revolution, the political debate changed profoundly. The whole population (literacy level was already very high) was politicized. Then there was the social question that arose from the industrial revolution . This dissolved the social structures of the estates and led to the gradual development of industrial forms of work, a new work ethic (cf. Max Weber's Protestant Ethics ), a strong increase in population and mass poverty ( pauperism ). The awareness of political ideas and the will of the new political-social movements to assert their interests led to the emergence of the first political ideologies.

Brief description of the historically fundamental political ideologies


Important theorists, from whose concepts liberalism has derived its political demands since the end of the 18th century, are Thomas Hobbes , John Locke , Charles de Montesquieu , Adam Smith , Immanuel Kant , Jeremy Bentham , John Stuart Mill , Alexis de Tocqueville , in the 20th century . Century Friedrich August von Hayek , John Rawls , James Buchanan and Robert Nozick .

The most important principles of liberalism are the right to self-determination , freedom vis-à-vis the state and the limitation of political power as well as the self-regulation of the economy on the basis of personal property .

Starting from the concept of individualism , which was prominent in the Enlightenment , the liberal theorists developed the basic concepts of order of modern liberal democracy : popular sovereignty , separation of powers , elections , the principle of representation , religious freedom , tolerance and the rule of law . The idea of freedom of contract , the free market , free trade and free competition emerged as central economic principles .

Carriers of the desire for such political change and thus z. B. The lifting of the still existing feudal restrictions was the first to emerge from the rising bourgeoisie , which first developed in England . There through the Glorious Revolution and in the USA through the Bill of Rights and the American Declaration of Independence , the liberal ideas were implemented first (first constitutional state).

The impoverishment of large sections of the population in the course of the industrial revolution in the 19th century posed great problems for liberalism and led to the development of the current of social liberalism (John Stuart Mill, in Germany Friedrich Naumann , currently John Rawls). In the middle of the 20th century, neoliberalism or ordoliberalism ( Walter Eucken , Ludwig Erhard ) developed, which calls for a regulatory framework for the economy and welfare state interventions and developed the concept of the social market economy .


Central theorists are Edmund Burke , Juan Donoso Cortés , Joseph de Maistre , Adam Heinrich Müller and Carl Schmitt . As an ideology, conservatism developed as an antipole to the French Revolution , supported primarily by the old elites such as the nobility and clergy .

The most important requirement is the organic community , to which politics primarily has to be oriented and whose order is determined by religion . But also from the human differences that are regarded as given (e.g. different roles of men and women in society) and social traditions . Preservation of tradition and slow social development are preferred to rapid changes.


In addition to the current of Marxism with its founding fathers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels , as well as subsequent theorists of different orientations, such as Vladimir Lenin , Leon Trotsky or Mao Zedong, there are also other socialist currents and theorists. Robert Owen , Henri de Saint-Simon , Charles Fourier , Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Ferdinand Lassalle should be mentioned in particular .

In early socialism (late 18th century to around 1848) the social question led to utopias for new political and economic forms of society. Equality , freedom and solidarity and the belief in the good in all people under appropriate social conditions are the central maxim.

In the 19th century, Karl Marx established what is known as scientific socialism as a demarcation from early socialism (utopian socialism) . Through the division of labor in industrial society , the worker (from the class of the proletarians ) is alienated from his product and his activity becomes torture for him. The surplus value thus gained is siphoned off by another person (from the class of the capitalists ). This is a man-made injustice that may a. lead to the increasing impoverishment of the proletariat, which, however, is changeable. According to Marx's theory of history, what Engels called historical materialism , the social form of capitalism will therefore disappear, like the primitive community , the slave-holding society and feudalism before him. After a proletarian revolution, according to Marx, the dictatorship of the proletariat (socialism) should first emerge, in which private ownership of the means of production should be abolished. According to the theory, this should ultimately lead to the classless communist form of society (communism).

Marx's close companion Friedrich Engels developed this further into historical materialism. Lenin, Stalin and Mao Zedong later strongly emphasized the role of the communist party and wrote theories regarding the construction of socialism (see also Dialectical Materialism ).

The bearers of socialist ideas are above all the workers, who have organized themselves in workers' unions and parties in Europe since the middle of the 19th century . At the beginning of the 20th century there was a split in the previously predominantly Marxist labor movement. Communism remained revolutionary ; B. October Revolution in Russia 1917. In Western Europe , parts of the initially revolutionary socialists were transformed into a democratic , reform-oriented socialism ( social democracy ).

See also

  • Freedom of thought
  • The term (political) current is also used for party wings that only represent different manifestations of the basic, shared ideology.


Supporting documents and comments

  1. Klaus von Beyme : Political Theories in the Age of Ideologies: 1789-1945 . VS Verlag, 2002, ISBN 3-531-13875-8 , p. 49.
  2. Klaus Schubert u. Martina Klein: The Political Dictionary. 5th, updated Aufl., Bonn: Dietz 2011. Keyword “Ideology”.
  3. https://www.bpb.de/nachhaben/lexika/politiklexikon/17794/liberalismus