Why Consider Politics?: Part 3 I Oxford Open Learning
Politics

Why Consider Politics?: Part 3


This is the last in my short series on politics, providing some knowledge that could help you decide if pursuing a career in the subject could be of interest to you. Part 1 can be found here and Part 2 here.

Continuing along the spectrum of political theory we turn our attention to what can be described as ‘Right’ orientated political theories.

Fascism

In Fascism there is a dogmatic focus on the concept of the group, the nation, above the individual. The concept of ‘nation’ is usually generated by an individual, a dictator, and seeks to eradicate all who either ‘do not fit’ a prescription about who makes up the group and/or seeks to eradicate anyone who is in ‘conflict’ with the created ‘norm’. There is no concern or deliberation about whether the individuals who are at odds with the system do so politically, physically, personally or accidentally simply by existing. These individuals are seen to pose a threat to fascism and its dominant dictator.

As fascist states hold an ideology centered around looking outwards, with a focus on difference as a threat, there follows a need to ensure that they are prepared for armed conflict.

Totalitarianism

The antithesis of democracy is totalitarianism, which as a Far Right ideology sits on the side of an all-encompassing power that determines the degree to which it impinges upon an individual’s life. Under totalitarian regimes the aim or the degree is complete control. Often with an autocratic, personality-cult derived leader in command, the regime exhibits its authority through its use of economic control over all the people it reaches. This therefore includes restrictions for certain groups it deems undesirable. It utilises its power to place heavy restrictions on the ability of the population to speak freely, move, and practice their chosen religions or ideologies. It implements mass surveillance and fear-based policies to control its population.

The regime will manoeuvre its citizens into positions of abject dependence, with the inability and fear to think independently, and a focus on total compliance and intellectual, social, and moral silence. It will also seek to mobilise individuals to uphold its values, even to their own detriment. Under such regimes death is the common penalty for flouting the imposed laws, regardless of how minimally actioned or necessary this may have been. There is no room for ambivalence, flexibility, or circumstantial compassion under such regimes.

Historical proponents of totalitarianism include: Joseph Stalin (Soviet Union), Adolf Hitler (Germany), Mao Zedong (China), Benito Mussolini (Italy) and Kim Il-sung (North Korea).

In Brief…

Politics has been a part of the history of group-living from the very start of humanity. Finding the ways, means, and language to ‘get along’ has been an essential part of every civilisation’s growth, and this continues in one form or another all over the world today. The ability of every individual to consider their personal moral directives and to apply these in action within a political arena is sadly not a given. This in itself is a political statement because it presupposes the importance of basic human rights and of justice, areas which are still under debate and have limited global consensus. What one group considers to be correct is not always the same for another group.

For this reason it is always important to know which perspective an individual is coming from. How we share information and how we position our arguments is naturally swayed by our beliefs.In this sense the capacity to be objective rather than personally subjective can be hard, as we often need to convince other people that our way is correct. Knowing an individual’s political position ensures that we understand the lens through which they see the world and their potential bias.

The Reasons and Relevance of Politics

The level of importance given to understanding where one is positioned, and then striving to uphold those positions and values, is an intimately personal one. However, as the world is based on many of these precepts, understanding the language and where each theory sits in relation to the other gives the individual a position of knowledge, and as everyone knows, ‘knowledge = power’. Taking time to educate oneself on the basics of politics is time well spent in the development of one’s ability to utilise that power in a positive way.

Essential reading:

Andrew Heywood, Key Concepts in Politics and International Relations (2d ed.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty (Crown Publishing Group, 2012).

2 Cows – An irreverent view of economic, religious and political systems

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