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Sample Classification Essay: The Different Types of Political Ideologies
Political views promote and utilize different ideologies to govern society. Some political views emphasize the need for hierarchies and governments while others promote individual liberty and the capacity of humans to be productive despite the lack of governance. Despite the differences between each political view, a close examination can reveal that their ideologies come from their approach to human nature. Political ideologies that highlight the need for government likely have pessimistic views on human nature while those who claim that humans are self-sufficient beings that require no hierarchies have optimistic outlooks. This classification essay categorizes common political ideologies into views with an optimistic approach to humanity, views with a pessimistic approach to humanity, and views with a neutral approach to humanity.
Views with an Optimistic Approach
Views with an optimistic approach to humanity are political ideologies that claim human nature is fundamentally good and productive. These views promote freedom, equality, and individualism which often borders on anti-statism. However, some political views under this category may condone government structure since it can help society exercise its liberty. Views with an optimistic approach to human nature are anarchism, social democracy, and communism.
The most fitting view in this category is anarchism. Anarchism questions the legitimacy of authorities and often promotes ideas that reject laws and the government. However, anarchism is fundamentally a positive theory that claims humans can flourish and be productive, especially without a government (Fiala, 2021; Miller et al., 2022). Anarchists perceive the government and other forms of authority as detriments to individual liberty and progress as they establish unnecessary rules that limit the capacity of each individual. For anarchism, individuals can only reach their maximum potential when there are no authorities that restrict their actions.
Anarchism has two types and both belong to the category of views with an optimistic approach. The first type is individualist anarchism which strongly opposes statism, similar to the traditional form of anarchism. However, this view often promotes anarcho-capitalism, an ideology that allows free market trade and the establishment of capitalist structures in society (Freeden et al., 2013). Since capitalism involves hierarchies, such as the employer-employee relationship, this anarchism type receives criticism for its self-contradictory idea. However, one can argue that due to anarchism’s optimistic approach to human nature, it exercises strong faith that the public can manage capitalist structures without the need for governing institutions. The second type is social anarchism, which rejects any form of hierarchy and government, including capitalism (Freeden et al., 2013). This is the traditional form of anarchism as it promotes the absolute rejection of authority and provides no room for exceptions.
Social democracy is another political view with an optimistic approach to human nature. Social democracy promotes the ideas of liberty, equality, and community through the application of socialism in the political field and the active rejection of capitalism (Freeden et al., 2013). Since social democracy is the application of socialism, one can define this political view through the nature of socialism, which is a socio-economic ideology that also has an optimistic view of human nature. Socialism promotes the idea that the public should have equal ownership of wealth and production with a singular ruling party that decides these factors (Kenton, 2022; Hasa, 2021). Through equal ownership, each individual has equal opportunities and wealth, allowing them to exercise social and economic freedom. For instance, equal wealth means that every citizen has equal buying power in purchasing properties. So there will be no room for discrimination or limitations due to financial capacities. Social democracy exercises an optimistic approach through its assumption that humans must have absolute equality for society to flourish.
Furthermore, social democracy’s optimistic approach manifests through its rejection of capitalism. For social democrats, capitalism promotes hierarchies that allow the wealthy to become richer while the poor remain in poverty. This is especially true during the 18th and 19th centuries when socioeconomic inequality became rampant due to the rapid economic growth that either enriched individuals or forced them into poverty (Kenton, 2022). However, social democracy can still allow the existence of capitalism but with extreme limitations (Dagger & Ball, 2022). Social democracy blames hierarchies for this inequality since the state and capitalists governed social and economic means. This political ideology promotes the optimistic approach to human nature that without the limitations of hierarchies, humans can exercise their fundamental capacity to be good and productive.
The last ideology in this category is communism, a similar political view to social democracy. Communism promotes social equality, rejection of any form of hierarchy, and the absolute absence of capitalism (Dagger & Ball, 2022; Chen, 2022). One can define communism as the highest form of social democracy as it exercises the similar ideologies of socialism but to the extreme. In a communist society, there are no classes, family structures, religious hierarchies, or capitalist organizations, and there will be absolute social equilibrium (Marx & Engels, 1955, cited in Chen, 2022). Despite the rejection of hierarchies, communist regimes tend to have a single-party government that does not tolerate the existence of opposing parties (Dagger & Ball, 2022). While this may seem to border on totalitarian ideologies, communism’s fundamental ideology believes that society will flourish through absolute equality among citizens. It is also important to note that modern communist regimes have accepted some forms of capitalism to promote better economic growth, suggesting a progressive approach to economics and the welfare of a nation.
Views with a Pessimistic Approach
Views with a pessimistic approach to human nature argue that society requires a governing body to function effectively due to selfish and unproductive human nature. These ideologies tend to promote traditional thinking, totalitarian ideologies, and opposition to absolute liberty. However, ideologies under this category may differ greatly in their methods with some allowing for individual freedom while others fully terminating citizens’ liberties. Views with a pessimistic approach include conservatism and fascism.
Conservatism refers to political ideologies that promote historical traditions. As the name suggests, conservatism aims to conserve traditions since they perceive societal progress as a way for some individuals to exercise their selfish goals. According to Dagger (2022), conservatives believe that human nature leads individuals to act in selfish, irrational, violent, and anarchic ways. Therefore, allowing individuals to self-govern and have absolute liberty can lead to societal collapse. Conservatism then acknowledges the need for a governing body, however, it also prevents the government from establishing new rules that may transform society. As mentioned, conservatism values tradition and they may establish the idea that these traditional laws and norms are effective in managing and stabilizing society. For them, amending and transforming the law risks disturbing societal stability and can lead to detrimental effects on society.
Fascism is an extremely pessimistic political ideology that aims to achieve absolute control. However, fascist parties in history, such as the Nazi Party and Republican Fascist Party, had different methods and goals which makes it difficult to define the ideology. The aim for absolute control is only one common denominator of fascist parties but cannot fully define the idea. Other similar characteristics include opposition to Marxism, opposition to parliamentary democracy, opposition to political and cultural liberalism, totalitarian ambitions, conservative economic programs, corporatism, equality of social status, imperialism, military values, leadership principle, the concept of the “new man”, glorification of youth, extreme nationalism, revolutionary image, anti-urbanism, sexism, misogyny, violence, and populism (Soucy, 2022). Fascist parties and regimes have strong associations with brutality, violence, and human rights violations, giving the ideology a negative reputation.
The complexity of these characteristics makes it difficult to categorize fascism since they can seemingly express an optimistic view of human nature. For instance, fascist parties have claimed that they promote the equal social status and want to establish “Volksgemeinschaft” or people’s community. These suggest that fascism may perceive human nature as inherently good and strive for equality. However, upon rising into power, fascist parties transition to totalitarian structures to commence their ambitions. According to Soucy (2022), some theorists categorize fascism as an extreme form of conservatism since it fears communist revolutions and often aims for cultural regeneration. For instance, the Nazi Party placed great value on the Aryan race and wanted to conserve the purity of Germany by exterminating the non-Aryan races. This means that fascism tends to hold on to tradition since progress, due to selfish and irrational goals, can threaten established norms. This can lead fascist parties to develop a pessimistic view of human nature as progress hinders their goal.
Views with a Neutral Approach
Views with a neutral approach are ideologies that recognize the need for government as well as individual freedom. These ideologies acknowledge that human nature can both be good and bad, depending on the circumstance. They may support traditional teachings and norms as it benefits society or aligns with their values while also recognizing the need for progressive ideas to promote societal growth. Views with a neutral approach to human nature include Christian democracy and liberalism.
Christian democracy is a political view that values privacy and the need for religion . According to Munro (2013), Christian democracy applies the traditional teachings of the Roman Catholic church while also embracing progressive values. This means that the decisions and ideas of Christian democracy have religious themes and are often based on Christian teachings. Their ideologies do not rely on the perception of whether humans are inherently good or bad but on the contents of the Bible. Christian democracy promotes personalism, solidarism, and pluralism, illustrating its difference from other political ideologies and the acknowledgment of the complexity of human nature (Freeden et al., 2013). Due to these characteristics, some ideologies of Christian democracy can seem liberal while others are more conservative, supporting its neutral approach to human nature.
Liberalism promotes individual liberty, autonomy, and the limiting of states' power over individual rights. It is the most dominant ideology in the modern world but is also a misunderstood idea (Freeden & Stears, 2013, cited in Freeden et al., 2013). At face value, liberalism seems to have an optimistic approach to human nature as it acknowledges individualism and the restriction of state power. However, liberalism recognizes that the government is necessary to protect individuals from harm (Girvetz, 2022). The idea acknowledges that without the government, some individuals may harm others since there are no authorities to establish laws. This shows that liberals understand that human nature can be bad, especially when there are no rules. Still, liberalism is aware that the government can threaten individual liberty. So liberals call for gradual societal changes instead of sudden transformations that can be detrimental to individual freedom.
Categorizing the different types of political ideologies by their approach to human nature provides an understanding of their fundamental values. Views with an optimistic approach, such as anarchism, social democracy, and communism, believe that humans are inherently good and capable. Views with a pessimistic approach, such as conservatism and fascism, argue that society requires a governing body that will place limitations on selfish and irrational human nature. Lastly, views with a neutral approach, such as Christian democracy and liberalism, acknowledge the pluralism of human nature and that governing bodies are necessary for maintaining societal stability.
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