Political ideology and compare it to another one Essay Example

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Political Ideology




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It can be argued that the best politicians are those who possess a distinct sense of direction in terms of what they believe. Of course different politicians may have the same ideology but those who know their goals by heart and clearly articulate them have the highest probability of influencing other people. This has led to the development of different political groupies, all over the world, who practice liberalism, ecologism, conservatism, anarchism, social democracy and feminism. As each group considers its ideology the best of them all, arguments and counter arguments do always arise. This essay aims to critically examine the ideology of liberalism in comparison with that of conservatism.

Liberalism is the first, of modern ideologies, to emerge due to the development of modern perceptions from medieval ones. The transition to liberalism took several centuries. It evolved through period of renaissance, the protestant reformation, the growth of capitalist enterprises and the autonomous nation or state (Adams 1998, p. 12). On its part, conservatism was not established as a coherent political ideology right until the French revolution of 1789. This is when the ideas of Edmond Burke, who is regarded as the father of conservatism by some, begun to be manifested (Kirk 2001, p. 7).


Liberalism is both a moral and political ideology. It is based on the principle of an individual’s liberty or freedom. This ideology puts the individual at the centre of society and reasons that the development of an individual leads to the development of society as a whole. It therefore, recognizes the equal moral status of individuals in the society, within reasonable limits, that is, it should not violate other people’s rights and freedoms (Chau 2009, p 2). Social liberalism is therefore only possible when each individual is in consent with the available freedoms (Kelly 2005, p 3). Political liberalism is, however, different because it points out that all decisions made by government are binding to all members of the society. Individuals retain their rights and freedoms. They have the right to choose their political leaders and can stand for any elective post. To ensure the balance of power and avoid its misuse, structures for separation of power are put into place. These include an independent judiciary, the executive and the legislature (Charvet & Kaczynska 2008, p 1, 2).

The individual is therefore, the cornerstone of liberalism. Individualism is promoted by liberals as a key element of liberalism. The argument behind this is that individuals have freedoms and rights for the sole reason that they are human. All rights enjoyed by individuals are, however, subject to the principle that they should not violate other people’s freedoms. The government, therefore, has the legal right to set the rights and freedoms to be enjoyed by its citizen’s (Goodman 2010, p 1, 2; Chau 2009, p 3).

Another key feature of liberalism is egalitarianism. Egalitarian liberalism strives to combine individual equality, individual rights and freedoms and personal responsibilities. It calls for the promotion of equality in a legal and political context. It argues that the government, formed by the people, should promote and defend the freedoms of individuals, while establishing an environment that supports the equitable distribution of resources and opportunities. Individuals under liberal egalitarianism, therefore, are equals socially, economically and politically (Patten 1999, p. 1; Cappelen & Tungodden 2004, p 393)

Shaver (1996) points out that apart from individualism, and egalitarianism, other key features of liberalism are universalism and meliorism (p. 2). She argues that universalism is the application of liberal values, rights and freedoms to all citizens irrespective of their culture and association. It therefore calls on all governments to treat their citizens as rational entities who should be given respect equally. The cultures of people, their historical background and association do not matter; of importance is their humanity which must be respected. Universalism leads to meliorism. This is the knowledge and belief that individuals or human beings have the capability to improve and become better people. To meliorist liberals, their exist a large probability for progress, leading to the formation of a better future and the development of the world into a better place Meliorism argues that if individuals can improve, so can the established political and social institutions (Smith 2002, p. 30)


Conservatism is a political ideology that desires to resist change and uphold the existing traditions and maintaining the organic assembly of society. Conservatism argues that people are inherently imperfect. It aims to defend the pre-existing institutions and acceptable values because they protect the delicate fabric of society. It seeks to provide security and a sense of stability, as well as belonging to its practitioners. The world is constantly changing socially, economically and politically, conservatism tries to defend the existing traditional values being eroded (Heywood 2011, p. 65).

It can be argued that conservatism tries to preserve the status quo and is therefore afraid of any impeding change. The only type of change that conservatism is comfortable with is that change that strives to restore traditions and values that had been lost. Conservatives do not therefore resist all change as it is believed by some people. It prescribes to mantra that systematic application of reforms should be a carefully managed process. These inevitable political changes should conform to the existing systems and if possible improve them (Muller 2006, p. 362).

Allitt (2009) points out that a feature of conservatism that stands out is that conservatism strives to preserve the old moral traditions of the human race. It essentially calls for respect to be accorded to wisdom or values passed down from the ancestors. He points out that conservatism has a deep rooted dislike of the liberal ideology of egalitarianism and assumes political problems are a combination of moral and religious ambiguities (Allitt 2009, p.168). They further challenge and oppose liberal meliorism. To conservatives, it is impossible to plan the improvement of society without taking into consideration the traditions and history of that particular society. This feature of conservatism has been referred to as the opposition of visionary politics and is best illustrated by the conservatives’ rejection of the French revolution (Hoffman & Graham 2013, p. 198).

Apart from their respect for experience, opposition to rationalism and rejection of socialism as well as visionary politics, conservatism has very high respect for established institutions. Conservatives view institutions as those entities that have established rules that govern their operation. They argue that all institutions evolve or change gradually instead of making radical fast changes. They believe that all successful political, economic and social systems are not as continuous as most people believe. They argue that these systems come about by first respecting the ancient practices of their ancestors and slowly adapting these practices for the better (Hoffman & Graham 2013, p. 198, 199).

While liberalism calls for equality in status regardless of the existing social and economic conditions, conservatism asks for people to get what they deserve. If an economic gap exists between two groups, liberals would tilt the economic scales to equalize the two groups. However, conservatives would first of all consider if the wealthier group obtained their wealth morally and legitimately. If that remains the case, conservatives would agree with the status quo (Kekes 1998, p. 184).


While liberals are progressive and flexible, conservatives are mostly traditional, dogmatic and rigid in their believes. It can be argued that conservatives reject rationality, refuse to plan for change through trial and error and abhor socialism. On the other hand, liberalism champions egalitarianism, individualism, universalism and meliorism.


Adams, I 1998, Ideology and Politics in Britain Today, Manchester University Press, Manchester.

Allitt, P 2009, The Conservatives: Ideas and Personalities Throughout American History, Yale University Press, Yale.

Cappelen, A & Tungodden, B 2006, The liberal egalitarian paradox, Economics and Philosophy ,Vol 22, Issue 03, pp. 393-408 Available at <http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0266267106001039> [20th May 2014].

Charvet, J & Kaczynska, E 2008, The Liberal Project and Human Rights: The Theory and Practice of a New World Order. Available from < http://assets.cambridge.org/97805218/83146/excerpt/9780521883146_excerpt.pdf> [20th May 2014]

Chau, R 2009, Liberalism: A Political Philosophy. Available from <http://www.mannkal.org/downloads/scholars/liberalism.pdf>[20th May 2014]

Goodman, J 2010, What is classical liberalism? Available from < http://www.ncpa.org/pdfs/whatisclassicalliberalism.pdf> [20th May 2014]

Heywood 2011, Conservatism. Available at <http://www.palgrave.com/PDFs/9780230367241.Pdf > [20th May 2014]

Hoffman, J & Graham, P 2013, An Introduction to Political Theory, Routledge, London.

Kekes, J 1998, A Case for Conservatism, Cornell University Press, New York.

Kelly, P 2005, Liberalism. Available at <http://www.polity.co.uk/keyconcepts/samples/kelly-chapter.pdf>[20th May 2014]

Kirk, R 2001, The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot, Regnery Publishing, Massachusetts.

Muller, JW 2006, Comprehending conservatism: A new framework for analysis, Journal of Political Ideologies, vol 11, issue 3, pp. 359–365. Available at <http://www.princeton.edu/~jmueller/JPI-Conservatism-JWMueller.pdf > [20th May 2014].

Patten, A 1999, Liberal Egalitarianism and the Case for Supporting National Cultures. Available at <https://www.princeton.edu/~apatten/monistarticle.pdf> [20th May 2014]

Shaver, S 1996, Liberalism, gender and social policy. Available at https://www.sprc.unsw.edu.au/media/SPRCFile/dp068.pdf [20th May 2014].

Smith, GW (ed.)2002, Liberalism: The limits of liberalism, Taylor & Francis, London.

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