Political philosophies are an integral part of progress since ancient times. Read here to know more about their types and how they affect society.
Political philosophies are the ideals that help us to understand the reasons for the actions taken up by the people in a particular course of time, which impacted the global political setup.
The great political thinkers like Aristotle, Plato, Karl Marx, Hobbes, Locke, etc. have propounded various political theories or philosophies. Indian political thinkers from Chanakya to Ambedkar have shaped the political arena of the modern world as we see it today.
Political philosophy is concerned with the concepts and arguments involved in political opinion. Many types of political ideologies have taken shape over hundreds out of which we will be discussing three philosophies that have played significant roles in the modern world- communism, socialism, and capitalism.
These political philosophies have impacted society in major ways and resulted in pertinent historical changes in the world.
Political Philosophies: Capitalism
In a capitalist system, the factories fuel the economy, and a wealthy few own the factories. This created the need for a large number of people to work for the factory owners. In this environment, the wealthy few exploited the labourers, who had to labour to live.
From a political perspective, capitalism is a system of laissez-faire (freedom). Lawfully, it is a system of objective laws that is rule of law, in contrast, to the rule of man. In financial terms, when such freedom is applied to the domain of production its result is the free market.
Capitalism was first used by novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, in 1854 in his novel ‘The Newcomes’, where he described capitalism as “having ownership of capital and not as a system of production”.
Capitalism has three-level systems:
- On the first level, the markets, firms compete to secure their labour and capital as well as to serve their customers.
- In the second level, there are basic institutional foundations, including physical and social infrastructure; physical infrastructure includes, among other things, transportation and communications, and social infrastructure includes the educational, public health, and legal systems.
- The third level comprises a political authority typically one with specialized functions such as executive, legislative, and judicial branches. In turn, a set of political institutions connect the political authority to the political markets and ultimately to civil society, to which such authority is finally responsible.
Types of capitalism:
- Mercantilism is a nationalist system that was practised in the later phase of the 16th century.
- It is characterized by the mixing of national business interests with state interest and imperialism, and eventually, the state is utilized to improve national business interests abroad.
- Mercantilism was determined by the belief that the prosperity of a nation is increased through a positive balance of trade with other nations.
- It relates to the phase of capitalist development and is sometimes called the Primitive accumulation of capital.
- A free-market economy is described as a capitalist economic system where prices for goods and services are set freely by the forces of supply and demand and are allowed to reach their point of equilibrium without interference by government plans.
- A social market economy is a free-market system where government involvement in price formation is kept to a minimum but the state provides substantial services in the area of social security, unemployment benefits, and recognition of labour rights through national collective bargaining arrangements.
- Rhine capitalism is described as the modern model of capitalism and adaptation of the social market model that exists in continental Western Europe today.
- State capitalism includes state ownership of the means of production within a state, and the organization of state enterprises as commercial, profit-seeking businesses.
- Corporate capitalism refers to a free or mixed-market economy categorized by the supremacy of hierarchical, bureaucratic corporations.
- A mixed economy is a mainly market-based economy consisting of both private and public ownership of the means of production and economic interventionism through macroeconomic policies intended to correct market failures, reduce unemployment and keep inflation low.
Effect of capitalism on society
- Capitalism ensures economic growth as it empowers both manufacturers and consumers and keeps money in rotation.
- It ensures the accessibility of goods and services at a competitive price and helps to improve the standard of living in the country.
- Capitalism paved the wave for LPG reforms in the world and provided opportunities for the labor force to opt for global employment opportunities, which have further shrunk the global boundaries.
- But capitalism leads to unequal distribution of wealth- rich get richer and poor get poorer.
Also read: Crony Capitalism
Political Philosophies: Socialism
Socialism is a political and economic ideology that believes in the public ownership of means of production and distribution based on a plan formulated by a central authority.
In socialism, the class that produces the wealth can jointly decide how it will be used for the benefit of all. Real socialism is characterized as democratic and it is economic as well as political.
Socialism depends altogether upon the history of mankind for a record of its growth in the past and bases its future upon knowledge of that history in so far as it can be accurately traced up to the present time.
Socialism was initiated in the late 18th-century by a knowledgeable and working-class political movement that disapproved of the effects of industrialization and private ownership on civilization.
The main features of socialism are:
- Public ownership
- Central planning
- Definite socio-economic objectives
- Freedom of consumption
- Equal income distribution
- Regulated pricing process
Types of socialism:
- Democratic Socialism promotes the principles of Socialism as an economic principle which signifies that the means of production should be in the hands of ordinary working people and equality as a governing principle.
- Marxian socialism denotes a particular historical phase of financial development and its corresponding set of social relations that ultimately overtake capitalism in the plan of historical materialism.
- From this perspective, socialism is described as a mode of production where the principle for production is use-value, where production for use is coordinated through conscious economic planning and the law of value no longer directs economic activity.
- Revolutionary Socialism supports the need for essential social change through revolution or revolution instead of gradual reform as a strategy to attain a socialist society.
- Utopian Socialism describes the first streams of modern socialist thought in the first quarter of the 19th Century. It was used by later socialist thinkers to define early socialist, or quasi-socialist, intellectuals who created hypothetical visions of perfect egalitarian and communalist societies without actually concerning themselves with how these societies could be created or sustained.
- Libertarian Socialism develops a society without political, economic, or social hierarchies, in which every person would have free, equal access to tools of information and production.
- Market Socialism is a type of an economic system in which there is a market economy directed and guided by socialist developers, and where prices would be set through trial and error rather than relying on a free price tool.
- Eco-Socialism is a philosophy that combines aspects of Marxism, Socialism, Green politics, ecology, and the anti-globalization movement. They focus on collective ownership of the means of production, to alleviate the social barring, poverty, and environmental deprivation brought about by the capitalist system, globalization, and colonialism.
Effect of socialism on society
- Creates a welfare society where all the basic needs of people (food, clothes, and shelter) are fulfilled by the State at very affordable prices.
- Providing employment is the State’s responsibility based on capabilities, education, and skills.
- All the profits go to the State, which utilizes them for the well-being of the society by providing them with free education, improving public health amenities, ensuring social security, etc.
- Establishes the supremacy of the State, which may lead to authoritarianism.
- Lack of check and balance in the bureaucracy leads to increased corruption in society.
- People lack the fundamental right of freedom to choose what they want to consume and what and where they want to work.
- Socialism demeans their ability to grow economically in careers as people do not work for personal growth but under the fear of the State.
Political Philosophies: Communism
In layman’s terms, communism is the political system in which the community owns and controls entities like factories, farms, services, etc. intending to treat everyone equally.
Communism is based on the goal of eliminating socioeconomic class struggles by creating a classless and stateless society in which everyone shares the benefits of labour and the community controls all property and wealth.
It is a form of government most closely associated with the ideas of Karl Marx, a German philosopher, which he outlined in The Communist Manifesto (1848).
Marx believed that capitalism, with its emphasis on profit and private ownership, led to inequality among citizens. Thus, his goal was to encourage a system that promoted a classless society in which everyone shared the benefits of labour and the community (communes) controlled all property and wealth. No one would strive to rise above others, and people would no longer be motivated by greed. Then, communism would close the gap between rich and poor, end the exploitation of workers, and free the poor from oppression.
The basic ideas of communism did not originate with Marx. Plato and Aristotle discussed them in ancient times, but Marx developed them into a popular doctrine following modern times, which was later put into practice.
Marx’s ideal society ensured economic equality and fairness. Marx believed that private ownership of property promoted greed, and he blamed capitalism for society’s problems. The problems, he claimed, stemmed from the Industrial Revolution. The rise of factories, the reliance on machines, and the capability of mass production created conditions that promoted oppression and encouraged the development of a proletariat or a working class.
For a large part of the 20th century, about one-third of the world lived in communist countries ruled by dictatorial leaders who controlled the lives of everyone else.
The communist leaders set the wages, they set the prices, and they distributed the wealth. Western capitalist nations fought hard against communism, and eventually, most communist countries collapsed.
Marx’s utopia was never achieved, as it required revolution on a global scale, which never became a reality. As of today, five proclaimed communist countries continue to exist: North Korea, Vietnam, China, Cuba, and Laos.
Types of communism:
- Marxism is a perspective that involves several differing “sub-perspectives” that is, whilst there tends to be a general agreement about the need to construct a critique of Capitalist society, there are major differences between theorists working within this viewpoint.
- Marxism-Leninism is the Communist philosophical field that emerged amongst Communist parties in the 1920s during the era of Joseph Stalin (1878 – 1953), with whom it is mainly associated.
- The term “Marxism-Leninism” is the extent to it follows the principles of either Marx or Lenin.
- The philosophy of Leninism was built upon and extended the ideas of Marxism, and served as the theoretical foundation for the ideology of Soviet Communism after the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the establishment of the Soviet Union.
- Stalinism is a more judgemental phrase for Joseph Stalin’s vision of Communism. Supporters of this ideology argue that it includes widespread use of publicity to establish a personality cult around an absolute ruler, as well as extensive use of secret police to maintain social proposals and silence political opposition, all of which are trappings of totalitarianism.
- Trotskyism is the philosophical model of Marxism that was supported by Leon Trotsky (1879 – 1940), who considered himself a conformist Marxist and Bolshevik-Leninist and squabbled for the establishment of a frontline party.
- His politics differed from the Marxism-Leninism of Joseph Stalin, concerning support for an international proletarian revolution and firm support for a true dictatorship.
- The most dominant characteristic of Trotskyism is the theory of permanent uprising to explain how socialist revolutions could happen in societies.
- Luxemburgism is a theoretical model under Communism, which is based on the texts of Rosa Luxemburg (1870 – 1919). Her politics deviated from those of Lenin and Trotsky mainly in her discrepancy with their concept of “democratic centralism”, which she visualized as unsatisfactorily democratic.
- Luxemburgism looks like Anarchism in its averting of an authoritarian society by relying on the people themselves as opposed to their leaders.
- Maoism is slightly different from Communism and is derived from the teachings of the Chinese leader Mao Zedong (or Mao Tse-tung) (1893 – 1976), and practised in the People’s Republic of China after the Chinese Revolution of 1949.
- Maoism evolved from the Marxism-Leninism of Stalin but introduced new ideas such as Social-Imperialism (Mao accused the Soviet Union of dominating and exploiting the smaller countries in its sphere by organizing their economies around Soviet, not domestic, needs), the Mass Line (a method of leadership that seeks to learn from the masses and immerse the political headship in the concerns and conditions of the masses “from the masses to the masses”), people’s war and new democracy.
Effect of communism on society
- The philosophy of communism supports a society without rulers, but until it is achieved all the power will lie with the dictator government, which will lead to oppression. For example, the Rule of Hitler and the event of the holocaust during world war II.
- In communist nations, the difference between the official claims and societal realities is different. The dictator government controls the information and every sort of communication channel that cut-offs the society from the outer world.
Today, the historical words capitalism, socialism, and communism do not fully capture the economic systems of nations. New words are also used to describe economic systems- free market system; mixed economy; command economy. In other words, communism, socialism, and capitalism are in sync with modern national economics falling somewhere in the middle, or mixed zone of the different types of economies.
Ultimately, nations and citizens of nations must decide how much government regulation of the economy is appropriate. Therefore, a clear understanding of the historical developments, meaning, political associations, and synonyms of these three words is essential.
Also read: Economic nationalism