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NATIONALISM, ROMANTICISM, LIBERALISM, AND CONSERVATISM. The Birth and Growth of Ideologies in Europe. Ideologies in Europe. Ideologies developed out of a variety of new ideas and circumstances in European history, such as the Enlightenment and the French Revolution

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Nationalism romanticism liberalism and conservatism


The Birth and Growth of Ideologies in Europe

Ideologies in europe
Ideologies in Europe

  • Ideologies developed out of a variety of new ideas and circumstances in European history, such as the Enlightenment and the French Revolution

  • Political, social, and economic upheavals were the driving factors behind the birth and growth of ideologies

Ideologies in europe1
Ideologies in Europe

  • Nationalism, liberalism, and conservatism would be the three main ideologies to emerge in this time period

  • Later ideologies would include communism, socialism, and fascism

  • Romanticism influenced all of these but it was more of a mood than a movement or ideology


  • Nationalism is the belief that people derive their identity from their nation and owe their nations their primary loyalty

  • Some criteria for nationalism include a common language, religion, political authority, traditions, and shared historic experiences


  • As traditional religious values became undermined, nationalism offered a new locus of faith and became an ideal espoused as strongly as a religion

  • The Italian, Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-1872), declared that nationalism was “a faith and mission” ordained by God, which helps to explain why so many people were drawn to it


  • Nationalism’s earliest manifestation, cultural nationalism, had its roots in Rousseau’s ideas of the organic nature of a people

  • Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1833), Rousseau’s German disciple, declared that every people has a “national spirit”

  • Intellectuals all over Europe began collecting folk poems, songs and tales to find out more about this spirit


  • The Grimm brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm, documented the German spirit by collecting fairly tales which they published, including “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Snow White”


  • Political nationalism developed in the 1770s among the French nobility and then during the French Revolution when neighbouring countries attacked France, prompting the Legislative Assembly to call on the French people to save the nation

  • In response to the threat posed by France, German and Italian intellectuals embraced nationalism


  • The German philosopher, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, in his Addresses to the German Nation, issued following the Prussian defeat at Jena, called on all Germans to rise up against Napoleon

  • Fichte argued that Germans were endowed with a special genius that had to be safeguarded for the benefit of all mankind


  • The Italian writer, Vittorio Alfieri, argued that it was not the French, but the Italians, as the heirs and descendants of ancient Rome, who had the right to lead the peoples of Europe

  • Greek nationalist intellectuals promoted their ancient culture by reissuing the classics of ancient Greek literature, and by “purifying” the Greek language, ridding it of developments in popular speech


  • Herder and Mazzini believed it was the destiny of Europe’s peoples to achieve nationhood and that then European nations would live side by side in peace


  • The notion of a new style, opposed to the rationalism of and classicism of the Enlightenment, emerged toward the end of the 18th century


  • German writers of the “Sturm und Drang” (Storm and Stress) movement in the 1780s, in particular, had defied convention and celebrated emotion

  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a famous German writer of this group, who wrote his well-known work, The Sorrows of Young Werther


  • Although by 1800 German critics had made a distinction between “classical” and “romantic,” the term romantic has nonetheless escaped definition

  • Romanticism was more of a mood than a movement

  • The essence of romanticism was a rejection of established rules and conventions


  • The romantics were quite diverse in their politics and aesthetics, but they tended to share four things:

  • First, they rejected the 18th century’s limitations on form and structure in art


  • In music, romantics such as Ludwig van Beethoven, the unparalleled master of the symphony, and Richard Wagner, the dogmatic theorist and practitioner of “total opera,” gleefully disregarded inherited conventions of form, and of orchestra size and composition


  • Poets such as William Wordsworth deliberately chose a poetic vocabulary closer to spoken English than to the measured couplets of predecessors such as Alexander Pope

  • Continental drama abandoned for good the restrictions on subject, time, and place that Aristotle’s aesthetic theories had imposed


  • Secondly, the romantics prized emotion, the stronger the better

  • The line between emotion and morbid self-preoccupation was narrow, but the romantic emphasis on the creative power of the individual’s imagination was a liberating force


  • Thirdly, the romantics tended to celebrate nature

  • Their nature was not that of the manicured 18th-century ornamental garden, but nature in its raw form

  • Rousseau showed the way with his mystical Reveries of a Solitary Wanderer. This celebration of nature applied to such things as the poetry of Wordsworth and the philosophy of Spinoza


  • Finally, the romantics both celebrated and embodied the cult of the solitary, youthful, misunderstood genius

  • The genius defied convention and perhaps suffered persecution for political radicalism

  • The cult of the artist as misfit was in part an extension of romantic emphasis on imagination, on the creative power of the individual


  • The collapse of aristocratic art patronage after 1789 may also have contributed, for the middle classes were not yet rich enough to step in


  • Romanticism did not outlast mid-century, but it broke Enlightenment formalism for good

  • Art was henceforth what the artist, the individual as towering genius, decreed it to be


  • Liberalism descended directly from the Enlightenment’s critique of 18th c. absolutism

  • 19th c. liberals believed that individual freedom was best safeguarded by reducing government powers to a minimum


  • They wanted to impose constitutional limits on government, establish the rule of law, eliminate all restrictions on individual enterprise – specifically, state regulation of the economy – and ensure a voice in government for men of property and education

  • Romanticism influenced liberalism by emphasizing individual freedom and the imperative to develop the human personality to its full potential


  • Liberalism was also affected by nationalism, especially in multinational autocratic states like Austria, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire, in which free institutions could be established only if political independence were wrested from, respectively, Vienna, St. Petersburg, and Constantinople


  • Liberalism was both an economic and a social theory

  • In 1776, Adam Smith (1723-1790), a Scottish economist, published An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations

  • Smith advocated freeing national economies from mercantilism, under which the state regulated the prices and conditions of manufacture


  • Smith argued for letting the free forces of the marketplace shape economic decisions, stating that the economy would be guided as if “by an invisible hand”

  • In France this policy was called laissez faire (to leave alone)


  • Thomas Malthus (1766-1834), an Anglican minister, in his An Essay of the Principle of Population argued that if employers paid their employees more money they would marry earlier and have more children, thus glutting the labour market and driving wages down


  • David Ricardo (1772-1823), an English stockbroker, in his Principles of Political Economy (1817), stated that capitalists had to keep lowering wages, because they were capitalists’ major expenses, and that the economy is driven by laws and any intervention will worsen the situation

  • Liberals in the political realm argued that political power must be limited to prevent despotism


  • While some liberals, such as Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) (known for his utilitarianism) and John Stuart Mill (1803-1873), both of England, argued for universal suffrage, other liberals feared the masses and vigorously opposed democracy, believing that the vote should be reserved for the well-off and educated


  • Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), an American president and follower of the Enlightenment, asserted in the Declaration of Independence that “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” were inalienable rights

  • The basic tenets of liberalism were the sanctity of human rights, freedom of speech and freedom to organize, the rule of law and equality before the law, and the abolition of torture


  • Conservatism was the guiding principle of the powers represented at the Congress of Vienna

  • The period after 1815 is known as the Restoration, for the restoration of the conservative order and hereditary monarchy


  • Conservative ideology developed as a reaction against the ideas of the philosophes and the revolutionaries

  • In particular, conservatives objected to the excessive reliance of the philosophes on reason, especially abstract reason which was used to justify “natural rights” and the introduction of new political and social institutions


  • As a coherent movement conservatism sprang up both during and after the French Revolution to support resistance to the forces of change; prior to this it hadn’t been thought necessary to create a coherent conservative ideology; the existing political institutions appeared to be permanent


  • Conservatism emphasized the need to preserve the existing order

  • Edmund Burke, an Irish-born, English statesman and political theorist, launched one of the first intellectual assaults on the French Revolution in his Reflections on the Revolution in France


  • In an attack on the claims by the revolutionary National Assembly, which stated that ancient prerogatives had been superseded by the rights of man and principles of human equality based on appeals to natural law, Burke stated that such claims were abstract and dangerous and that the belief in human equality undermined the social order


  • Burke appealed to “experience” as a guide in politics, which was part of a broader appeal to “tradition” and “history” which were at the heart of conservative political thought

  • Some counter-revolutionaries and ultra-royalists wanted to restore society to its pre-revolutionary condition


  • Burke, however, was willing to countenance some change, but it had to take place slowly because both society and government are products of a long historical development, and therefore of a great deal of experience that no man could amass in one lifetime


  • Most conservatives agreed that society was an organism that had evolved over centuries and that the individuals who composed it were indissolubly bound with those who had preceded them and those who were to follow

  • For conservatives it was meaningless to talk of “individual liberty” apart from society, since freedom could be achieved only through the community

  • The community took precedence over the individual


  • This was in opposition to the Enlightenment emphasis on the individual and his rights

  • This emphasis stemmed from John Locke and his disciples who viewed society and government as necessary evils or artificial constructions


  • Conservatives deplored the persecution of the church during the revolution and the lack of respect for ecclesiastical authority and attacks on Christian dogma

  • For conservatives, organized religion was essential to the social order


  • Conservatism was influenced by romanticism, with its glorification of the past, taste for pageantry, and belief in the organic unity of society

  • Not all conservatives were romantics. Metternich saw his work as the attempt of an enlightened mind to restore the world that had been undermined by the emotional turmoil of the French Revolution


  • The thought of German philosophy professor, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) was interpreted by many of his disciples as a defense of the conservative order re-established by the Congress of Vienna

  • Hegel believed that history was propelled from one stage to another by the “world spirit” incarnate in the dominant power


  • The birth of modern ideologies took place in 19th century Europe

  • These ideologies grew and were modified over time

  • These ideologies remain in our present day and continue to be debated, with conflict taking place between them

  • The greatest showdown between ideologies took place in World War II and the Cold War which followed