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Political Ideologies and Political Theory

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  1. Political Ideologies and Political Theory Pols 341 Douglas Brown 2013

  2. Political Ideologies and Governing Parties • What is ideology? How is it different from political theory • Broad ideological categories • Political Labels in Canada • Comparing labels, ideologies and theories

  3. The role of ideology and theory • Ideology: sets of ideas about politics that focus on the goals of a political community (or segment of a community) and its underlying values and interests • Theory: sets of ideas and concepts about the study of politics that provide overall explanations: e.g. empirical generalizations, models, critical alternatives

  4. Johnson’s “Competing ideologies”Textbook, chapter 2 • Three main ideological strands: • Conservatism • Socialism • Liberalism • “The triumph of the Liberal centre”

  5. Schools of Theory (General Political Science) • Pluralism • Neo-pluralism • New Right • Elite Theory (or Managerialism) • Neo-institutionalism • Marxist / Class analysis • Neo-marxist

  6. Pluralist Theory • Politics assumed to be driven by the plural demands, values and interests of society, in which the State responds to, and takes shape from, competing and changing social demands. • Pluralist theory in political science puts major emphasis on the role of the individual; the state tends to be implied only. Rational choice is an important hybrid of this theory.

  7. Elite Theory • Politics assumed to be driven by the structure and interests of the State, including its office-holders, and while the State responds to society demands, it has interests and values of its own. • Elite theory puts the major emphasis on organization, leadership, decision-making. A hydrid of elite theory is “neo-institutionalism, which sees institutions as vital but embedded in society.

  8. Class Analysis Theory • Politics assumed to be driven by the competition among class (i.e. primarily economically determined) interests and the State is seen as captured by the dominant class in society. • Class theory in political science puts major emphasis on the role of capitalism, class hegemony and conflict. Neo-marxism is a class analysis hybrid that grants “relative autonomy” to the State.

  9. Some queries about ideology… • What are “tories” and do they still exist? • So what is meant by “neo-conservative” and “neoliberal”? • Who are the real radicals and who is the “establishment”? • Does left-right still have any meaning? • What is identity politics/ green politics…and how does it fit in the categories?

  10. Some queries about party labels • Are New Democrats just “Liberals in a hurry”? • What was the difference between Reform and the Progressive Conservatives? • Is the new Conservative party a successful coalition? • What are the ideological divisions in the Liberal party? • Do party labels mean the same thing at the federal and provincial level ?

  11. Conclusions • Ideology matters, but party labels don’t always capture the ideology • Ideology is always in tension with pragmatism and caution, especially for a governing party or one that really wants to govern • Theory about politics/public admin is influenced by ideologies, but the two can take separate tracks • Public admin analysis includes being clear about underlying ideals, beliefs, and assumptions about those who exercise power.

  12. Discussion Exercise • In the January 2009 Budget the Harper government announced a number of measures related to restoring the economy (see next slide). • In light of all of the political and economic factors at the time, discuss: • 1. which theory of state action best explains the outcomes • 2. whether the Budget 2009 was an illustration of pragmatic politics or of ideology?