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Using Political Ideas, 5th Edition

Using Political Ideas, 5th Edition

Barbara Goodwin

ISBN: 978-1-118-52946-1

Dec 2012

460 pages

Select type: E-Book

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"Comprehensive, and covers the main ideologies in an interesting way . . . takes a critical and engaging perspective . . . framed in the context of debates around the meaning and purpose of theoretical enquiry . . . a more rewarding read than its competitors."
--Madeleine Davis, Department of Politics, Queen Mary, University of London.

"This book is pitched at a good level for bright and interested undergraduates . . . the combination of ideologies and concepts in one book is a major selling point."
--Professor Paul Taggart, Professor of Politics, University of Sussex

"Pulls off the enviable coup of being scholarly and yet not scary as well as providing genuinely fresh insights for the more familiar reader."
--Dr Peter Handley, School of Political, Social, and International Studies, University of East Anglia

"An outstandingly useful text . . . I look forward to a fifth edition being made available"
--Mark Donovan, Senior Lecturer in Politics, University of Cardiff

Using Political Ideas is a unique blend of political philosophy, political theory and history of political thought. It combines a critique of the major ideologies of recent and contemporary society with an analysis of the ideas that form the very stuff of political debate. By exposing the interplay between ideas and ideologies, it shows why political opponents often speak at cross-purposes and why rational agreement is so hard to achieve in politics.

The fifth edition of this well respected and widely known text will be welcomed by all those interested in questions such as:

* Is equality more important than personal freedom?
* Does the majority have the right to dictate to the minority in multicultural society?
* Is nationalism a progressive force in the world?

With a new chapter on the political ideologies of the twenty-first century, and greater emphasis on contemporary issues such as multiculturalism, citizenship and identity throughout the book, this new edition is the ideal starting point for students and anyone else who needs an introduction to political thought.

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Preface to the Fifth Edition.


1 What is Political Theory?

This chapter defines terms such as political theory, political philosophy and ideology, and clarifies the meaning of the various terms used by political theorists in discussing ideas and concepts.

2 Ideology.

In the eighteenth century, the term ‘ideology’ literally meant ‘the science of ideas’. Now it refers to an action-guiding set of political beliefs. This chapter examines different concepts of ideology and examines their significance for political theory.

Marx on Ideology.

‘Ideology’ Since Marx.

Conceptual Problems.


3 Liberalism.

This chapter focuses on the ideas of classical liberalism and then considers the more socially oriented ideas of the last century and some of the late twentieth-century revisions made by neo-liberals and their communitarian critics.

The Ingredients of Liberalism.

The Liberal Model: Perpetual Motion?

Why Does the Liberal Value the Individual so Highly?

Do I Know My Own Interests?

Liberals and Welfare States.

Liberalism Today.

4 Marxism.

The principles of Marx’s own theory are explained in this chapter, which also gives a brief account of later developments of Marxist theory and offers a critical perspective.

Problems in Reading Marx.

The Vocabulary of the Dialectic.

Marx’s Economics.

The Social Consequences.

History and Revolution.

Communist Society.

Criticizing Marx.

The Evolution of Marxism.

Revisionism and Recantation.

5 Socialism.

This chapter shows how the cluster of socialist ideas are all interconnected: taken together, they form a socialist philosophy which this chapter examines point-by-point. The main objections to socialist thought and practice are then considered.

The Nucleus of Socialism.

The Changing Face of Socialism.

Objections to Socialism.

The Contradictions of Social Democracy.

6 Anarchism.

Anarchist doctrine has been plagued by the notion of anarchism as a synonym for disorder and chaos. This chapter dispels this myth and examines anarchism as arising initially from a feeling of moral indignation at the corrupt state of society, coupled with the perception that individuals are naturally good. This apparent paradox leads to the analysis of social evils, at the source of which is the institution of authority.

The Critique of Authority.

The Anarchist Order.

The Moral Basis of Anarchist Society.

Freedom Within Society.

Order Without Dependence.

Anarchist Individualism.

Anarchist Values.

Contemporary Anarchism.

Objections to Anarchist Theory.

The Ethics of Violence.

7 Conservatism.

Conservatism can be seen as an ideology which derives from a collection of beliefs and intuitions that form a coherent worldview. This chapter discusses the connection between these beliefs and conservative doctrines and offers a critique of conservative ideology.

Against Change.

The Virtues of Tradition.

Human Imperfection and Inequality.

Conservative Politics.

The Conservative Mentality.

Conservatism Today.

Ideology or Intuition?

8 Totalitarianism.

The concept of totalitarianism is not easily definable for theorists as it emerged from generalizations about Nazi Germany and Stalin’s USSR which may have limited application to other regimes. This chapter summarizes the views of political scientists, psychologists and historians and offers a theoretical critique of the topic.

The Phenomenological Approach.

The Socio-Historical Approach.

The Essentialist Analysis.

The Fascist Example.

The Psychological Roots of Totalitarianism.

Totalitarianism Dissolved.

9 Feminism.

Feminism is about the oppression of women by men; it is also an innovatory form of identity politics. This chapter focuses on the main social and political issues identified by Western feminists and their views on human nature, gender, patriarchy and oppression. Finally, three feminist strategies to combat oppression are considered.

The Demonization of Women, and of Feminism.

Feminists and Human Nature.

Gendered Society.

Patriarchal Society.

Women and Capitalism.


Feminist Strategies.

Feminism as Ideology.

10 Green Ideologies.

The Green Movement encompasses many controversies and internal differences and there is now a wealth of material available on ecological thought. This chapter offers an overview of the arguments of light and dark Greens and a consideration of problematic questions such as whether an authoritarian state is needed to enforce Green policies.

Shades of Green.

Economic Arguments.

Anti-Pollution Arguments.

Moral Arguments.

Green Utopias.

Problematic Questions.

Green Successes.

11 Beyond Ideology: Nationalism.

Nationalist movements have led to many wars and internecine disputes. It invites us to make distinctions between people based on national or ethnic identity or geographical location. This chapter argues that such distinctions are not only shifting and questionable, but also analytically suspect.

What is a Nation?

The Incoherence of Nationalism.

The Origins of Nationalism.

Is Nationalism an Ideology?

Nationalism, Liberalism and Democracy.

Rights of Secession.

Objections to Nationalism.


12 Democracy.

Democratic theory specifies not only that people should govern themselves, but also that the purpose of government is the good of the people. This chapter first gives an account of the diverse theories of democracy before discussing the problems of democratic theory and practice.

The Classical Ideal.

Elitists and Pluralists.

‘Radical’ Democracy.

Democracy’s Paradox.

The Problem of Minorities.

Democracy and Liberalism.

Democracy and Truth.

The Will of the People.

New Forms of Democracy.

13 Power, Authority and the State.

This chapter deals with the polarity between the state and the individual citizen by reviewing the concepts of power and authority. In particular, authority and the obligations imposed by citizenship are examined: they are important subjective components that determine our attitude to the contemporary reality of the state.

What is Power?

What Creates Authority?

Power and Authority.

The State Leviathan.

14 Freedom and Rights.

This discussion of freedom and rights takes place within a framework of liberal-democratic thought; it examines some internal contradictions and the criticisms of liberal freedoms offered from alternative ideological perspectives.

The Meaning of Freedom.

Varieties of Freedom.

Freedom and Illusion.

The 'Rights of Man.'

Human Rights.

Special Rights for Women?

Rights and Liberty.

The Climate of Tolerance.

15 Citizenship, Obligation and Protest.

This chapter considers where obligation ends and where protest is justified. The duties of citizenship are often discussed in terms of the question, ‘Why should I obey the law?’ This is often answered by reference to contract and consent theories, which are considered in this chapter. The possible justifications for civil disobedience, protest and revolution are then examined.

Contractual Obligation.

The Just Government.

Self-Interest and Gratitude.

Why Do I Obey the Law?

The Right to Protest.

The Scope of Protest.

The Right of Revolution.

16 Social Justice and Equality.

Justice is the highest goal of political life, yet it is injustice which dominates political debate. Different ideologies produce radically different theories of justice. This chapter assesses various theories of justice, and examines the conceptual problems that surround the ideals of justice and equality.

The Criteria for Justice.

Liberal, Socialist and ‘Natural’ Justice.

Retributive Justice.

What is Justice?

Nations and Generations.

Justice and Equality.

17 New Political Dimensions.

Changing social, economic and demographic circumstances have impacted on political ideologies and ideas. New emerging concepts and doctrines reflect the context in which we live in the twenty-first century. This chapter reviews some of the political debates which have been stimulated by these new phenomena.

Religion and Politics.

Multiculturalism, Diversity and Identity Politics.

Globalization and Global Terrorism.

About the Author.

Index of Concepts and Proper Names.

New coverage on:
  • Ideology in the 21st century
  • Religion & politics
  • Globalization
  • Multiculturalism
  • Citizenship and identity


  • Highly accessible to students
  • Avoidance of technical jargon
  • Annotated reading lists at the end of each chapter
  • Links to websites and key words to search