These are the basic political ideologies that are prevalent in contemporary times. Of course, these are largely simplified, and most people don't purely adhere to one ideology, but adopt concepts from multiple ideologies. Still, most political works can be broadly defined as falling into one of the following categories.
Please note, the following categories are ideological. Several groups running in Real Life elections often use these terms, but to refer to their political bloc rather than as an indicator of their actual ideological leanings. For instance, the contemporary United States meaning of "liberal" does not refer to "liberalism" here, for the most part. Ditto for "conservative."
The section on Anarchism is so large that it needs its own page; see Anarchism.
A political ideology does not rise in a vacuum. A political ideology is usually the product of a series of beliefs about how human beings are, how they acquire knowledge, and how they should interact with each other. For instance, someone who believes Hobbes Was Right will probably come to different political conclusions to someone that believes Rousseau Was Right.
The following political ideologies arose from two periods in human history; the Enlightenment and the Counter-Enlightenment (the trope Romanticism Versus Enlightenment is basically Counter-Enlightenment versus Enlightenment).
During the Enlightenment, the prevailing beliefs amongst philosophers were that human beings were rational beings that could understand the environment around them, and thus learn to manipulate it to their benefit. In short, the Enlightenment was a period where most people were confident in human ability, human progress and self-determination of the individual (or free will).
Enlightenment philosophers can be divided into two camps; the British or Empirical enlightenment, and the Continental or Rationalist enlightenment. These camps had different theories about how reason worked; the empiricists believed it worked on the basis of human experience. The rationalists believed it worked by making logical deductions from intuitively-known first principles.
Regardless of this difference, both camps agreed on the broad points stated above. Humans as rational beings with free will capable of progress and advancing their condition. As such, the dominant ideology of the time was Liberalism (see below). Both Empiricists (like John Locke, John Stuart Mill) and Rationalists (like Kant, Spinoza, Descartes) generally agreed with liberalism (albeit for different reasons, see the section on liberalism for more).
When the Counter-Enlightenment rolled around, things changed. On the British side, Empiricism had been pushed so far that many began to embrace Skepticism (in the philosophical sense; the belief we cannot reach knowledge). Arguably, they were following on in the wake of David Hume (although arguably they were going much further than he did). On the Continental side, Rationalism had been pushed to extremes that argued reason has a nature which shapes its user. This is arguably a derivative of Kant, but many additions were made by Kant's intellectual successors (known as the German Idealists). For instance, Fichte argued that a person's consciousness is shaped by their nationality. Hegel took this even further, arguably diminishing the role of human beings as free agents in favor of making them voices of larger forces.
The skeptical British Counter-Enlightenment eventually produced British Conservatism (see below). The Continental (German Idealist) Counter-Enlightenment gave us Hegel (who was a great influence on Karl Marx (see Socialism, below), although Marx arguably was inspired by the Enlightenment as well as the Counter-Enlightenment) and Fichte (who has been called the father of German Nationalism and was arguably a great influence on Fascism).
The Counter-Enlightenment overall constituted a rejection of the Enlightenment view of humanity as rational beings capable of understanding the world and possessing free will. The British Counter-Enlightenment cast doubt on the efficacy of our reason. The Continental Counter-Enlightenment did so as well, by asking how much of our minds and selves were conditioned by external forces (Zeitgeists, Nationalities, Economic conditions, etc).
It is in the context of the Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment that the following political theories originated.
The chief objective for liberalism is human freedom. In liberalism, freedom means the ability to do what one wills with one's own life and property. Liberals stand in opposition to government restrictions on private actions, and tend to be skeptical of authority.
There have been some splits in liberalism over time. The first important split is the one between natural law liberalism and utilitarian liberalism. Natural law liberalism holds that humans, due to divine or natural law, have certain rights that no government should infringe. These rights are due to self-ownership, meaning that you own yourself, and no other human does (though you may belong to God, according to early liberals, you do not belong to any other person). John Locke was a major proponent for this view, which was also influential in The American Revolution.
Utilitarian liberalism grew in popularity in the 19th Century, and it holds that the best course of action is to pursue what would bring the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people. Since only the individual knows what would bring the greatest happiness to himself or herself, then governments should pursue a policy of personal autonomy, letting everybody pursue their own happiness. The most influential advocate for utilitarian liberalism is John Stuart Mill.
The other great split is between classical liberalism and left-liberalism. The split between classical liberalism and left-liberalism (also known as social liberalism) is arguably due to different concepts of rights. To the classical liberals, rights are nullifications of the power of the State (i.e. the ability to legitimately initiate the use of force), meaning no individual or groups thereof can use force, fraud or threats thereof to stop any other individual from performing a specific action. For instance, if you have the right to free speech, this means that no individual or institution can start or threaten the use of force or fraud against you in order to stop you from speaking in a specific way (provided, of course, said speech constituted neither fraud nor coercion).
To social liberals, rights are seen as entitlements to the ability to perform specific actions. For instance, if you have the right to education, this means that other people (or groups thereof) must act in order to provide you an education if you cannot provide it yourself.
So, to classical liberals, rights are things others cannot use force to stop you from doing, and to social liberals, rights are things that others are forced to enable you to do. Isaiah Berlin referred to the former as "negative liberty" and the latter as "positive liberty."
Classical liberalism argues that economic activities should be treated the same way that all other liberties are (or, further, that a meaningful distinction between economic and non-economic liberties cannot be made). Thus, economically speaking, any activity that does not involve force, fraud, or threats thereof (i.e. coercion) is just as much a right as free speech. As such, classical liberals are generally skeptical and/or hostile to government intervention in economic matters. This stance is also known as laissez-faire free market economics (which some people call "Capitalism," although that term has other definitions depending on who you ask).
Social liberalism argues that negative liberty is an insufficient condition for full human freedom. Social liberals in general do accept a significant level of negative liberty is indeed a necessary component of human freedom, but they argue a certain level of positive liberty is required as well. The typical rationale that social liberals give for this position is that the proper objects of positive liberty (according to social liberalism) will not be available to everyone in the absence of positive liberties to these objects. Whilst the proper objects of positive liberty have been debated by social liberals, they are usually justified as being necessary for "human flourishing" and "human development."
Note that this division is one of means rather than ends. Both classical and social liberals believe that the kinds of things which social liberals consider proper objects of positive liberty are good things! The division is over how they should be provided; social liberals argue that the State should provide them and classical liberals argue the State should not (there are several rationales for this position; such as the State being too incompetent to do it, or that empowering the State is inherently dangerous for further liberties, and/or that it is immoral to sacrifice negative liberties for the sake of positive ones).
During the middle parts of the twentieth century, the boundaries between social liberalism and social democracy (the latter being ideologically a product of socialism (see below), even if it had a centrist political platform) began to get blurry due to the popularity of socialism amongst many of the cultural elites of the time. During these decades, a resurgence of classical liberalism began to form. This resurgence is often called "libertarianism" (see also below) and occasionally seen as a separate ideology, but this is partly due to the fact that it originated as a rebuke to the intellectual hegemony of socialist ideas. Fundamentally, it was merely a modern reformulation of the classical liberal case.
This resurgence had two separate origins, the first in academic economics. The Austrian School of economic thought gained notoriety for an argument known today as the Economic Calculation Problem which began in 1920 with Ludwig von Mises' publication of "Economic Calculation In The Socialist Commonwealth". In this article, Mises argued that State Socialism (defined as an economy wherein which all means of production was owned by the State, ostensibly on behalf of the Proletariat) rendered economic efficiency impossible because without market prices for capital, there was no way to make efficiency-based decisions between various methods of production for a specific item.
Socialist economist Oskar Lange argued that Mises identified a genuine problem (a lack of economic accounting), which he argued could be fixed by replicating market prices. Lange's solution was disputed by Frederich von Hayek in his article "The Use Of Knowledge In Society". Hayek argued that the preference data from which market prices are ultimately generated rests within individual human minds, and that this data only gets expressed via voluntary trades in a free market. Assuming a lack of Instrumentality, there is no way to access this data and as such any attempt to replicate market prices would fail.
In academic economics, Hayek (and by extension, Mises' initial argument) is generally regarded as Vindicated by History (although this has been disputed) and his works on knowledge and spontaneous, undesigned order have been influential in fields ranging from sociology to research on artificial intelligence. As such it is hard to overstate his importance (and that of the Austrian School in general) to modern classical liberals. In terms of the utilitarian-natural law liberalism split, Austrian School economics generally made its case in utilitarian terms, but is embraced by classical liberals from both sides of the division. At least one famous Austrian economist, the anarcho-capitalist Murray Rothbard, was a natural law libertarian in terms of personal political philosophy, and the strain of anarchism he inspired (generally best seen as a fusion of Austrian economics with Lockean Individualist Anarchism) is very natural-law-oriented.
The second origin of this resurgence came from a surprising source; popular novelists. As stated before, the intellectual milieu of the mid-twentieth century was generally anti-individualist and against most values that liberals (both classical and social) profess. Novelists such as Robert A. Heinlein and (most infamously) Ayn Rand produced novels explicitly defending individualistic, anti-authoritarian values. In the case of Ayn Rand, her work ended up becoming the basis for the philosophy of Objectivism, which has been significantly influential on many modern classical liberals. Of course, Rand's philosophy, most specifically its moral component, is a controversial and divisive subject that quite a few classical liberals do not necessarily agree with; some even reject it outright. Whilst they often acknowledged the utilitarian case and considered it true that classical liberalism produced the greatest good for the greatest number, they did not accept that the moral justification for classical liberalism was utilitarianism.
As for social liberalism, it is arguable that (in recent times) the doctrine has been replaced by or assimilated into various forms of social democracy. Some even argue that social liberalism was always a front for socialistic ideas but this is a highly controversial claim. Since the division between social liberalism and social democracy is primarily one of values rather than political program (and the division between social and classical liberalism being one of political program rather than values), the categories can get muddled. Additionally, political programs contain matters of degree; social liberals can advocate either relatively moderate amounts of government intervention (arguably, some of the more moderate libertarians fit here) or similar levels of government to a social democrat, depending on what the liberal believes is required to enable full human flourishing.
It is also worth pointing out that while classical liberals are often painted as being opposed to all government intervention in the marketplace, this is not strictly true. Adam Smith, for example, actually supported subsidies to the unemployed as well as fledgeling businesses (although he was uneasy about the latter due to his fears that businesses would lobby against being removed from the subsidy rolls), as well as progressive taxation, while Milton Friedman and Friedrich von Hayek proposed replacing the existing welfare programs and minimum wage with negative income taxes that would provide living wages to all citizens, not the complete elimination of welfare. Where Friedman and Hayek stopped short of social liberalism was in opposing redistribution of wealth for the sake of bringing living standards closer together, although they have been criticised by others further to the right economically for supporting any redistribution at all.
Problems immediately arise when attempting to define "conservatism" because the term does not refer to any specific single ideology. The word has been used by many different political groups in many different ways, usually peddling wildly-divergent and often flatly-contradictory political programs. Of course, this has to do with the fact that "conserving" the current state of society does mean a different thing in different countries and, more important, different times. Restoring society as it was in the past is a different thing altogether; that would be reactionary.
Historically, in British political philosophy, conservatism does have a fixed definition, although it doesn't refer so much to a political ideology as much as it refers to a skeptical attitude towards political ideologies.
Conservatism is in many ways more about knowledge than about politics. The French Revolution was philosophically motivated by very strong Rene Descartes-style rationalism (i.e. the belief that all truth can be worked out by making logical deductions from first principles). Conservatism, a product of the Counter-Enlightenment, is based on a rejection of this philosophy. Rather, conservatives tend to be very cautious about new ideas. They tend to focus on practical matters and "what has worked before" rather than what would necessarily be the "best" thing to do. Conservatism is very suspicious of ideologies that claim to have all the answers. In short, conservatism is skeptical and cautious about novelty, and "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" applies.
This translates into a reverence for tradition. Tradition is seen as something that has survived a very long time because it has been useful. It is also seen as vital to the maintenance of order and social stability. It is order and social stability that are the key values of British-style conservatism; this is a great contrast to liberalism's prioritization of human freedom above all else. Edmund Burke has often been called the father of conservatism (although he has not always been classified as a conservative and there is still some dissension about whether he qualifies as one). While maintaining liberal goals, he was very concerned with maintaining social stability. Traditions and social institutions should not be summarily cast aside, according to Burke. They prevent society from descending into chaos. A society is a partnership between the living, the dead, and the unborn, and they must all be considered when dealing with national policy. It may surprise many that Burke was actually a Whig (the liberal party in Britain at the time), but he was a staunch supporter of British liberties because they were ancient national traditions, rather than universal rights of any sort.
Another British philosopher that exhibited this attitude is Michael Oakeshott. His work is much more obviously conservative (in the British sense) than even Burke (Burke, for one, can be read as a liberal and arguably had significant influence on the very classically liberal economist Friedrich von Hayek). Arguably, Oakeshott is the Trope Codifier for British conservatism; he was anti-rationalist, staunchly empiricist to the point of outright skepticism, and as a result argued that our traditions were the only things we had in order to guide our social organizations.
Besides British conservative thought, there was also a notable Continental trend, known as French or Latin conservatism and developed by the other father of conservatism, Joseph de Maistre. Both varieties put an emphasis on tradition and are skeptical of XVIII-Century rationalism. The difference, however, is in how far they are willing to go. While Burke's conservatism can roughly be boiled down to a doctrine of political skepticism, Maistre's variety is much stronger. Originally a cautious supporter of French Revolution, Maistre grew to despise it, and after the revolutionary French army invaded his native Savoy, he began to advocate a strictly counter-revolutionary doctrine of hierarchic order, religion (specifically, Catholicism) and monarchism.
Maistre reasoned, backing himself with Biblical references, that traditional order is not just "good because it works" but it is good in itself -- instead of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", he went for "if it was meant to be broken, God would do it by now". His stance on monarchy was that any attempt to derive the right to rule on rational ground leads to discussions over the legitimacy of government, and to question the government is to call for chaos. Thus, a government should be based on non-rational grounds, e.g. religion (through the Divine Right of Kings, and papal recognition), which the subjects wouldn't be allowed or able to question.
By now, it is a good time to return to Burke: because his branch of conservatism allows for change, as long as proper caution is exercised, it is known as evolutionary. Maistre's branch, on the other hand, considers even a small change too much; it is also willing to actively fight to restore the old order where it's been removed, a thing Burke's conservatism would rarely if ever advocate. For this reason, Maistre's conservatism is called reactionary.
It is when we look at American conservatism that things get confusing. "Conservative" as used in the US is not an ideology, but rather a coalition of many different ideological groups. Many self-proclaimed conservatives are ideologically classical liberals! There are also self-proclaimed Oakeshottians in American conservatism as well, such as Andrew Sullivan.
Religious conservatism is a strong element in American conservatism, but it differs from any of the previous subgroups of conservatism (it is probably closest to Maistre's branch). Like British-style conservatives, religious conservatives argue that specific traditions are vital for social stability and thus deserve State protection. However, unlike British-style conservatives, they argue that it is adherence to a specific set of religious traditions and moral beliefs that keep society together, and they also (very much unlike British-style conservatives) are not skeptical about the possibility of knowledge. Rather, they argue faith is a means to perfect knowledge. This attitude is neither Enlightenment or Counter-Enlightenment; it is a pre-Enlightenment attitude.
Of course, American conservatism is still fundamentally a coalition of varying ideological groups. Thus, there have been many attempts to bridge these philosophical differences. For instance, Frank Meyer of the conservative National Review magazine argued classical liberals (known as "libertarians" because in the US, "liberal" refers to an electoral coalition of social liberals and social democrats) should argue for the use of classical liberal policies as means to conservative goals.
William F. Buckley Jr, also of the National Review, argued in a very Oakeshott-like manner that conservatism is fundamentally based on skepticism and caution about new ideas, and thus a preference for tradition and against ideology. However, he also argued for the incorporation of both religious conservatism and classical liberalism, primarily because they all faced the common enemy of Soviet-style communism.
In short, British-style conservatism is characterized by an aversion to rationalistic and/or ideology-based political programs and instead a preference for proven, pragmatic policies in the pursuit of maintaining social order by protecting established traditions from radical change. Latin-style conservatism is British-style taken Up to Eleven with a strong religious element. American-style conservatism is based on an unstable coalition of British-style conservatism, religious conservatism, and classical liberalism, in varying proportions depending on numerous variables.
Problems also arise when attempting to define "socialism" because the term has been used to refer to a wide variety of different groups which promoted many different sets of ideas that at times flatly contradicted each other.
The common threads running through all socialist ideologies are the overarching goals of improving the outcomes for the working classes and of bringing about equality of opportunity for everyone. To that end, socialism is broadly against the capitalist system, in which industry is operated & services provided by private entities (corporations, etc.) for the purpose of profit-making. Socialists argue that this arrangement is inherently exploitative, as the few owners of those entities (the upper class) can use their control over essential services to make themselves ever richer at the expense of the people who depend on said services with no other recourse (the working class). Instead, socialism is in favour of a system in which production of goods, providing of services etc. are in public hands instead of private hands. One of the main causes of ideological division within socialism is exactly in what capacity these things are put "into public hands".
State socialism, the most commonly-known variation of socialism, takes the approach that industry, services etc. should be nationalised, i.e. owned and operated by the government. State socialism is internally divided into different schools of thought regarding the method of government administration: a planned economy is one where every aspect of production -- what to produce, how much, how to distribute, what price to set -- is planned ahead of time and implemented by a government agency; a state-directed economy is a lesser version of the same, where general goals are set by the government but most actual managing is done by workers within the industries themselves; a self-managed economy is one where the management of industries is entirely autonomous.
Market socialism is different in that it involves publicly-owned enterprises operating with a for-profit objective. As a rule, proponents of market socialism are against central economic planning and promote a self-managed economy.
Other forms of socialism such as libertarian socialism are against state ownership of industry, and instead promote a system wherein each industry is structured as a cooperative with every worker having equal part-ownership of the workplace and an equal say in management decisions and so on (this type of management is referred to as "workplace democracy"). These ideologies tend to be anarchist in nature.
Additionally, socialism as a whole is also divided regarding the structure of government in which such a system is implemented and how it should come about. Democratic socialism (also known as Fabian socialism) holds that a socialist state must have a democratic system of government, and is generally in favour of implementing socialism through peaceful reform. Socialist ideologies which have their root in Marxism-Leninism (e.g. Stalinism, Trotskyism, Maoism, etc.) are dictatorial in nature, with a single vanguard party bringing about socialism through revolution. Proponents of the latter tend to criticise the former for being ineffective in practice, and for attempting to work within a system it ought to hold as illegitimate, morally bankrupt and only worth being overthrown; proponents of the former in turn criticise the latter for inherently not representing "the will of the people" if it doesn't enjoy democratic support, and of being hypocritical in effectively creating its own new "elite class" of party heads who control everything without being democratically accountable and thus nullifying any beneficial effect their revolution may have had (or in other words, "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss").
Similarly, the ideology of socialism is mainly focused on economics and can vary wildly when it comes to civil rights and social freedoms. In Western culture, socialism is generally associated with being socially liberal and anti-authoritarian on such matters; on the other hand, many nations which have implemented some form of socialist system (e.g. Stalinist Russia) have been very socially conservative and authoritarian.
It's worth noting that the different ways of dividing socialism (by democratic versus non-democratic, by degree of state control over planning, etc.) all cross-cut each other. Although certain countries have obviously implemented particular combinations, they don't inherently go together and you'll find proponents of every possible combination somewhere out there. And likely as not, they all hate each other.
Below are two sub-sections on notable variants or subsets of socialism:
Social democracy is basically a kind of compromise between capitalism and democratic socialism. While socialism proposes that all industries come under state or cooperative ownership and control, social democracy instead proposes the nationalising of only certain essential services while still allowing private enterprise for the rest. The rationale is that certain services do not operate in the interests of the public good in a for-profit environment and inevitably result in inequality, but free enterprise is still necessary for innovation and competition (and indeed, social-democratic systems can and do involve private enterprises acting in direct competition with the nationalised services). Essentially it's democratic socialism within a capitalistic framework.
"Essential services" can refer to education, public transport, health insurance, welfare, water, electricity, and so on. In fact, the truth is that most government systems which self-identify as capitalist are also social-democratic in some way or another: even the USA, which is infamously wary of socialism as a nation, has such programs as Medicare (health insurance for citizens over 65) and so on.
One of the most well-known forms of socialism is Marxism-Leninism: the kind of socialism practiced in Soviet Russia (where socialism practices you, apparently). This was not pure Marxism, however, but Marxism modified by Lenin's ideas. (Russia at the time of the Russian Revolution had more peasants than proletarians, and Russia has a long history of political theory arguing for revolution based on the Russian peasant: in short, it wasn't the kind of society that Orthodox Marxism would argue was ready for a communist revolution.)
Marxism (Orthodox Marxism, not neo-Marxism or Marx derivatives) itself is the ideology of Karl Marx. Marx argued a very specific position; that human beings and their ideas are fundamentally shaped by the economic conditions surrounding them, which are themselves social relations (economic determinism), that people are shaped into groups based on their economic status (a form of methodological collectivism) and that history itself was driven by a series of changes from one form of economic organization to another (historical materialism). Marx's economic determinism was, by Marx's admission, derived from the Counter-Enlightenment philosopher Hegel. Hegel argued that individuals weren't so much in possession of free will, but rather conduits for the "zeitgeist" (the intellectual 'spirit of the age'). Marx basically replaced Hegel's zeitgeist with the prevailing economic system of the age. It's important to clarify that although this article focuses mainly on Marx's economics, the "prevailing economic system" is part of an all-encompassing set of social relationships and ideologies (the "mode of production").
Marx alleged that each economic system was based around the exploitation of a lower class by a higher class, and this higher class derived power from control of the means of production, i.e. the stuff that is used to make more stuff. During the feudal age, the means of production was land: the upper-class was the land-owning aristocracy and the lower-class was the land-working peasantry. Marx argued that the collapse of feudalism came from the enraged peasantry who had finally had enough and rebelled against their aristocratic masters. This replaced the feudal system with what Marx dubbed capitalism, where the primary means of production became human-created tools and machines (called "capital"): the upper-classes were those that owned capital (the bourgeoisie), who paid wages to the lower-classes (the proletariat) in order to operate the capital. (Note that Marx's initial definition of "capitalism" is different to how it is used by many people today, such as modern libertarians and classical liberals, who use "capitalism" as a synonym for "free-market economics".)
Marx argued that both feudalism and capitalism were economically exploitative. Marxism holds that the work of both the peasants and proletarians were responsible for giving economic value to the goods they created (the Labor Theory of Value). The upper-classes survived by expropriating economic value from both peasants and proles; the former by extracting a portion of their product as rent, the latter by paying them lower wages than the economic value of their product (i.e. lower than the market price). This Exploitation Theory is the cornerstone of Marxist economics: it is fundamentally based on the concept of intrinsic economic value, arguing that labor "imbues" a product with market price. Although classical Marxist economics fails economics forever by modern ("neoclassical") economic standards in this respect, the labor theory of value was the accepted wisdom of the time and was supported by Adam Smith and all of the "classical" economists as well as Marx.
Marx predicted that the proletariat would eventually start a revolution and overthrow the capitalist system, just as the peasants had overthrown the feudalist system before them. They would, initially, institute an economy of state socialism (as described above, with the State collectively owning all the capital goods of the economy on behalf of the proletariat). Following on from Marx's ideas of economic determinism, this fundamental change in the prevailing economic system would result in a reformation of human nature along with it, thus creating a kind of human being that would be suited for what Marx called "communism": a stateless society similar to the ultimate goal of collectivist anarchism.
Adherents of Marxism, Marxism-Leninism and its derivatives are commonly known as "communists". As all modern nations under "communist" control have had political systems which are state socialist in nature, state socialism and communism have often become conflated in the popular consciousness. In fact, Marxism regards state socialism as merely a necessary intermediate stage and communism as the final ideal system for society.
A note for comparative purposes: the Marxist approach to knowledge is very much the opposite to the British Conservative approach. British Conservatism is a highly skeptical philosophy with some leanings to empiricism. Marxism is the opposite; it is highly rationalistic (in the same Cartesian sense that the French Revolution was). Arguably, all of Marxist ideology can be boiled down to two ideas; Economic Determinism (which arguably implies methodological collectivism and historical materialism) and The Labor Theory of Value.
Fascism is also a complicated ideology to define, albeit for precisely the opposite reason that socialism is. In contrast to socialism, where various disparate sub-ideologies have claimed the label, few regimes which could be considered fascist have actually labelled themselves as such (for example, the ideology of Adolf Hitler's Third German Reich was referred to as National Socialism, while Francoist Spain referred to itself as being National Syndicalist). Additionally, fascism is considered the one irredeemable Complete Monster of all political ideologies and thus has devolved into a term of abuse, with all other ideologies strenuously denying any similarities with it. As a result, codifying a series of essential characteristics that make a society fascist is very difficult to do without setting off a Flame War.
At its core, fascism is an authoritarian nationalist ideology. It arises from a Continental Counter-Enlightenment philosophical context, influenced by such thinkers as J. G. Fichte, Hegel, and Martin Heidegger (the latter being an actual member of the National Socialist German Worker's Party) -- its origins have some overlap with that of socialism, with Benito Mussolini (the proverbial father of fascism politically) being a former Marxist. Whereas Marx replaced Hegel's "Zeitgeist" (or "spirit of the age") with the prevailing economic system, fascists replace the zeitgeist with the spirit of the nation. Fascism argues for an organic conception of a nation with the State seen as the embodiment of the national spirit: as such, fascist regimes feature strong central governments which are all-pervasive (totalitarian) in nature. Individuals are seen, fundamentally, as products of the nation (similar to how Marxian "methodological collectivism" views individuals as products of their economic class) -- hence, fascism requires a strong identification with nationality and national identity on the part of the people, rejecting all individualism or identification with economic class. Given the people's subservience to the State, fascism is inherently undemocratic and dictatorial.
Strong national identification involves a veneration of not just the nation in abstract, but of practices seen as fundamental to national identity: this results in a reverence for tradition. Traditions are seen as important rituals that connect people to the national spirit. Furthermore, fascism tends to support social policy positions which are regarded as conservative or right-wing. However, these policy positions are conservative in the Oakshottean sense of the term: they are considered the right policies because they are consistent with national traditions, rather than because of any pre-existing moral commitments. Indeed, to a fascist, a moral commitment that "pre-exists" inside an individual's mind independently of said individual's nationality is a ridiculous notion, as they believe individuals are 'socially constructed' by their nationality as was stated before. Many argue that ethical relativism (i.e. what is good for Nation X is not necessarily good for Nation Y) is thus an integral part of fascism and a logical consequence of fascism's belief in "national spirits".
That does not mean that fascism doesn't have a system of ethics and values, however -- instead, that system of ethics is rooted in concepts of struggle, power, obedience and the adulation of violence. Typically this is expressed in the form of an extreme cultural militarism, with the military being an expression of the power and might of the State. As regards promotion of traditions, fascists are not merely selective: they go out of their way to reinterpret and redefine those traditions in line with fascist norms and values, and seize control of institutions to that end. Due to fascism's totalitarian nature, these fascist values also come to pervade all forms of artistic expression within the society from cinema to architecture.
Emphasis on national spirit also led to attempts of purging the culture of foreign elements, such as "degenerate art". In a certain notable case, these foreign influences (cultural as well as genetic) were conveniently identified with the Jewish people.
The most infamous element of fascism is its support for Social Darwinism of various sorts. In Mussolini's and Hitler's regimes, a level of internal "creative tension" within the components of the nation was seen as beneficial in directing competitive desires towards the service of the State. Furthermore, Hitler's version of fascism (National Socialism) combined this Social-Darwinist ethos with an institutional belief in white supremacy to posit an evolutionary struggle between various races. We all know where this led so further elaboration is not necessary.
Things get more complicated when outlining fascist economics. Since fascism is used as an epithet and it is popularly believed that if Fascists did it, then it is bad, a long intellectual battle has been waged over how to characterize the economics of Fascism.
Typically, the term "corporatism" is used to describe fascist economics. It describes a situation wherein all the large privately-owned economic institutions (corporations, industry cartels and the like) are brought into collusion with the government and become part of the apparatus of the State's economic planning. Additionally, private ownership and ability to do business becomes contingent upon service to the State. Thus, while ownership of the means of production (the stuff used to produce other stuff) remains in private hands and continues to be operated with a for-profit objective, ultimate control is exercised by the State. Fascist governments also exercise further control over the economy via methods such as price fixing.
The fascist economic system is in keeping with the ideology's totalitarian nature, where no other institution can be allowed to rival the State in power and influence. This quality also leads to a hostility towards labour unions and other organised worker groups, with such institutions typically being repressed and dissolved. Mussolini's Italy did in fact see the creation of new trade unions following the dissolution of the old ones: these new unions were owned and operated by the State and hence did absolutely nothing.
This system invites comparisons with many forms of state socialism, as both ideologies involve a centrally-planned economy with the State in control of the means of production. Although ownership remains private in the fascist system, many classical-liberal critiques of fascism have argued that "ownership without control" is a senseless, inherently illogical notion, meaning that fascism is economically indistinguishable from state socialism and therefore is a variant of state socialism, despite *possibly* acknowledging the radical differences in ethos between the two ideologies and the different logic both sides use to arrive at their results.
Marxist critiques of fascism, conversely, argue that fascism is a form of capitalism, in the sense of Marx's initial definition of the term (see the "Marxism" subsection above). Despite being highly regimented and controlled by the State, fascist economies still have private ownership of industries by an upper-class who make profit from the labour of workers; as profit still exists, the economy is still exploitative and thus a form of capitalism. Fascism is on the whole strongly anti-Marxist and anti-socialist, and the two ideologies are usually rivals in attempts to take power during crises like economic depressions -- Marxism thus considers fascism to be at best a power play coming out of the petit bourgeois, and at worst little more than a group of violent thugs controlled by the capitalist class brought in as enforcers to defend the old order (and whether or not it acknowledges this status is regarded as irrelevant, since in practice they still end up defending capitalism).
However, ultimately economics in fascism is usually a secondary concern; they claim the "Third Position" on the issue between capitalist and communist, but in practice this mainly means that they are just trying to win support by appearing to be different from either.
Note that most of these authors are generally considered classical liberals rather than social liberals, although there is substantial diversity amongst classical liberal thinkers. Among the writers of non-fiction on this list, Isaiah Berlin, (sometimes) John Stuart Mill, Thomas Paine, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, John Maynard Keynes, Karl Popper, Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz (probably the only person on this list who could be considered a social democrat, although Rousseau is arguable), and to a lesser extent Benjamin Constant are generally the exceptions; they are usually considered social liberals. Amongst the fiction authors, Heinlein is an interesting case because he actually drifted from social liberalism (For Us, The Living: A Comedy of Customs and Beyond This Horizon, for example, although these actually border on socialism, advocating an economy called Social Credit which is effectively a mixture of socialism and capitalism) to classical liberalism (much of his later writing with the arguable exception of Stranger in A Strange Land, which generally doesn't discuss economics) throughout his writing career; The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress could actually be considered to advocate a form of individualist anarchism. The only author currently on the fiction list who was consistently a social liberal is Steinbeck.
- Second Treatise on Civil Government, by John Locke
- The Declaration of Independence, by Thomas Jefferson
- The Social Contract, Discourse on Inequality, and Émile, by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
- Political Writings, by Benjamin Constant
- On Liberty, by John Stuart Mill
- The Wealth of Nations, by Adam Smith
- The Rights of Man and Agrarian Justice, by Thomas Paine
- Two Concepts of Liberty, by Isaiah Berlin
- The General Theory of Money, Interest, and Employment, by John Maynard Keynes
- Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, by Joseph Schumpeter
- Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth and Human Action, by Ludwig von Mises
- The Use of Knowledge in Society, The Road To Serfdom and The Constitution of Liberty, by Frederich von Hayek
- The Open Society and Its Enemies, by Karl Popper
- Free To Choose, by Milton Friedman
- Eat the Rich, by P.J. O'Rourke
- Globalization and Its Discontents, by Joseph Stiglitz
- The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein
- The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
- Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
- The Probability Broach by L. Neil Smith
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
- Firefly is one of the most legendary examples of a show with a libertarian ethos.
- Red-Eye on Fox News Channel--unlike the socially conservative fare that composes the rest of Fox's lineup--is pretty libertarian. Greg, the host, once noted "Hanging out with leftists made me become conservative. Hanging out with conservatives made me become libertarian."
- John Stossel's shows generally examine current issues from a libertarian perspective.
- Rush (classical liberalism early on, somewhere in between classical liberalism and social liberalism now)
- Frank Zappa (somewhere in between classical and social liberalism, but leaning more towards classical)
- South Park is the best known example, as Matt Stone and Trey Parker are libertarians, and the show often carries an anti-authoritarian message, and often makes TakeThats against both social conservatives and against leftists (they particularly love to lampoon leftists of the Bourgeois Bohemian type; see George Cloony's Cloud of Smug and Mecha-barbra Streisand). Matt Stone's father was an economics professor and textbook author, so it's not surprising that South Park is arguably the most libertarian show on TV.
See also Wikipedia's list of liberal theorists.
- Reflections on the Revolution in France, by Edmund Burke
- The writings of William F. Buckley, founder of National Review magazine.
- Rationalism In Politics And Other Essays, by Michael Oakeshott
- Right Nation: Conservative Power in America, by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge
- The Decline of the West by Oswald Spengler
- Conscience of a Conservative" by Barry Goldwater
- The Conservative Mind by Russel Kirk
- Logan's Run by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson
- Prince of Sparta and pretty much the whole CoDominium/Empire of Man/Warworld ouevre of Jerry Pournelle (and, sometimes, Larry Niven).
- Firing Line, hosted by William F. Buckley and broadcasted on PBS was many modern conservatives' first exposure to conservative philosophy. They generally involved WFB interviewing a guest, sometimes agreeing, sometimes disagreeing with them.
- Modern Country Music, tends to skew towards conservative themes.
- Land of Hope and Glory, the official anthem of the British Conservative Party
This section really needs expansion.
- The Communist Manifesto, by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
- The German Ideology and The Capital, by Karl Marx
- State and Revolution, by Vladimir Lenin
- The Accumulation of Capital, by Rosa Luxemburg
- The Prison Notebooks, by Antonio Gramsci
- Homage to Catalonia and many other works by George Orwell
- From Class Society to Communism: An Introduction to Marxism, by Ernest Mandel
- On the Economic Theory of Socialism, by Oskar Lange
- The History of Madness and Discipline and Punish, by Michel Foucault
- Spectres of Marx, by Jacques Derrida
- No Logo and The Shock Doctrine, by Naomi Klein
- Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich
- The Supreme Object of Ideology and Welcome to the Desert of the Real, by Slavoj Žižek
- The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (pretty much all of his other work qualifies as well)
- The Time Machine and other works by H. G. Wells
- Looking Backward and Equality by Edward Bellamy (written in the 1880s and '90s, depicting a socialist utopia a century in the future)
- Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser (again, most of his work qualifies)
- Anything by William Gibson
- Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo
- Burning Valley by Phillip Bonosky
- Red Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson (there is some overlap with Green Anarchism here as well; Robinson is not explicitly anarchist but definitely a libertarian socialist)
- Jailbird, Breakfast of Champions, and to a lesser extent many other works by Kurt Vonnegut (again, there is overlap with anarchism here)
- The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
- The Kurt Wallander novels by Henning Mankell
- The Story of Crime (a.k.a. the Martin Beck novels) by Mäj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö
- The Bas-Lag Cycle by China Miéville
- Daemon by Daniel Suarez
- Early seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation before the death of Gene Roddenberry.]]
- Godspeed You! Black Emperor and A Silver Mt. Zion
- The Final Cut and Animals by Pink Floyd
- Rage Against the Machine
- Dropkick Murphys: started out singing the joys of being drunk/from Boston/Irish or any combination of the three, but have recently moved towards a strongly pro-union/anti-corporatist direction.
- Most of the original Post Punk groups (particularly Gang Of Four, The Pop Group and This Heat)
- Mein Kampf, by Adolf Hitler
- The Doctrine Of Fascism, by Benito Mussolini and Giovanni Gentile
- Manifesto Of The Fasci Of Combat, by Alceste De Ambris and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti
- Since Orwell spends much of Homage describing the state of Anarchist Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War, this could just as easily be listed under Anarchism; however, Orwell himself was a democratic socialist, not an explicit anarchist
- Unlike many of the other authors on this list, Suarez has not explicitly self-identified as socialist, but his critique of capitalism and endorsement of several socialist authors means he probably fits here better than anywhere else, although a case could be made for his work fitting under either social liberalism or anarchism depending upon how it's read.
- These sister projects are often classed as being anarchist in nature, but apparently no one in either group has explicitly subscribed to this label. In any case their music and lyrics make it pretty obvious that they're libertarian socialists.
- In addition to Roger Waters being a socialist (according to Wikipedia, at least), it's also worth pointing out that Animals is basically a retelling of Animal Farm set in 1970s Britain instead of a Soviet Union analogue.