Three ideologies, two sides

We live in a time of great political cultural change. To understand how this change unfolds we have to be somewhat reductionist, boiling political culture down to its most elemental level. All normative political thought can be reduced to three ideologies. Political cultural change is then the chemistry by which those three ideologies interact – how they mix, bond, and sometimes explode.

The three primary ideologies of classical conservatism, classical liberalism, and socialism exist as ideas within the minds of political thinkers, but to understand the unfolding of history’s political cultural change, we have to understand how these ideologies compete with each other in the real world by political actors. In practice, only two sides contest with each other for power.

How do three ideologies form two sides? At any particular point in time, one ideology is dominant, facing off against a coalition of the other two weaker rivals.

Those two sides conform to our two political parties. They also correlate to our colloquial labels: liberals and conservatives, but to understand political cultural change, we have to first make an analytic distinction between three ideologies that exist only as pure ideas which remain constant compared to the real political battles we see at unique moments in time between two sides that remain in flux.

In the next couple of weeks, I will show how the three primary ideologies differ on everything from the definition of freedom to epistemology. Until next Friday consider this question: do you think there is a political persuasion whose adherents think they reject freedom?

Eric Shierman lives in Salem and is also the author of We were winning when I was there.