War has been a universal and almost continuous human phenomenon from the earliest days of human life.
War has been a universal and almost continuous human phenomenon from the earliest days of human life. The conduct of war until the modern era was mostly a matter for kings, emperors, chiefs, and their warriors. However, in the modern era, the Industrial Revolution, the Enlightenment, and the French Revolution (1789-1793) produced profound changes in the mobilization of populations in a political system for war. Ideas were coalesced into ideologies, which began to be used to motivate people to participate in all manner of causes. Such ideological causes seek to make great changes in the world that would be, according to some intellectual element in the ideology, “just” or “equal” or “national”–or whatever term was needed to mobilize the emotions of the masses.
Ideology is a belief structure that forms the minds of “true believers,” or ideologues. Ideology so molds their thoughts that it becomes their worldview. It also binds them with similar ideologues and organizes their emotions for action. However, since a questioning attitude about their ideology is often not a part of their thought, their views are often rigid, self-righteous, and closed. The modern world has seen many ideologies that have provided the motives for war or other acts of violence.
The explicit study of ideologies began with the Enlightenment. However, many scholars across diverse fields believe that ideologies have always existed. Historically most governments in the world until the American Revolution were kingdoms, empires, or tribal chiefdoms. Kings and emperors usually relied on warrior castes to staff their armies. These arrangements used an ideology based on a social class system to perpetuate people’s continual buying into the system. Often, these ideologies build themselves upon religious beliefs or official church teachings in order to justify their existence. One major exception occurred in the ancient Greek democracies. The citizen armies of a Greek polis
Some see religions or the justifications of autocrats, whether kings or some other kind, as ideologies. For example the Ali’i religious system of the Hawaiians functioned as an ideology. It justified the rule of the chiefs, kahunas (priests), and the kapu (taboo) system. Another example is the Seleucid Empire’s use of Hellenism, which functioned as an ideology. It justified using violence against the Jews in support of their political vision (ideology) of a Hellenistic kingdom.
The fastest-growing religion of the medieval age, Islam, in many ways functioned as an ideology that led followers to engage in warfare to support its expansion throughout the Arab world, and even into parts of Europe. The religion, founded by
Although ideologies have been present in human history ever since societies first took shape, their explicit articulation truly began in the revolutions of the late eighteenth century. Both the American and French revolutions produced statements that could be said to have formed an ideology for their movements. Both of these ideologies proved to be persuasive enough to convince people to voluntarily risk, and even lose, their lives in their defense. Specifically, the American and French revolutions share a rejection of monarchy and, by extension,
The first use of the term “ideology” was by Antoine-Louis-Claude
Modern, explicitly stated ideologies are often political, materialistic, action-oriented, simple-minded, and mass-oriented. Politically, ideologies use selected sets of political ideas. They use ideas in ways that are simplistic, limited, and closed because they are seeking to move the hearts and minds of the masses to undertake action. In contrast to political philosophies, which teach understanding, ideologies incite to action.
The materialistic aspect of many ideologies arises from their vision of the present and near future. Ideologies often offer followers a hope for material improvements in life that are seen as attainable within a lifetime. Such ideologies promise that political evils will be overcome and replaced with a brave new world of peace and plenty. Ideologies also give solidarity to their followers. Political parties and movements come to a common identity from the ideas they hold, which creates an “ism.” Nazism, communism, socialism, fascism, and other political philosophies that define factions or parties are known by their political idea sets. Nationalism seeks to enlist all the people of a political system into its fold.
Ideologies are also action-oriented because they seek to mobilize people into joining the “cause.” There is some evil to be ended (global warming, saving the environment, ending poverty, or any number of others), which requires actions that are in line with the specific steps that must be followed to attain the goal. This leads to the creation of organizations that may be political, cultural, civic, economic, social, or even religious in order to put into action steps to reach the common purpose.
The simplistic nature of ideologies is found in the way in which ideas are combined that may or may not be fully coherent. Intellectual rigor is not required for true believers who follow ideologies. As a consequence, symbol manipulation (which is very close to
Mass mobilization to achieve the goals of the ideology is the final feature of ideologies. Quite often the mobilization is pitched in terms of war. The ideology uses affective language (language that appeals to emotions) to invite people to join the struggle, the battle, the crusade, the jihad, or even the war. The propagandists of ideologies use simple ideas with significant emotional appeal to mobilize the masses. This joining of people allows opportunities for personal expression to arise.
Revolutionary ideologies in the modern world have created a variety of wars. This is especially the case for the ideologies of
During the Napoleonic Wars (1793-1815),
Nationalism in the nineteenth and especially the twentieth century has been the cause of war. Both the
For Italian dictator
The key element that Nazi and Fascist ideologies inherited from their autocratic predecessors was
Democratic governments have also been nationalistic and have engaged in wars of expansion. The United States’ wars with Great Britain (the War of 1812), Mexico (1846-1848), and Spain (1898), as well as its Indian Wars and the Philippine-American War (1899-1902), were conducted as nationalistic campaigns, often with a dose of racism. Other countries have also engaged in nationalistic conflicts; the several wars between India and Pakistan, for example, have had nationalistic ideologies at their base.
While there have been wars justified by religion, the
In the twentieth century, the post-World War II decades of decolonization have been interpreted as nationalistic wars. The
A Nazi poster touts the benefits of euthansia: It says, “This is what this person suffering from hereditary defects costs the Community of Germans during his lifetime. Fellow Citizen, that is your money, too.” The banner’s largest message touts a future “New People” (neues Volk).
Among the collaborators killed by
The list of ideologies ranges widely, from economic ideologies of capitalism and socialism, to political ideologies such as communism, fascism, and liberalism, to other types of ideologies such as racism, environmentalism, pacifism, and many more.
While all are ideologies and share ideological characteristics, they also can, under the right conditions, condone violence in some form or other to gain the political changes they seek.
Baradat, Leon P. Political Ideologies: Their Origins and Impact. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 2006. Explores the evolution of ideology over three hundred years and looks at how it plays out in politics, society, economy, and military contexts. Carlton, Eric. War and Ideology. Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1990. A theoretical exploration of why political ideologies so often find expression in warfare. Cassels, Alan. Ideology and International Relations in the Modern World. London: Routledge, 1996. Looks at ideologies in the modern world and how they interact on an international basis. Kohn, Hans. Nationalism: Its Meaning and History. New York: Van Nostrand, 1965. Looks at how nationalism has shaped ideology in the modern world. Losurdo, Domenico. Heidegger and the Ideology of War: Community, Death, and the West. Amherst, N.Y.: Humanity Books, 2001. A focused study of an ideology that was formed to serve a national will. Vincent, Andrew. Modern Political Ideologies. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008. Vincent’s work is an introductory study of world ideologies over the past two hundred years.
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