All entries for Tuesday 03 May 2005
May 03, 2005
Hi all!!! This is where I unashamedly promote one of the societies that I happen to be in,as well as it's Treasurer and also it is one of the newest. As you can probably tell from it's name P&M is a society where we basically sample a different sport each week and have some fun before it becomes boring doing the same thing two or three times a week. It also gives you a chance to try out activities that you would not have normally done before. Some of the more interesting unpredicted ones that come to mind, amongst others, are lacross, trampolining, taekwondo and thai boxing. Of course, the usual suspects, such as football, cricket and basketball are done as well.
The lessons are normally taken by the exec of the relevant sport society concerned, so those leading the fun 2 hour session actually do know what they are talking about and are able to engender some enthusiasm from those who are normally reluctant to take part. As it is a more informal society than some, it doesn't matter if you'd never done the sport before as most of us aren't that competitive. Well, perhaps not all of us anyway. You can also miss the odd session if there is something that you don't fancy doing, without running the risk of getting the 'cold shoulder' treatment that you may get in other societies. Also, through doing and being a member of the society, you will of course be able to try out a sport/ activity and if you like it, use this knowledge to join that society as well.
For those of you who are interested, as well as for those who may not be, the email address is (between the speech marks)
Introduction To Politics
Essay Term 2
6. Is Conservatism an Ideology?
Iain Foreman : 0305494
Tutor: Rosalba Icaza
In order to answer this question, firstly I must accept that there are various definitions as to what an ideology actually is1 and then using these definitions, set out to see if conservatism matches any of them and if so, I will be able to draw the conclusion that conservatism is an ideology. For some such as Marx, an ideology could lead to a false consciousness as Heywood (2002)2 cites and explains the German Ideology where “the class which has the means of mental production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production.”3 For Marx, ideologies are false and they led to people believing in something that is actually incorrect and that ‘truth’ can only be defined through scientific, empirical observation. In this case, ‘truth’ can’t be established through an idea but through observing the world.
Others have put forward other views of ideology. An ideology will lead to people “judging a particular issue through some rigid framework of pre conceived ideas which dictates their understanding”4, as Eagleton (1991) suggests. He then goes on to quote Durkheim (1982) who says the ideologies are the “use of notions to govern the collation of facts rather than deriving notions from them.”5 The quotes from Eagleton and Durkheim suggest that ideologies limit how people interpret an issue or differentiate between right and wrong. They limit the view that one takes when deciding a course of action and so in turn may ‘bias’ the decided outcome due to the fact that the ‘preconceived ideas’ will bar some ideas from consideration.
Following on from having accepted that different interpretations of ideology exist and what they are, it is now important to actually decide what conservatism is before I can come to some sort of conclusion and decide if it meets the definitions of ideology that have been put forward. Thomas Hobbes is recognised as one of the original writers that have been termed ‘conservative.’ He says that man needs authority to keep men in check as without some limit to man’s freedom life would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”6 There is a need to respect the authority of a sovereign to prevent war as he writes “without a common Power to keep them all in awe, they (man) are in that condition which is called war.”7 and in the same chapter in Leviathan (ch.13) he talks of a sovereign being able to set rules or laws in order to maintain the peace and that all men must follow these laws. Obviously, for writers and conservatives such as Hobbes, a respect for authority and an acceptance of hierarchy is central to their view of a society that is stable and in peace. As Heywood put it, “duty is the price of privilege”8, and this was the view of ‘One Nation’ conservatives who felt that those who were better off or in a position of authority had an obligation to look after the interests of the less fortunate, especially as by doing so the threat of revolution or social disorder would recede as a result.
As I will now allude to, the conservative outlook on life depends in part on the historical context of that particular situation. As Huntington (1957) says when he cites Mannheim “conservatism is a function of a particular historical and sociological situation.”9 In Hobbes case, he was writing at the time of civil strife in England when the monarchy was overthrown and England became a republic. Like Burke10 who wrote just over a century later, he was saying that revolution was not the way societies should change as any rupture with the natural organic evolution of society could lead to chaos and instability in the future as this change was in a sense ‘un natural’.
This brings me on to my next point about conservatism. As Riff (1987) points out the conservative “tradition has stressed the achievements of the past while allowing for gradual change.”11 As Huntington (1957) also goes on to say “society is the organic product of slow historical growth.”12 What conservatives are trying to say is that the way for a society to progress is not through revolution, but instead any change should be gradual or piecemeal. Implicit in this is an acceptance that if the world has inequalities or a hierarchy then there is probably a good reason for things being as they are and as such there is no real need to try and change them as any revolutionary change, for conservatives at least, is doomed to failure.
However, a couple of events I feel may contradict with this very strict interpretation of conservatism. Firstly there was the Iranian revolution in 1979 where the old order was overthrown and replaced with a fundamentally Islamic state. The second was the rise of the ‘New Right’. These politicians rejected the economic consensus that had arisen out of WW2 and had radical economic views that harked back to classical liberalism yet harked back to Victorian social values also. As these examples hopefully show, conservatives may look at the past through rose tinted spectacles and hope for a return to the ‘good old days’, but what differentiates them from conservatives in the traditional sense was the radical means in which their policies were implemented. In these cases it was through revolution and a rejection of the post war economic consensus respectively.
The political writings of Oakeshott have been classed as conservative. He is perhaps best known as being sceptical of the role rationalism plays in politics and thus by extension, unsure of the validity of some of the claims that liberals have tended to
make. He has argued that experience and pragmatism are the best ways to develop the solution to a problem. In his ‘Rationalism in Politics’13 essay, he talks of two types of knowledge and says that both are as important as the other. For Oakeshott these are technical (of which he is sceptical) and practical knowledge (which he lauds).
Throughout his essay he argues that practical knowledge is the better and more useful of the two as he says the “best knowledge is traditional and it often takes two or three generations to acquire.”14 This implies that experience is a better guide to what should be done as opposed to knowledge and that pragmatism or doing what works is best as opposed to idealistic solutions to problems. This is because experience tells us what can be done as opposed to rationality as Oakeshott implies it only suggests what should be done, regardless of whether it works or not. For conservatives it seems to be a case of ‘better the devil you know’.
However, it should be noted that people may be called conservative and yet still be considered to be of a different ideological orientation. This is because conservatives are understood to resist change of any sort until it absolutely necessary, yet in most regimes of any political persuasion, you could find ‘conservatives’. For example those who attempted a coup against Gorbachev in the summer of 1991 who had considered his reforms as going too far and wanted a return to the communist policies of old could be called conservatives as they opposed changes, namely the signing of a treaty giving communist states a greater degree of independence, even though they were mostly life long communists. This in itself shows the adaptability or as Goodwin (1997) puts it the “chameleon”15 nature of conservatism.
Is conservatism an ideology? This answer will in part depend upon what an ideology is accepted as being and what conservatism actually is and in short, conservatism is only an ideology of sorts. I feel that as conservatism is adaptable and depends in part on the historical context that it has arisen out of then it can’t strictly be an ideology, well certainly not completely in the strictest sense. However, on this front it cannot be completely rejected as an ideology as some say that ideologies are false and solutions can only be reached through empirical observations of the world and adopting what is known to work. In this sense, a conservative ‘ideology’ appears to be one of pragmatism and of tradition, following what has worked previously without much need for modification. As such conservatism is not an ideology but as it has the central ideas that I have just mentioned and these shape the conservative thinking on the world it is an ideology only in a limited sense if we accept the definition of ideology as being one that is “an interrelated set of ideas that in some way guides or inspires political action”16, even though conservatism does not set out an ideal utopia of how society should be, unlike other ideologies.
1.Eagleton, E (1991) Ideology: An Introduction London: Verso, p1
2.Heywood, A (2002) Politics (2nd ed) Palgrave: New York, p42
3.K,Marx (1846  ) The German Ideology, p64 in ibid p42
4. Eagleton, E (1991) Ideology: An Introduction London: Verso, p3
5. Durkheim, E (1982) ‘The Rules of Sociological Method’, London: Free Press, p86 cited in ibid p3
6. T, Hobbes (1660), edited by Tuck,R (1991) Levithian Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p89
7. Ibid, p88
8. Heywood, A (2002) Politics (2nd ed) Palgrave: New York, p49
9. Mannheim “Conservative Thought – Essays on Sociology and Social Psychology” in Kecskemeti, P (1953) London; Routeledge Kegan Paul, pp98–99 cited in Huntington, S.P “Conservatism as an Ideology”, American Political Science Review, (1957) vol 51, p 454
10. Burke, E (1790) Reflections on the French Revolution any edition.
11. Riff, M.A (1987) Dictionary of Modern Political Ideologies Manchester: Manchester University Press, p 67
12. Huntington, S.P “Conservatism as an Ideology”, American Political Science Review, (1957) vol 51, p 456.
13. Oakeshott, M (1962, 1991) Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays USA: Liberty Fund.
14. Oakeshott, M (1962, 1991) Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays USA: Liberty Fund, p 36.
15. Goodwin, B (1997) Using Political Ideas (4th ed) Wiley: New York, p 166.
16. Heywood, A (2002) Politics (2nd ed) Palgrave: New York, p 43.
Burke, E (1790) Reflections on the French Revolution any edition
Durkheim, E (1982) ‘The Rules of Sociological Method’, London
Eagleton, E (1991) Ideology: An Introduction London: Verso
Goodwin, B (1997) Using Political Ideas (4th ed) Wiley: New York
T, Hobbes (1660), edited by Tuck,R (1991) Levithian Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Heywood, A (2002) Politics (2nd ed) Palgrave: New York
Huntington, S.P “Conservatism as an Ideology”, American Political Science Review, (1957) vol 51
Mannheim “Conservative Thought – Essays on Sociology and Social Psychology” London: Routeledge Kegan Paul
K,Marx (1846 ) The German Ideology
Oakeshott, M (1962, 1991) Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays USA: Liberty Fund.
Riff, M.A (1987) Dictionary of Modern Political Ideologies Manchester: Manchester University Press
Introduction to Politics
‘A gets B to do something that he or she would not otherwise do.’ Does this sum up the essence of political power?
Iain Foreman: 0305494
Tutor: Rosalba Icaza
Power and the discussion of it has been a constant source of intellectual debate in political science. A range of debates have occurred and different theories have been proposed, ranging from the ‘one face’ of power put forward by pluralists such as Dahl1, the ‘agenda setting’ of Bachrach and Baratz2 and Lukes’ ‘radical’ or three dimensional view of power which complicated the definition of what constitutes power as he proposes it as ‘preference shaping’3 in addition to the ideas that had been put forward prior to his work. One should not also discount the contributions of others such as Schattschneider when considering the exact nature of political power. To sum up the essence of political power, an agreement needs to be reached on not only what the political and power are but if it is measurable, and if so, how.
I shall at first attempt to cover Dahl’s one dimensional view of power. Here Dahl suggests that power is quantifiable and can be measured by counting the number of decisions that are reached and from that decide who is the most powerful by counting the number of decisions that go in each persons favour. As expressed by Hay whilst analysing Dahl’s work “the powerful are those whose opinions hold sway in the decision making area.” 4 This implies that such a society is pluralistic with a dispersal of power because differing groups compete with each other to advance their own interests. In such a situation there would be an overt conflict of interests because a power relation could only be observed where decisions had to be made and a conflict of interests arose. This suggests that power in these instances would only occur in institutions where decisions had to be made but it has to be asked what is the political?
If the political is defined as something that is what takes place within public bodies then this view of power is perfectly correct with regards to the question, but if you have a different view of what constitutes the ‘political’, such as feminists who see the personal as the political, where decisions in everyday life have a political undertone to them then obviously disagreements as to what political power is are going to ensue. Another criticism of the ‘one dimensional’ view of power is that power is not a zero sum game with only winners and losers, but instead all benefit from the decisions that are reached. It is as Parsons points out the ‘right’ of A to “make decisions which take precedence over those of B, in the interests of the effectiveness of the collective operation as a whole.”5 The distinction being made here is that between power and authority, where the former is where A is actually to get B’s acquiescence and the latter where A has the legitimate ‘right’ to enforce B’s acceptance of a decision.
An alternative criticism of this viewpoint comes from Steven Lukes. Here, Lukes says that Dahl’s study shows that the bias of the system is being studied and not power in itself6. Is the decision being reached as a consequence of A’s ‘power’ or because of the prevailing culture and bias inherent in the decision making process? Alternatively put, we should ask ourselves if the same outcome (A’s interests being realised) would have happened if A had chose to get a different decision being reached. If that is the case, where A’s new interest are realised, then we are observing the power of A over others and if not, we are instead seeing A using the inherent bias or ‘common sense’ of its contemporary decision makers to support its interests. In this scenario, A is not that powerful.
Another theory of power was that proposed by Bachrach and Baratz who said that power was two dimensional with an element of agenda setting. The reason that this theory is relevant to the question is that if A is capable of only allowing certain topics to be discussed then the chances are that the outcome is that B or any other group different to A is going to do something that they may have originally been opposed to. They put it as thus: “a person or group-consciously or unconsciously- creates or reinforces barriers to the public airing of policy conflicts, that person or group has power.”7 This is in essence Schattschneider’s mobilisation of bias8. Power in this sense is one that not only has A exerting influence or control over B’s actions but also restricting the options that were discussed to ensure that the only decisions that were reached are ones that A would allow to be reached. Evidently, this sees power as only being exercised by an elite that are in control of what topics are up for discussion and hence the decisions that are made in any society.
It should also be noted that a power relation is taking place on two levels. A is able to control the decision making process, thus limiting the options available to decision makers as well as having the power over B to get B to do something that B presumably not have done. In this sense, there is a covert element to power because how can you tell if a ‘non-decision’ has been made? Is it possible to differentiate between a proposal not being aired because it has no support and between those which don’t make it on to the agenda because their supporters’ views are repressed by the dominant elite? For A to exercise power over B and get B to do something contrary to their interests, I feel that for a power relation to have occurred, B must have had his viewpoint ignored and that the decision reached must be against B’s perceived interests. If not, it can’t be said that A was able to get B doing something he otherwise would not have done.
This I feel takes us into a third view of power as proposed by Lukes. This three dimensional view of power takes the previous two views and adds a third element; preference shaping. If A is able to shape the values that B holds then it will be easy for A to get B to do something against his true interests. In this sense, what Lukes is talking about is what Marx referred to as ‘false consciousness’ where the less dominant party in this power relationship, namely B, does not have complete information as to what is actually in his best interests but actually blindly follows A’s orders. I don’t think that power solely is getting someone to do something to do what they would otherwise do so I would agree that this is a relevant take on the very essence of power. As Lukes says when he quotes Dahl saying that leaders “do not merely respond to the preferences of constituents; leaders also shape preferences.”9 Lukes later goes on to say “is it not the supreme exercise of power to get another to have the desires that you want them to have- that is to secure their compliance by controlling their thoughts and desires….the most effective and insidious use of power is to prevent such conflict from arising in the first place.”10
In this sense power is not necessarily something that is observable. If B happens to agree with A, one can’t say for sure that it is because of A’s power over the things that influence the shaping of B’s preferences or because A has the power or the ability to coerce B acting against his own best interests. What also needs consideration is the possibility that, according to Lukes, whether or not B had access to complete information on which to base his decision to agree (or not agree) with the preferences of A.
To conclude, I feel that the ability of A to get B to do something that he would not otherwise have done is only partially the true essence of political power. To a certain extent, it depends upon one’s definition what constitutes the political and what power actually is. If the political is part of the everyday life, as Leftwich suggests by saying “relations of power are an intimate condition of the relations of people”11, then there will be no difference between political power and power that is exercised without an explicitly political element. The true essence of political power also depends upon B knowing what he is doing may be against his own best interests. If B would follow A’s orders anyway, even if he had full knowledge that they were detrimental to him, then I would suggest that A does have power over B. However, if A is able to get B to do something that B wouldn’t object to then I would say that B doesn’t have power exercised over him, even if A has some sort of authority to order B to do something. What should not be discounted before I finish is the possibility that B accepts a decision made by A as some sort of quid pro quo enabling B to get his own way later. In this scenario, can you say that power lies with A if he gets B to do something that he would not otherwise do, without a concession or bargaining on the part of A?
1.Dahl, R.A (1961) Who Governs? Democracy and Power in an American City. New Haven CT: Yale University Press.
2.Bachrach, P & Baratz, S.M (1962) “Two Faces of Power”, American Political Science Review Vol.56: pp.947–952
3.Lukes, S (2nd edition 2005) Power: A Radical View, London: Palgrave McMillan.
4.Hay, C (2002) Political Analysis: A Critical Introduction, New York: Palgrave, p172
5.Parsons, T (1967). Sociological Theory and Modern Society. New York: Free Press, p318
6. Lukes, S (2nd edition 2005) Power: A Radical View, London: Palgrave McMillan, p38
7.Bachrach, P & Baratz, S.M Power and Poverty: Theory and Practice. New York: Oxford University Press,p8
8.Schattschneider, E.E (1960).The Semi Sovereign People: A Realists View of Democracy in America. New York: Holt, Rhinehart and Winston, p71
9.Dahl, R,A (1961:164) quoted in Lukes (2005:27)
10.Dahl, R,A (1961:164) quoted in Lukes (2005:27)
11.Leftwich, A ‘The Political Approach to Human Behaviour: People, Resources and Power’ in Leftwich, A (ed) (2004), What is Politics? USA: Polity Press, p111.
Bachrach, P & Baratz, S.M (1962) “Two Faces of Power”, American Political Science Review Vol.56: pp.947–952
Bachrach, P & Baratz, S.M Power and Poverty: Theory and Practice. New York: Oxford University Press
Dahl, R.A (1961) Who Governs? Democracy and Power in an American City. New Haven CT: Yale University Press.
Hay, C (2002) Political Analysis: A Critical Introduction, New York: Palgrave
Leftwich, A (ed) (2004), What is Politics? USA: Polity Press
Parsons, T Sociological Theory and Modern Society. New York: Free Press (1967)
Schattschneider, E.E (1960).The Semi Sovereign People: A Realists View of Democracy in America. New York: Holt, Rhinehart and Winston