This essay is aimed to discuss the meaning of ideology and it different uses and abuses to which it may be put in a politics. The term ideology has to do with legitimating the power of dominant social group or class. A dominant power which legitimate itself by promoting beliefs and values congenial to it naturalizing and universalising. This belief are to render them self evident and apparently inevitable (T. Eagleton 1991 p5). Ideology is the name given to any comprehensive and mutually consistent set of ideas by which a social group makes sense of the world.
(Iain Mclean 1996 p233). When ideology is employed in the use of government it affect not only those who already conform to the ideology but those citizens who do not. Ideology is a body of ideas that reflect the beliefs of nation political system and which is called political ideology. Marx defined ideology as major instruments in the hands of ruling class, used to deceive subordinate classes about true nature of capitalism and to perpetuate its own dominion. (Godwin 1992 p20). An ideology may be seen not simply as social interest but as rationalising them.
This means when try to defend something indefensible and cloaking some disreputable motive in high-sounding ethical terms( T. Eagleton1991 p51). In other words, ideology would be seem to make reference not only to belief systems, but to question of power, for example, the main opposition party in Britain, (Conservatives) pointed out some lapses by the ruling party (Labour) on health in which they let the public believed that some immigrant with tourism visa came here for there medical reason, they promise to put a stop to that practice by implementing new idea to health-screened immigrant before allowing them to enter Britain.
Political ideology is a consistent sentiment of beliefs about one's political environment. We usually think of ideology in terms of the liberal-conservative practice but political ideology may be multidimensional concept. Ideology is any system of interrelated ideas offering a comprehensive world-view and able to mobilise large numbers of people for or against political change. Ideologies contain interpretations of how societies have come to be as they are, prescriptions of goals to strive for in the future, and recommendations of strategies and policies by which these goals can be achieved, (Coxall and Robbins 1994 p66).
The ideas that constitute ideology are illusory, but they are also regarded as ideas, which express the interests of the dominant class. (J. B Thompson p55). Each ideology would provide a differing perspective on social inequality and each would employ a separate of dealing with the problem. I will attempt to outline the differing views and compare and contrast them against each other. Liberalism is the aimed of politics to preserve individual rights and to maximise freedom of choice. (Iain Mclean 1996:286).
Liberalism has come to be the dominant ideology of the industrial West; its main themes are the individual, freedom, reason, justice and toleration. For liberal the belief of the primacy of individual is the characteristic theme and has had important implication for liberal thought. Conservatism aspires for the preservation of the best establishes society, and opposes radical change; a desire to maintain established customs and institutions. Its other central beliefs are human imperfection, Organic society, Authority and Property.
(A. Heywood, 1992 pp27+69). Socialism is a political and economic theory or system of social organisation, based on collective or state ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange similar to capitalism, it takes many diverse forms, and it is a continually developing concept. (Iain Mclean 1996 p459). Socialism draw on power of the community rather than the individual effort and this is its central theme, other theme Co-operation, Equality, The satisfaction need and the common ownership.
Social inequality objectively speaking refers to the imbalance of economic assets within society, each of the ideologies provide a different perspectives of equality. Liberals believe that people are borne equal and they believe in equal opportunity, but the idea of social equality is subject to freedom and though the penalising of talent. The idea of the conservatives have traditionally viewed society as natural hierarchical and have thus dismissed equality as unachievable goal, however the new idea has look into more individualist belief in equality of opportunity but are still emphasis the economics benefits of material inequality.
(A. Heywood, 1992 pp27+69). Traditional Liberalism under social Darwinism outlines it attitude to poverty and social inequality, the traditional belief is that individuals make what they want and what they make out of their own life's, those with the ability and willingness to work will prosper while the incompetent and the lazy will not. This idea is well illustrated by maxim,' Heaven helps those who helps themselves'. Thus inequalities of wealth, social position and political power are natural and cannot be helped, they are inevitable and government should not intervene.
This perspective of social Darwinian liberalism is in effect as a contrast to the idea of a welfare state and any attempt by the state to provide free pension, benefit of free education and healthcare results in the individual becoming lazy the individual is deprived of self- respect. Alternatively if the individual is encouraged to 'stand on his own feet' then he enjoys dignity and become a productive member of society.
The Thatcher and Major government subscribed to this view and they attacked the dependency culture, which has developed through the welfare state, thus they advocated 'Roll back the state'. (A. Heywood, 1992 pp54-55). Modern Liberalism on the other hand outline the modern basis of equal opportunity and defend the case for welfares, if particular individual are socially disadvantaged, then the state possesses a social responsibility to reduce or remove this disadvantages. Ideologies provide a preferred picture of the world. (Rush 1992 p183).
This idea reflected on the development of welfare state. Such as the right to work and the to decent housing. So the distinction between the traditional and modern liberal ideology is that Traditional liberals believe that the only rights to which the citizen is entitled is 'Negative' rights whereas the Modern liberals believe that the citizen are entitled to positive rights. (A. Heywood, 1992 pp58-59). Conservatism idea can also be broken down into two traditions, which address the issue of social inequality namely: Paternalistic conservatism and libertarian conservatism.
The Paternalistic conservative tradition can be related to the UK Prime Minister Benjamin Disraili who emphasised the traditional conservative belief that society is held together by an acceptance of duty and obligations. He believes that society is socially unequal and shoulder the burden of docile responsibility, These ideas came to be known as 'one nation conservatism' and when the welfare state was introduced in Britain it was accepted in the name paternalism, because the welfare state did not attempt to abolish hierarchy and authority but to establish the role of social obligation and duty.
Libertarian conservatives have adopted liberal ideas, and those from this perspective are commonly referred to as 'New Right' the ideas in this perspectives seem to correspond with those of traditional liberalism. Theorists of the New Right such as C. Murray have argued that the welfare state creates a 'Culture of dependency' baring independence and self-help. Murray went further to add that the welfare state is a major causes of family breakdown as it stops women from being dependant on men to earn their living, thus leading to the creation of underclass of single women and fatherless children.
(C. Murray 1997 p15). Therefore it can be seen that the New Right believe that the idea of social inequality should be treated by individual and the state should limit its help or as Thatcher put it 'Roll Back The State'. Again we can notice that there is a complete contrast in the belief of the Paternalistic Conservative tradition that believes in social duty and obligation and the New Right that on the other hand stresses self- help to the state.
Equality plays a very important role in the ideology of socialist thinkers, socialists demand social equality as an essential guarantee that all individuals not just those who privileged are able to develop themselves to the fullest potential. Marxists believe that the only way that social equality is possible through the establishment of classes' society and this can only be done through the abolition of private property and when all owns productive wealth. (A Heywood pp109-111). Therefore private property should be distributed more equally in society rather than being abolished.
The difference ideology of the Marxist in social democrats is that the Marxists believe in absolute equality, whereas the social democrats believe in greater distributive equality. The general reason of the welfare state is to provide its citizen quality of life. However, this remarkable ideology of a ''cradle to the grave'' system is becoming ever more jeopardised by various factors encompassed within the relationship between an ever-increasing population and distinct lack of funds.
However the traditional view of the welfare state was being drowned in an increase of benefits abusers attracted by the comfortable value of benefit. This led to the government introducing new idea by pumping million into a system that was not persuading people to return to work. The ending of post-war consensus in 1979 under Margaret Thatcher's reign saw the hugely inflated institution undergo changes that saw the welfare state fall out of the state hands. The economy determined how much GDP was pumped into the system.
Subsequently the welfare state had to undergo financial cutbacks. Thatcher broke the elusive link between earning and the state pension in order to control public spending. Breaking this link and thereby taking it out of safe hands could be costly to this current generation who have little idea of future pension entitlement, occupational and stakeholder scheme. Tantamount to this, poverty has not been higher since 1979 thanks to conservative's ignorance of the issue during this era. Considering, the welfare state's ideology was to provide for its citizens.
This was the first obvious signal that pragmatics were now ahead of ideology. Public spending as a % of GDP indicated that public services swallowed 45. 4% pre 1979 and was cut to just 39. 4% when labour took office in 1997. Due to labour ideology background any change in welfare state is arguable the welfare state in unsafe hand. This was underlined when Blair appointed Frank Field to ''think the unthinkable'' for example, the abolishment of the welfare state or an alternative system such as Means Testing.
Welfare reform has been highlighted by Blair is correct in gauging that a 1945 deal is not pragmatic for the 2000 era. Other ideas introduced by labour to safeguard the welfare state are: – NHS trusts where the health service has been transformed from a bureaucratic system to a value based system, and various proposal regarding benefits to end the dependency culture of the 1980'ssuch as means testing, and redirecting money to those who need it most (Child Tax Credits).
Finally, if we look at each perspective response to the inequality we can see that a traditional Liberalism, libertarian conservatism and Marxists, all believed in restricted role of the state. Whereas modern liberalism, paternalistic conservatism and social democrats all seek expansion of the welfare state exists, even though they all claim to be from different ideologies and claim to have rationale for their belief
Conclusion, in my view as long as ideology exists there can never be a consensus among all as how people should live and view the world. Liberalism, Conservatism and Socialism are notable example of major ideologies in this world that employed by those who posses power. Due to the way the political process works, ideology can affect many areas of life, social equality is one of such area, which falls victim of changing perspectives and ideologies of those who posses power.