There are a lot of misconceptions around what different political terms mean, so, in the interest of clear and cogent debate, I thought I’d make a post to clear them up. Please comment if you find any of the explanations insufficient or inaccurate.
Leftists want to improve society to get closer to a theoretical utopia.
Rightists want to keep the current system and are skeptical of utopian thinking.
Radicals want to quickly and fundamentally change society, typically through revolutionary action.
Moderates want to change society gradually and incrementally and work for change within the existing system.
Fascism (radical rightist) is a political philosophy that holds that modern liberal individualism has undermined societal strength. Fascists wish to “revitalize” their country and return it to an idealized past by establishing a “totalitarian” one-party state, achieving autarky by nationalizing industry, and pursuing an imperialist foreign policy. National Socialism (also known as Nazism) is a variant of Fascism that holds that some races are superior to others and that inferior races must be eliminated through eugenics.
Conservatism (moderate rightist) is a political philosophy that holds that the current political and economic system cannot be significantly improved, and any attempts at change will inevitably lead back to the current system due to the inflexibility of human nature. Classical conservatives oppose democracy due to the belief that people are too stupid to make decisions for themselves, and oppose capitalism due to its excessive individualism and consumerism. Instead, classical conservatives support some form of monarchism, theocracy, and/or oligarchy. On the other hand, neoconservatives (also known as liberal conservatives) have a more open attitude towards liberal concepts like representative democracy and capitalism, considering them to be proven mechanisms to organize a stable society. Historically, most societies have been classically conservative, but neoconservatism has eclipsed classical conservatism’s role in modern society and is now very popular in the United States and much of Europe.
Liberalism (historically moderate leftist; now considered centrist) is a political philosophy that holds that all humans have fundamental rights and governments only have legitimacy when they respect these rights. Liberalism is generally said to have three historical phases: classical liberalism, social liberalism, and neoliberalism. Classical liberals (also known as right-libertarians or libertarian capitalists) want an unregulated free-market economy with minimal government intervention. Social liberals want the government to intervene in the economy to promote social justice and reduce economic inequality. Neoliberals want the government to intervene in the economy to promote capitalism and economic development.
Social democracy (moderate leftist) is a political philosophy derived from Marxism. Rather than overthrow and eliminate the bourgeoisie, Social Democrats seek to improve the welfare of the working class in the short term by building a robust welfare state and regulating predatory businesses, and improve the bargaining power of the working class by strengthening trade unions. Social Democracy is the dominant political philosophy in many European and Latin American countries, and is gaining popularity in the United States.
Marxism (radical leftist) is a political philosophy based on the writings of Karl Marx. Marxists claim that liberal democracy is actually a “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie,” in which the wealthy control the government and use it as a tool to oppress the poor. They believe that the working class (the “proletariat”) needs to overthrow all governments and establish a global “dictatorship of the proletariat” instead, which will oversee the transition to a socialist economic system. Orthodox Marxists (also known as “council communists” or “democratic socialists”) believe that the dictatorship of the proletariat is by nature democratic and should by governed by workers’ councils with free elections, whereas Marxist-Leninists interpret the dictatorship of the proletariat as a highly organized literal dictatorship led by a Communist Party that suppresses dissent but allows internal debate. Most “communist” states of the 20th century were Marxist-Leninist. Democratic socialism has never been implemented in practice.
Anarchism (radical leftist) is a political philosophy that attempts to eliminate all hierarchy, domination, and inequality. To that end, anarchists are “anti-state and anti-capitalist,” that is, anarchists want to find out ways to replace the government as well as hierarchical corporations with institutions that value every single person equally and don’t allow anyone to have power over another. Anarchism has been attempted at various times at small scales but has never seen great success.
Community for discussing different political philosophies calmly and rationally.