A Level Politics

Improving your grade

What is an ideology: part 2

Posted by Matt Walker on June 23, 2011

When I teach a new class, it doesn’t take too long for my students to enquire which football team I support. One reason for this I guess, is that they want to know whose side I am on. People are often like that. Politics, of course, is particularly susceptible to such tribalism, and there are a whole range of concepts and terms which people can use to label themselves, or perhaps to abuse their enemies. Take any internet discussion forum and within 5 minutes someone will be labelled a ‘Nazi’.

Two terms in common usage are Left Wing and Right Wing. We don’t use these terms very often on this course because they are rather simplistic. But as a rule-of-thumb, they enable us to start considering how different ideologies view the world in general, and in particular what the role of the state within that world should be. Below is a simple way of thinking about Left and Right in politics:




As the diagram indicates, the Left is often associated with those who wish to use the power of the state to achieve greater equality, and will often advocate state interference in economy and society. Hence, someone of the Left might favour a state-run health service as this will mean equal access to healthcare for all citizens irrespective of wealth. The state would need to intervene in healthcare to achieve this. The Right, on the other hand, favours minimal state interference, and might therefore advocate that healthcare be run by the free market for purposes of economic efficiency.

There are many problems with this oversimplification. However, most people can get a very quick understanding of someone else’s political point-of-view when they refer to themselves as simply left or right wing.


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