Individual, State and Society
This essay shall critically comment on two quotations. The first quote is by Margaret Thatcher who said: “There is no such thing as society, only individuals and their families” and the second quote is by David Cameron who said: “There is such thing as society: it’s just not the same as the state” To critically comment on these quotes that were stated in a political setting, references shall be made to the political ideologies the subjects held and the context they appeared in will be analyzed.
Additionally different political basic ideologies will be named and outlined to give a broader understanding and contrast in the analysis.
Furthermore, Plato’s The Republic (360BC) and existentialist Jose Ortega’s Man and People, (1957), shall attempt to lend their wisdom from their philosophical works, to shed some light and give meaning on the complexity of these two quotes. For clarity British conservatism’s history will be looked at closely. Terms Individual, Society and State are briefly defined now. An individual is generally speaking a person separate from others, with his/her own needs, values and desires.
The word originates from Latin in-dividuus, meaning indivisible, referring to a single human being, separate from a group. A society is made up by a collection of individuals. The etymology of the word originates in Latin societas, derived from socius which translates as comrade, friend or ally, indicating relations. It can for instance be such as a group of people, subject to law and political authority, or a group of like-minded people, sharing the same norms and values. Often, therefore, societies are formed, such as medical-, esoteric- or literary- for example.
The word society always refers to relations between people – they may share a certain culture, territory, economic, political or social structure. The state can be called an organized, a political community under government: a sovereign state is a public, political entity, recognized in national law. Other words associated with state are machinery, a system, imposition/obligation and polity. Named and outlined below are various different political and social philosophies and ideologies: Communism Is a Latin word derived from communis and means -shared or -belonging to all.
The terms communism and socialism are somewhat inter-changeable. These political ideologies followed communist philosopher Karl Marx’s 10-point communist Manifesto from 1845, he was quoted in saying; “Workers of the world, unite, you have nothing to loose, but your chains. ” Marx was interested in building a free society without division or alienation. He believed this could only be achieved by a revolution seeking to overthrow capitalism and to have state ownership by the means of production –this in short meant the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The aim in mind was for the working class to replace the exploiter class and to create equality, a no-class system, abolishing privatization, with re-distribution of land and production. A good example of the workings of Communism, as efforts in co-operation, would be a Kibbutz, mirroring a microcosm of this ideology. Well known communist leaders and dictators of a serious nature and totalitarians, were Mao Zedong and Stalin for instance. Socialism Latin in origin, sociare translates as -to share.
The older view of communism and socialism was built on 5 tenets: Stress on community, cooperation, equality, social class and common ownership. Marx had ideas about balancing the material and the moral and also said: “From each according to his ability to each according to his need. ” Socialists are reformers and believe if the structure of society changes, things will change, similar to the beliefs held by Marxist Terry Eaglton. Socialism is about the group, having a collective, a solidarity and brotherhood, with no individual advantage.
An evil in society to a socialist goes back to the structure of the society, rather than an individual. Socialists’ ideologies are concerned with outcome and what we can become, a somewhat utopian idea. Socialism and communism collapsed between 1989 and 1991. Nowadays socialism is democratic labourism; often associated with trade unions – seen defending workers’ rights. Liberalism Etymologically speaking the term derives from Latin liber- translating as -free. Liberals, next to favoring free market trade, also believe in government action to achieve equal opportunity and equality for all.
As an enlightenment movement it started in Europe with Gladstone in 1868 (first lib. PM) leading the revolution, seeking to reform and change, arguing we can all get to the top, by basing your conviction on your own reason. Liberals challenged the Monarchy holding all powers and money and this time became known as the age of reason, associated with the slogan “ Don’t behold to class. ” On the political ideology’s spectrum liberalism is somewhere in the middle between left, communism, and right, fascism.
This ideology grew out of the collapse of communism and socialism, belonging to the post-modern (industrialist) era and is also known as Anarcho–Capitalism, marking middle ground between authority and liberty. Thereafter the middle-class was born. Democratic liberals stand for government action to achieve equal opportunity and support democracy. They maintain it is the government’s duty to alleviate social dysfunction and to protect civil liberties including individual and human rights.
The liberal government’s policy should ideally ensure that no individual is in need and also if problems arise theirs is the duty to solve problems. Somewhat opposing this concept is their own policy that the state should not interfere in personal lives, as it needs to be a policy of individualism. Justice for a liberal means equal opportunity, like health-care for instance. Additionally liberals are also committed to pluralism and multi-culturalism. Ideally tolerant, a liberal’s motto is; “ I detest what you’re saying, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. Liberals prime motivator is the pleasure of profit and the gathering of one’s own self-interest. Unlike Socialist, liberals see themselves separate from the state and are not primarily concerned with the common good or society. F. F. Y. said: “You can’t be a liberalist without being a capitalist. ” John Locke defined 3 fundamental rights of Liberalism which are: Life, liberty and property and Stuart Mill remarked that this idea can become a license and that it can only be restrained if someone’s liberty is threatened.
Hence Liberalism can easily dissolve into Egoism and severe greed, on a positive note, it may encourage the flourishing of an individual, though. Negative liberty, as reflected in European austerity measures presently or Ireland’s Budget 2012 for example, would be freedom from the constraints of freedom. Here a list close to the values of a liberalism’s vision: Capitalism, no intervention/regulation in economy, anti-racism, anti-capital punishment, anti-weapon bearing, pro-environment, pro-euthanasia, pro- abortion, pro-immigration, pro U.
N. , pro-War on Terror, pro-welfare. Fascism (is here listed before Conservatism, but follows Conservatism on the political spectrum from extreme left to extreme right) facses derives from Latin and means -bundle of rods, and symbolically speaking it depicts strengths of unity. Fascism is an anti-democratic, political system with a supreme leader exercising dictatorship. Hitler and Mussolini are examples of fascist leadership. Their ideologies are radical, authoritarian and nationalist in nature.
The community is viewed as an organic entity and bonded by nationality, ancestry, culture and blood. As a state it is totalitarian, with only one party ruling. The leader holds sole power and oversees the fascist movement, government and other state institutions. Opposition is not tolerated and always suppressed. Fascists, in order to keep their ideologies running, anything out of their norm, such as ideas, people and systems undermining the norm or become, as they view it, the cause of decadence or degeneration, are purged and gotten rid off.
Fascism promotes violence and war to overthrow other political systems, thus is militarism in nature. It’s almost anti everything, it opposes class based identity and society, is anti-bourgeois, anti-proletarian and anti- individualist based identity and society. In Nazi Germany, for instance, this system became known as “The Third Way”. Economically speaking, it therefore contests capitalism and socialism and is in policy a state directed-regulated economy against the power of money. Social welfare is not tolerated, as it would support “ the weak”, as Hitler believed.
Generally fascism holds dark, radical ideas on culture, sex and sexuality, also concerning abortion, eugenics and euthanasia. Virtues valued by fascists are action, discipline, hierarchy, spirit and will. It claims to seek positive transformation in society believes in education, spiritual renovation (anti-clerical) and fosters the will to dominate in a united national identity. (*Although a general outline of fascism was given, fascism’s ideology can be hard to define, as it mixes doctrines of left and right) Conservatism The term originates from the Latin word conservare, meaning -to preserve.
Conservatism is a political and social philosophy with a belief that it is generally considered best practice in keeping traditional institutions and advocates changes in society in a gradual and slow manner. As Conservatives value stability and continuity by preserving things as they are, they tend to oppose modernism. Conservatism, though, can differ in policies depending which country or continent it is practiced in or on. Largely speaking, Conservatives support personal responsibility, limited government, free markets, and empowerment of the individual to solve problems to pursue their own goals.
A list of their general policies looks like this: Anti-abortion, education according to ability, anti-racism, pro capital punishment, free market economy, privatization, school vouchers, support nuclear power and oil-drilling, prohibit euthanasia, non-belief in climate changes, pro-arm bearers, private healthcare, pro-homeland security screening, anti-immigration (only legal), pro-private property rights, oppose long-term welfare. For simplicity and relevance this essay shall stick with, and outline British Conservatism, as our quoted subjects in this essay, Margaret Thatcher and David Cameron, both belong to this party.
Development of British Conservatism was as follows: Irishman Edmund Burke, a Wig at source (opposed to Monarchism) became known as the father of Conservatism (Tory Party – a hierarchal society/ ruling by divine right). The British Conservatives of the early 19th century were rural landowners of Anglican confession; they were royals by association, possessed property and adhered to their beliefs that were to follow an established social order and the existing conventions.
However, a little time later the aristocracy’s belief-system was challenged, as the industrial elite, consisting of rich businessmen, called for revolution, sought power and thereby threatened the established social order. Negotiations followed and Robert Peel reconciled the two opposing parties in 1846 with the “Corn-law” repeal. The aristocrats, longing to return to their medieval ideas and the business class, favoring laissez-faire capitalism, managed to form a coalition, meaning the prior kept their status quo and the latter got their free trade policies.
Now the Conservative party was made up of Royals, traditional landowners and industrialists. Prime, Benjamin Disraeli, a medieval romantic at heart, foresaw an alienated industrial proletariat with this new coalition and formed a new political ideology in form of the “One Nation” policy, which is still in practice today and supported numerous social reforms since. The idea behind the new policy was to return to an organic society whereby each and everyone should have duties towards other people or groups.
Remarkably, Disraeli, who was a conservative, not a Marxist, aimed to unite the aristocracy, the middle and the working class, the latter he tried to shield from being exploited. The 1920’s saw the liberal movement collapse, as labour ascended. During WW2 the conservatives aligned with labour, however, it was more a pragmatic move to fight the war, than a love affair. From the 1950s to the mid 1970s in usage were progressive broadly pro-labour and semi- socialistic policies by successive British governments, including conservative ones.
Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister of the Conservative Party in 1979 and remained in office until 1990. With her leading the party, a dramatic shift occurred in British conservatism with a big movement towards free market economic policies. Privatization of state owned industries became commonplace during her time. She was described as a classical- radical- liberalist, inconsistent with the concept of conservatism in the U. K. – it is often believed her policies challenged and confronted traditional institutions and rocked philosophies of the elite and the old British, established social order in general.
Her politics became known as Thatcherism, termed by Stuart Mill. Thatcher’s policies largely remained as they are until today and anti-trade union legalization is still in place. After various Prime Minister’s in the U. K. , David Cameron, known to be a neo-liberalist, heading the Conservative Party, is now Prime Minister and his party is in coalition with liberal-democrat’s Nick Clegg. Looking back, in terms of supply-side economics and many countries copying Thatcher’s then successful model of free market policies, Margaret Thatcher’s Thatcherism has its critics.
On another note, some disagree strongly with the idea that she was a radical neo-liberalist, opposing the established, for they argued that she didn’t challenge the monarchy, but only recent additions to British politics instead, which were the trade unions. The mentioning of her name nowadays still remains in people’s minds with strong associations of this bit, “standing up to the trade unions. ” Her opponents would comment she was a monetarist, controlling inflation, not unemployment – the latter doubled during her first 2 years in office.
A possibly strong argument, as, during her term as prime minister, she ran a stern government/state, restraining labour movement, local authorities and trade unions. Thatcher also joined the House of Lords and was rather conservative regarding morality, as an anti-gay supporter, she was also known to have defended capitalism and free market policies by saying that we all had a choice and was once heard to have given a rather unsympathetic theological address at a religious ceremony where she cited St Paul by saying, ‘if a man will not work, he shall not eat’.
At the end of her term, 30% of children were regarded as living below the poverty line. As prime Minister of Britain, Margaret Thatcher received many labels during her time but of all, she was never labeled something as sweet as “Queen of Hearts”, the title people loving, tragic Diana received for instance, and this following quote may explain why, as Mrs. Thatcher said: “There is no such thing as society, only individuals and their families” Unemployment in the U. K. post Thatcher had minimized for a while and more han 20 years later with David Cameron leading the conservatives as their Prime Minister nothing much has changed in political ideologies of the conservative party. While it was trade-union issues then, it’s become the middle-class issues now. Britain presently faces various issues it tries to tackle, such as stronger tax increases on the middle-class, over-dependency on the public sector, mass-unemployment and welfare concerns, budget deficits and the European crisis.
However their likeable, observant new leader David Cameron, a Tory, is reputed to be much more of a people’s person than Thatcher was, delivering rhetorically fine and caring speeches for all. During the recent riots in London, Mr. Cameron commented in a news report that society was in trouble, by saying there were pockets of society not only broken, but sick and he further elaborated and explained that causes for the riots, as he saw it, were a complete lack of responsibility in our society and that he felt, people felt they are owed something.
Some are impressed by and praise Mr. Cameron’s passionate and determined involvement, despite being a Tory leader, on social issues, such as his recent project Big Society bank and others feel his recent proposal to privatize and save the NHS, by opening it up for private scientific investors to carry out patient research within, doesn’t add up, regarding his general display of sensitivity, warmth and care for pressing societal issues.
This apparent division in policy and inconsistency in his actions, is also reflected in his speech when he said: “There is such thing as society: it’s just not the same as the state. ” 20th century liberalist, existentialist philosopher and journalist Ortega might have had a minute of sympathy for Margaret Thatcher’s somewhat heartless, “-individuals-” remark and also for receiving such public criticism regarding the trade union issues, as he said in his Man and People, (1957): ‘There is strive and struggle at the heart of all social relationships. Aristotle would have argued this and would have accused Mrs. Thatcher of acting unjust and unfairly regarding her single-minded political ideology, by trying to reason and appeal to her higher, contemplative nature, he might have attempted to convince her that man is a social animal and needs others. Ortega partly agreeing on contemplation, would have possibly come to Mrs. Thatcher’s defense by saying: “Man is naturally unsociable, man wants to leave, flee from it. ” Plato would have grilled Mr. Cameron on the danger of having charitable Big Society ideas.
Plato might have attempted to curb big-hearted, spirited Mr. Cameron a little, by indicating that heroism and self-sacrifice are dual and could lead to tyranny and anger at the sight of injustice. Ortega, regarding the incident with the rioters, which had upset Mr. Cameron in terms of lack of responsibility people nowadays have, would have maybe offered another existentialist interpretation concerning irresponsible rioters, by suggesting that we all lived in our own world and wanted freedom from responsibility.
Plato, the philosopher king and Socrates’s friend and pupil, wrote his own intellectual autobiography The Republic 2025 years ago. The booklet, written by Plato in disillusionment, after Athenian democracy failed, was to be the ideal blueprint for society, in the text Plato holds dialogues in form of Socrates with the sophists. The aim of Plato’s dialogues was to harmonize individual and city. The main themes occupying the dialogues are the questions: What is justice and how can we achieve happiness (eudaimonia) in the city.
Plato was the first person in history to set up an academy in 386BC, as he was passionate teaching philosophy to statesmen, educating them. Surely Plato would not have been happy with Mrs. Thatcher’s and Mr. Cameron’s quotes. Had he been around, he might have helped them descend from their Toryian thrones and lead them down, down, down to the the low, low, low and mean streets of East London, to face their own daemons, in order to order their souls!
As Plato in his dialogues argued that in order to give a transcendent vision, and he gave an analogy for this in The Republic symbolically speaking -from the Acropolis (heaven) to Piraeus (seedy harbor district of Athens’s), one needs to go down and descend into their dark, murky waters of the psyche to face and confront their own inner hell first and remove shackles of the past, as it is only then that one can ascend with a transcended vision to lead a polis (society). According to Plato, and psychoanalyst Freud (descend) and Franklin (ascend) would have agreed with him, only souls (individuals) that had gone through this particular ransformation process first, would make up a well functioning society – based on good mental health, consisting of truth, goodness and beauty. Regarding Mr. Cameron and Mrs. Thatcher’s quotes then, instead of rhetoric (sophistry) Plato would have expected wisdom (sophia) and an ability to articulate a transcendent vision from the rulers of Britain’s Conservative party, as he may have otherwise suspected their political system to fail, just like the sophists Athenian democracy did, 2025 years ago.
In The Republic, which he wrote in homage to Socrates, who died for truth and justice, Plato maintained that there is no justice to be expected, unless rulers become philosophers and philosophers become statesman. This essay attempted to critically comment on two quotes made by two of Britain’s Prime Ministers. An analysis of British conservatism’s ideology and their party’s history was drawn up and explained, and possible views to the meaning and interpretations of these two quotes, in the light of philosophy and politics, were offered. Terms and different political ideologies in general were also outlined. .