Ideologies of equality and alienation

Week 5

Learning Objectives

Understand the concepts of

  • Class
  • Socialism
  • Marxism

Differentiate between

  • Communism
  • Fascism
  • Anarchism

Class coordinators

Team 5


One of the ways of understanding the evolution of politics over time is to think in terms of systemic and anti-systemic movements and ideologies. Whenever there is a mainstream ideology, those who disagree with it will mobilize to oppose it. This dialectical process is almost universal. When the land-based aristocracy was the dominant political power, liberalism was an upstart anti-systemic ideology.  As market-based liberalism came to dominate polities in the 19th century, Marxism and socialism were anti-systemic alternatives. Immanuel Wallerstein’s world systems theory (1974) postulates systemic and antisystemic movements affecting the three major structures of the world system – the states system, capital accumulation, and the core-periphery division of labour.  This echoes earlier work by political economist Karl Polanyi (1947), who describes the double movement in which the liberal market ideologies of British political economists around the time of the industrial revolution began to subordinate society to the pressures of a market economy.  But reducing land, labour, and money to commodities created enormous social dislocation, and many of the sectors of society resisted the new market logic through direct and indirect means.


The ideologies considered this week are a mixed bag, some with common characteristics.  What are the common threads?

Learning objectives

  1. Understand the concept of class
  2. Understand the concept of Marxism
  3. Differentiate between communism and fascism
  4. Understand anarchism

Required readings

Tremblay, ch.5 (part II)

Tremblay, ch.6

Scott, ch.9

Tony Judt, Ill Fares the Land, New York Review of Books. Look in particular at the chart on income inequality and social mobility.

Another take on income inequality over time, David Leonhardt reports on economist Raj Chetty’s findings, which point in the same direction as Tony Judt’s report on social mobility and inequality. The less restraint there is on markets (UK, US) the lower the social mobility.

Optional readings

Components of socialism

Socialism and communism for beginners

Components of fascism

Broadbent Institute, Towards a More Equal Canada (2012)

Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of our Time, on the origins and characteristics of fascism in the breakdown of liberal market economies.


Present your ideas for assignment 1 (5 percent).  Be prepared in class on Wednesday to present a 3-5 minute outline of your written work for the first assignment. Each of you will be assigned to comment constructively on the presentation of one of your classmates. In your presentation you must address:

  • the source (media),
  • method (criteria for selection, tools for assessment),
  • preliminary findings (direction and degree of bias),
  • relevance (how this knowledge can be used), and
  • reliability (how sure you are about your findings).

Self-assessment questions

  • How is class defined in Canada? How does this compare with 19th century Europe, and why is it different? With what class did your parents and grandparents identify? With what class do you identify?  Why?  If/when you have children, what do you think will determine whether they are class-conscious? How does this discussion relate to political socialization (recall week 1)?

Middle class income (CCPA, 2011)

Myths about the middle class (Globe and Mail, 2013)

A socio economic status (SES) tool for public policy (Nova Scotia, 2012)

Landed gentry

Companies have more power than they used to, and workers have less (NYT, Dec 2016)

  • What are the defining characteristics of Communism as an ideology?  How does this relate to Marxism-Leninism, particularly democratic centralism and dictatorship of the proletariat? What distinguishes a democratic from a non-democratic ideology?
  • How does democratic socialism differ from Marxist-Leninist Communism? Is this a significant difference?  What does it mean for democratic politics?
  • What do communism and fascism have in common as ideologies? Is it possible that Islamic fundamentalist movements now widespread in parts of the developing world have common origins with European fascist movements of the inter-war period? (See Polanyi’s explanation in optional readings).
  • What attracts people to anarchism?  How does it compare to libertarian ideologies? Are “Freemen” anarchists, opportunists, or delusional? Is anarchy a democratic or anti-democratic ideology?

Anarchism in the Spanish revolution

Monty Python’s Anarcho-syndicalist commune

Patricia McCarthy, “Anarchism’s Greatest Hits No. 3: Emma Goldman,”

Louisa Sarah Bevington’s 1896 anarchist tract opposing violence (in full)

Freemen on the Land (Economist, October 2012)

Anarchism in Canada

  • The authoritarianism of Mussolini’s fascists and Hitler’s Nazi’s was a response to economic and social disruption and the trauma of war. What does the erosion of democracy look like – refer to specific examples and discuss the characteristics of liberal democracy and the means by which they may be eroded or replaced by authoritarianism or corporatism. How do we do research on whether this is happening?

Trump and authoritarianism in America (NYT, December, 2016)

European populism in the age of Donald Trump (NYT, December, 2016)

Methodology for Freedom House Indicators


This week, look in particular for news stories about Russian nationalism in Ukraine and the Baltic states (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia), and about alienation of immigrant youth recruited to extremist causes.  What political values, attitudes and beliefs do these stories highlight?  Is there a sense in which democracy can be said to be failing the people to turn to undemocratic ideologies?


The focus of this week’s seminar will be the self-assessment questions, for which the required readings provide the key material.


We will also take time to look at Assignment 1.


Weekly activities can be adjusted by class coordinators in consultation with the professor

Week 5 checklist of material

[1] Introduction from class coordinator – time allocation

[2] Current events of political significance (domestic, international) [60s]

[3] Review/amend focus of learning objectives  [5D]

[4] Key terms [5D, GLI]

[5] Mapping the Political Landscape [5D, GLI]

[6] External resources [class coordinator]

[7] Exam questions [5D, GLI]

[8] Looking ahead: next week’s class coordinator introduces (last 15 minutes)

Next up

Ideologies of identity

David Last, updated September 2016