Still inspired by Deborah Stone’s Policy Paradox (2. edition, 2002) I am now thinking about the three different main worldviews she was describing. I think worldviews (or call it ideologies) are not necessarily a bad thing at all. In fact they are quite a motivating force – they clarify the world to us (and our world to others). However a worldview can become most difficult if we do not talk about it. Hence, the whole game starts with identifying these positions in someone’s speech, whatever words, narrative, discourse, blogpost – any interaction.
A worldview makes it clearer, to ourselves and others, where we want to see action happening – at what level. I have noticed that quite often ideologists withhold their position. And that their obscurity is perhaps not done purposefully at all. It rather can happen through lack of self-awareness and broader social skills such as empathy and communication (again, lack of). From there, some interesting, and often very frustrating, cross-purpose talk unfolds, as you can imagine.
There are systemic forces at play. The person is rich (or poor) due to socio-economic (etc) opportunities.
A politician with a radical view is probably quite involved and a change maker. They see bigger things, connections and interactions behind everything and rarely talk about the individual. The size of government would be, erm, sizeable, as social justice (levelling the playing field) needs to be organised and structured. The overall menschenbild (attitude towards your fellow human) is one of caring, but one of some distance too as structural problems often necessitate seeking out solutions bigger than the individual.
The poorer person simply lacks information to become rich! The individual, once they are in the possession of the info such as training or education, can sally forth. The position acknowledges society and its forces (personal agency, habit, peer pressure etc), but not as much as it believes it can overcome those by puckering up and becoming strong.
The politician with a liberal view takes a middle position between addressing the individual and the more structural systems. Society needs strengthening, but the individual must be bold too (and may need some help with that). The size of government is smaller compared to the radical position. The menschenbild is one of ascribing human strength regardless of their societal situation.
The rich person is rich because they are successful and powerful. The poor person must just smarten up and work a little harder to achieve equal power and fame. Everything is possible! Each one of us is responsible for our own luck (including bad luck too). Not everyone makes it, but the good ones do.
A conservative politician hence is pointing at individuals (to congratulate them, or to scald them, depending on their situation) and can tend towards indifference as the belief in individual responsibility is stalwartly upheld. Society is dead and structural problems really are non-existent. The size of government is smaller still, as the trust in the individual to succeed is strong and only a lean-mean administration is needed. The menschenbild that is painted is one of human strength but less caring when things are awry for someone. It tells of a level playing field and that it’s fair play.
You can pick and mix too. Perhaps your position on seatbelts is a different one than, say, smoking. You could take a liberal position on smoking: “people just need to be informed about the (societal and personal) problems and risks better, anything else is too much intrusion in the personal sphere” – whilst on seatbelts you take a totally radical view by drawing a much bigger boundary to the stated problem: “Seatbelts may save lives for sure, but cars kill thousands – we must do something about our destructive cars system”.
Personally I am
- Conservative when it comes to pummelling patriarchy (yes, I am unrelentingly unforgiving).
- Liberal when I invite people round for coffee and cake.
- And radical where prioritising cycling and walking in transport is concerned. People drive due to the car system: roads, free car parking etc make it easy for them (if they can afford it). It is the system that needs redress.
Jokes aside, I would suggest that a person’s worldview (including attitudes towards fellow beings) gravitates more generally towards one position, one that genuinely feels more comfortable than the others. So, what’s yours? A hint. There are no right or wrong answers.