What will be the dominant ideologies of the 21st Century?


The 20th Century revolved politically around competing interpretations of Capitalism, Communism, Socialism and Fascism. These are all ways to organize the lives of people on a large scale. Are real alternatives or new interpretations likely to emerge in the challenging years ahead? What might they look like?


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comments: Thor May - thormay@yahoo.com;

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This is an initial starter list for discussing the "21st Century Ideology " topic. The list makes no special claim to quality, and additions are welcome. In fact, the topic can go in so many directions that the reference list could be extremely long. Note that a listing here in no way implies that the views promoted are endorsed by this website.


- Thor





Birrell, Ian (6 January 2014) "Bill Gates preaches the aid gospel, but is he just a hypocrite? - The world's richest man is seen as a secular saint. But he should question the example that Microsoft is setting by avoiding tax". The Guardian, online @ http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/06/bill-gates-preaches-fighting-poverty-hypocrite-microsoft-tax

Caryl, Christian (January 4, 2014) "Super rich becoming the dictators of 21st century". Brisbane Times, online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/super-rich-becoming-the-dictators-of-21st-century-20140103-309jg.html#ixzz2pOKgabj8

Gandelman, Joe (24 December 2012) "Your 21st Century Ideological Politics at Work: Thousands Sign Petition to Get CNN’s Piers Morgan Deported Due to His Anti Gun Views". The Centrist blog, online @ http://themoderatevoice.com/171596/your-21st-century-ideological-politics-at-work-thousand-sign-petition-to-get-cnns-piers-morgan-deported-due-to-his-anti-gun-views/#4dps6E2jXJKzzWPB.99

Gardels, Nathan (03/25/2014) "Capitalism's Central Contradiction: The Past Devours the Future" . Huffington Post online @ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nathan-gardels/capitalisms-central-contradiction_b_5001581.html?utm_hp_ref=world

Gittins, Ross (December 28, 2013) "Darwinian model of economics flawed for firms". Brisbane Times, online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/business/darwinian-model-of-economics-flawed-for-firms-20131227-2zzns.html

Golden Dawn (2013) "Golden Dawn - International Newsroom". [Neo-fascist website], online @ http://golden-dawn-international-newsroom.blogspot.com.au/2013/01/the-ideological-war-of-21st-century.html

Haag, Pamela (11 November 2013) "I’m Sick of Ideology—Even My Own". Harpy's Review blog online @ http://bigthink.com/harpys-review/im-sick-of-ideology-even-my-own

Hontz, Eric (12 November 2009) "The 21st Century Ideological Battle". CIPE Development Blog, online @ http://www.cipe.org/blog/2009/11/12/the-21st-century-ideological-battle/#.Uq_A3E429ws

Hutchens, Gareth (January 21, 2014) "Richest 85 boast same wealth as half the world". Brisbane Times, online @ http://www.smh.com.au/business/richest-85-boast-same-wealth-as-half-the-world-20140120-314vk.html#ixzz2qz4yCDk5

Karlin, Anatoly (24 April 2011) "The Radical Ideologies of the 21st Century". Personal blog, online @ http://akarlin.com/2011/04/radical-ideologies-of-21st-century/

Kemp, John (December 18, 2013) "Coal 'prime culprit' behind climate change but can we live without it?". Brisbane Times, online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/environment/climate-change/coal-prime-culprit-behind-climate-change-but-can-we-live-without-it-20131218-2zju9.html  [relevance: the divisive politics of energy & climate change]

Koenig, Shulamith (n.d.) "The Birth of a Political Ideology for the Twenty-first Century". PDHRE website [Human Rights website], online @ http://www.pdhre.org/dialogue/ideology.html

Kuzniki, Mark (8 January, 2007) "Search for a 21st Century Ideology". Remark! blog, online @ http://remarkk.com/2007/01/08/search-for-a-21st-century-ideology/

Loomis, Erik (18 September 2010) "Activism in America: We need a new ideology". Global Comment blog, online @ http://globalcomment.com/activism-in-america-we-need-a-new-ideology/

Luke, Jim (April, 2004) "Isms, Rhetoric, and the Branding of Ideology in the 21st Century". EconProph blog, online @ http://econproph.com/2011/04/04/isms-and-branding-of-ideology-iand-the-21st-century/

Mishra, Pankaj (19 February 2014) "Worldwide Mutinies Against Globalization". http://www.huffingtonpost.com/pankaj-mishra/worldwide-mutinies-agains_b_4808736.html?utm_hp_ref=world

Naughton, John (30 December 2013) "Here's how data thieves have captured our lives on the internet". [TM comment: the right to privacy is not addressed directly by any existing ideology. However its acceptance or denial underpins ideologies of all kinds. Since privacy is so pervasivly violated now, I predict that the right to privacy will become a major ideological issue in the 21st Centry]. The Guardian, online @ http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/29/internet-corporate-surveillance

Orwell, George (1949) 1984. Free downloadable copy of this classic novel of dystopia, online @ http://www.planetebook.com/1984.asp

Provost, Claire (30 December 2013) "Susan George on the secret capitalist cabal behind European austerity". The Guardian, online @

RMIT (2013) Global Cities Research Institute, annual reports. [Mission: "Is there a coherent ideological platform behind ‘Justice Globalism’ – the social movement for global justice emerging through the World Social Forum?..."] . Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology; website online @ http://global-cities.info/publications

Roos, Jerome (May 11, 2012) "The meaning and necessity of revolution in the 21st century". Roarmag.org [website promoting 'global revolution'], online @ http://roarmag.org/2012/05/jerome-roos-ovni-2012-revolution-21st-century/

Satin, Mark (17 April 2010; last revised 5 July 2011) "Fifty Contemporary Political Ideologies". Radical Middle Newsletter*, online @ http://www.radicalmiddle.com/ideologies.htm [* note: this site is especially comprehensive, with many additional links]

Schall, Lars (18 December 2013) "Secret information: The currency of power". Asia Times, online @ http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/GECON-02-231213.html [ This is a very long interview with Thomas Drake, a NSA whistleblower who preceded Edward Snowden. It rambles a bit, but the take-away is that American "security" services a) have precise, transaction level access to bank accounts everywhere along with the technology to manipulate them, and b) have intimate ties to Wall Street (which of course owns the United States administration). In other words, a crypto-government is already functional, rendering irrelevant public notions of ideology.]

Schiffman, Richard (December 30, 2013) "Multinationals carving up Africa for food". Brisbane Times, online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/multinationals-carving-up-africa-for-food-20131229-301jk.html

Smith, R.C. (10 May, 2012) "The Age of Ideology: Contemporary Politics and the Meaning of Protest in the 21st Century". Heathwood Press, online @ http://www.heathwoodpress.com/the-age-of-ideology-and-the-meaning-of-protest/

Tan, Paige Johnson (18 October 2011) "Ideologies: 'Isms and Politics". University of North Carolina, coursework page, online @ http://people.uncw.edu/tanp/Ideologies.html

TJN (2013) "Estimating the Price of Offshore - Headline report" [TM comment: Ideology may often be a pantomime for the masses. The real deal: the amount of US$ in circulation is rouglhy US$1.2 trillion. The offshore wealth (mostly secretly) held by individuals and companies is estimated at US$21-32 trillion. For every $1 of aid sent to Africa, 80 cents recirculates back offshore. From the $1 billion or so that Google sucked out of Australia last year, $74,000 tax was paid .. and so on. Most world leaders are in on this scam]. Tax Justice Network, online @ http://www.taxjustice.net/cms/front_content.php?idcat=148

Todhunter, Colin (27 March, 2013) "Social Control In The 21st Century: Eugenics, The GM Sector And The Ideology Of The Rich". CounterCurrents blog, online @ http://www.countercurrents.org/todhunter270313.htm

Upchurch, Tom (23 August 2012) "The Great Ideological Struggle of the 21st Century - an interview with Chandran Nair about his book, Consumptionomics". The Economist, online @ http://www.economistinsights.com/sustainability-resources/opinion/great-ideological-struggle-21st-century ; website for the book: http://www.consumptionomics.com/the-book/

Wikipedia (2013) "Ideology". online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideology

Wikipedia (2013) "Technological Singularity". online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_singularity

Wikipedia (2013) "List of Communist Ideologies". online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_communist_ideologies

Wu Yixue (2013-12-27) "Shock 'tigers' and awe 'flies'" [the Chinese Communist Party's official plan to make the practice of their ideology viable by "putting power in a cage"] China Daily online @



Fine Words Are Not Equal To Fine Deeds


by Aesop (c. 620–564 BC)


Once a very good lion was king of all the animals in the fields and the forests.

He was not angry or cruel or unfair, but only kind and gentle.

During his reign he made a royal proclamation to all the animals.

He laid out rules for a Universal League of animals.

In this League, the wolf would not harm the lamb, nor would the panther harm the kid.

The tiger would not hurt the deer, and the dog would not hurt the hare.

Everyone should live in perfect peace and friendship.

When the hare saw this proclamation, she said, "Oh how I have waited for this day.

How wonderful it is that the weak will stand alongside the strong without fear."

After she said this, the hare ran away for her life.



Notes by Thor


  1. Why do ideologies exist?


My definition of a tattoo is that it is a problem from the inside of somebody’s head pasted onto the outside of their body forever. Ideologies can be a bit like that. And as with my tattoo phobia definition, ideologies can make you blood enemies forever with no credible logic or advantage to anybody involved. Yet it is undeniable that humans are a herding species, mostly disinclined to think through complex social issues in detail for themselves, and much preferring to pick a popular brand off the supermarket shelf. This goes for religions, marriage ceremonies, ideologies, football teams or crowding for a holiday in Bali or Koh Samui.


  1. Will the 21st Century do without ideologies?


No. Ideologies are going to be with us forever. The question is how seriously the herd takes them, and who become the high priests for interpreting them to the unwashed masses. The 20th Century gave us some pretty horrible examples of ideologies used as vehicles for mass extinction while claiming to be vehicles for mass progress. There is no particular reason to expect that the 21st Century will be more enlightened in this regard amongst those people who always form the bulk of ideological foot soldiers. It is true that there are more formally educated people on the planet than ever before, and more available tools for critical thinking, especially in the online world. Yet it is also true that the tools for mass mobilization are more powerful than they have ever been, while their control passes with increasing rapidity to compromised governments, corporations and secretive elites. This secrecy makes a considered response to genuine threats especially difficult. For example, weapons of mass destruction are now widely distributed amongst unstable actors, many of whom were originally secretly financed and trained by major states (Al Qaeda is a prime instance of this). The utterly disproportionate and hysterical American response to some terrorist attacks has also shown that even actors suffering from extremely asymmetrical military weakness can destabilize the legitimacy of a superpower and seriously weaken it economically.


  1. Ideology to power


No matter how benign the manifestos of an ideology may seem, it will not attain popular potency until the material conditions for its growth are present. For example, fascism is essentially the dictum that might is right, the weak shall serve the strong, and that hierarchy maintained by force is a moral imperative. This is a sentiment found in sections of all societies. Fascism in 20th Century Europe became virulent only when it was able to promise a kind of order where there was disorder, humiliation and economic hardship. The national socialism, Nazi ideology, of Germany’s 3rd Reich was a social contract offering a conditional place to every ‘true German’ within the fascist structure. That is, the Nazi brand of fascism promised citizens security and self-respect, though in the end it delivered the polar opposite.


  1. Fascism – a psychological condition


It is worth dwelling a little on the fascist idea, since in spite of being a named ideology, the name chosen at any point in history does not matter very much. Fascism, seen as a psychological condition, rather than an historical ideology, is found in many forms in many societies. We can expect to see much more of it in stressed regions of the world in the 21st Century. That evil twin of oppression, double-speak, is of course the monopoly of no ideology or government. In the West we politely call it spin.


  1. An example – Chinese fasco-communism


Ideologies, like religions, are always syncretic. That is, they become an overlay on local cultural practices and ways of thought. Fascism in China is a good example of this syncretic process. I will comment on it here because I have spent a lot of time studying the cultures of China, but readers should be alert that fascist-type ideological influence can be traced in innumerable other countries. China’s communist regime, in spite of the communist label, has always been structured in reality largely on a kind of fascist practice, as was the Kuomintang before it, and most preceding dynasties. (Indeed fascist-type belief has been a dominant sentiment historically in Chinese societies, rationalized by neo-Confucian philosophy. It is hard to think of a culture less suited to the nostrums of an imaginary communist utopia). Chinese fasco-communism was nourished by promising to bring order out of a blood soaked century which had cost tens of millions of lives, faced ordinary Chinese with a life expectancy of around 46 years, and left the proud Chinese state on its knees, collecting crumbs from the tables of foreigners.


Again, in Orwellian double-speak, the statements of Chinese communist ideology often traded in the language of equality and brotherhood, but this was overwhelmingly a tactical device to enlist initial support from the dispossessed. The reality, to quote Orwell’s classic “Animal Farm” became that “some animals are more equal than others” (and I can give manifold examples of this after five years of working in China). Translated, the first paragraph of the Chinese constitution states that “China is a democratic dictatorship” [sic]. In spite of all this, and notwithstanding that Mao Zedong would prove utterly incompetent as the leader of a unified state, and would bring tens of millions more to unnatural deaths, in 1949 he was able to proclaim that “China has stood up”. (Mao’s prime minister, Chou En Lai, was the engine behind whatever semblance of real government did emerge after 1949). More recent national leadership has shown greater competence, and exhibited less naked violence. However the underlying premise of enforcement remains and the People’s Armed Police, 人民武装警察,( Zhōngguó Rénmín Wǔzhuāng Jǐngchá Bùduì) has a larger budget than the army, and puts down over 500 “mass incidents” per day, every day of the year. None of this is to deny that within the huge Chinese population there are not many people who are open minded, humane and genuinely progressive.


  1. Ideology as an organizing principle


Religions and ideologies are both systems for organizing large numbers of people. However religions typically promise their principal benefits after death. While people continue to believe a hereafter religions are difficult to discredit. The retreat of institutional religion in many recent societies may be partly traced to a fading belief in eternal life. The survival of ideologies is much more contingent upon immediate benefits, or benefits soon to come. Communism, the Marxist manifesto version, tried to set a longer time frame by describing an historical transition before the arrival of utopia. This promise does not seem to have preserved communism as a social force.


  1. Ideology in religion


Religions have lost political potency in many parts of the world, but retained influence at least locally in some other places. In the political context, religions are equivalent to ideologies, and often compete with them while retaining other, more personal functions as well. Christianity has been broadly in retreat since the Reformation. Russia’s president Putin has shrewdly called it back into service as a unifying force in white Russia’s heartlands. In the United States Christianity is often a vehicle, paradoxically (given the core Christian message of compassion) for the least tolerant, most conservative and sometimes most violent elements of that society. In South Korea fiercely competing sects of Christianity have plastered every town with churches and neon crosses. They have captured about 30% of the population, and that country has the second largest number of missionaries worldwide after America. After seven years of living in South Korea I can report that its dominant values, regardless of professed religions, are still neo-Confucian, hierarchical, class obsessed, and not notably compassionate. I interpret the Christian attachment there as a sign of deep psychological insecurity.


  1. Islamic ideology


In recent decades the most virulent religious attachment to political ideology has come from factions of Islam. There are a variety of reasons for this, too complex to go into here in detail. My own sense is that this fever is likely to subside in coming decades. The Irani theocratic attachment to political ideology seems to have already passed its peak. The Salafist infiltration of otherwise more or less peaceful Muslim populations worldwide has been driven by Saudi Arabian dollars. The Saudi engine itself seems to be an unholy alliance of a deeply corrupted Saudi ruling elite in a warped contract with Wahabi religious fundamentalists, the whole underwritten by an American oil company investment in energy extraction. It is an unstable mix, particularly given the restlessness of increasingly educated Arab populations themselves, but at least in the medium term may continue to cause untold mischief in countries under stress.


  1. The reincarnation of ideologies


There was a World War I barrack room song that went “old soldiers never die, they simply fade away..” It is tempting to think of ideologies in the same way, but it might be more accurate to say that they reincarnate, sometimes with a different name, or if keeping the same label, like a virus they adapt and become the meme of the age for yet another generation of enthusiasts. For this reason, it is unlikely that we have left all the old passions of the 20th Century behind us. In a way, it is predictive to review some of the main ones:


  1. Socialism


Socialism offers a social contract with immediate benefits for the general population by controlling the distribution of profit in the most equitable manner (usually via taxation). Socialism has usually been less articulate about the most efficient means of production, and being prone to bureaucratization has often put a brake on traditional economic productivity. For example, uncompetitive industries might be overprotected, or accumulating regulations might stifle initiative. In practice, by de-emphasizing the contributions needed to preserve the system, various brands of socialism have sometimes fostered a debilitating psychology of entitlement and dependence by beneficiaries (both individuals and industries), together with increasingly complex and arbitrary mechanisms from governments to preserve social and economic compliance.


  1. Capitalism (a) – the market


Capitalism, as an ideological movement, has proved to have champions quite as doctrinaire as any other ideology, and has historically demonstrated a brutal disregard for the welfare of individuals. The claim from the high priests of capitalism is that the invisible hand of the market regulates the efficient distribution of resources to the ultimate benefit of everybody. In fact, there has never been anything disinterested about the “invisible hand” of the market. Every market is gamed constantly by whoever has privileged access to information, power and money. This distortion of markets rapidly becomes so extreme that governments everywhere intervene in the market by regulation and/or force to forestall major social unrest or even revolution. The real issue then becomes the extent, nature and efficiency of this governmental intervention. That is, so-called “mixed economies” are universal wherever markets operate with any continuing efficiency.


  1. Capitalism (b) – stability and corporate capitalism


Of all the economic ideologies, capitalism may be the least stable. In fact there is a credible claim that this very instability generates innovation, renewal and growth. However (as with all ideologies) capitalism has split into sects. The dominant sect in Western economies has become a form of corporate capitalism, where power has devolved to massive (often transnational) corporations which effectively control the state while exploiting the weaknesses of individuals and smaller businesses. It is becoming clear that this kind of unbalanced corporate capitalism is ultimately lethal to nations states (taxes are minimized and profits sequestered overseas), while “democratic representatives” are bought and the burden of supporting communities is evaded wherever possible. Thus corporate capitalism can become a social sickness as debilitating as fasco-communism. The current crisis in this form of ideology is most evident in the United States of America, where congressional representatives are now held in contempt by the overwhelming majority of the population (5% approval in October 2013), the executive arm of government is in thrall to lobbyists and moneyed interest groups, while the failure to distribute resources efficiently for the benefit of the country has become an enduring scandal.


  1. Do non-profit behaviours amount to an ideology?


It is notable in the American context that a form of ideology broadly embracing volunteerism, charity, philanthropic trusts and NGOs is widespread, and much patronized by the very rich. There are various ways to interpret this. It could be seen as a vote for humanitarianism and religious charity, or a sop for the more brutal face of capitalist predation. Elsewhere, historically this kind of private amelioration of suffering was overtaken by Otto von Bismark’s state social welfare contract in 19th Century Germany (for purely practical reasons of governance: he tried to outlaw “socialist” political movements), and then the gradual spread of socialist-type safety nets in other parts of the Western world.


  1. Ideology as a public deception for private profit


There is a good argument that all known political ideologies have never been more than a public cloak to hide the capture of wealth by ruling elites (or even by elites who can’t be bothered with the charade of ruling populations). In these terms, “ideology” falls into the same bracket as the Roman Empire’s device of “bread and circuses” to keep the population quiet, organized religion’s historical manipulation by states as a tool of social control, and perhaps modern spectator sports, mass entertainment and media with the same function. Ideology and religion have the added benefit of engaging the energies of “the chattering classes”, would-be intellectuals, while only occasionally yielding a threat or real challenge. Of course, conspiracy theories are easy to come by. However if we follow the money trail, the final impotence of ideologies seems pretty clear. The real deal: the amount of US$ in circulation is roughly US$1.2 trillion. The offshore wealth (mostly secretly) held by individuals and companies is estimated at US$21-32 trillion (Tax Justice Network 2013). For every $1 of aid sent to Africa, 80 cents recirculates back offshore. From the $1 billion or so that Google sucked out of Australia last year, $74,000 tax was paid .. and so on. Most world leaders are in on this scam, and they all stay in the same five star hotels. The critical point is that this vast accumulation of hidden wealth has come from countries all over the world, sporting every known brand of political ideology. In fact the most effective secret thieves of public wealth are very frequently the most earnest public advocates of this ideology or that.


  1. Crisis as the genesis of ideologies – the 21st Century


If crisis breeds and legitimizes ideologies as a kind of social survival mechanism, one way of predicting the emergence of ideologies is to anticipate the kinds of crises which will arise in the 21st Century. Perhaps prime amongst these crises will be the ecological survival of the planet itself. Within the human frame, multiple catastrophes can be predicted in a general way. Many of the most ancient human catastrophes, such as war, show every sign of staying with us. The pandemics which decimated populations in earlier times, such as bubonic plague, may be driven into retreat by medical science, yet that triumph itself has helped humans to breed as an animal species to plague levels which are arguably beyond the resources to the planet to sustain. Perhaps related, it is probably no accident that euthanasia as a acceptable solution to aging populations has just been broached in the Chinese media. The ideological potency of this kind of proposition is obvious (as, in a darker frame, were the arguments for eugenics in Hitler’s 3rd Reich).


  1. Crises of population and migration – new sources of ideology?


Human beings have always migrated, for opportunity, through war and forced exile, or simply because they could. Apparently the total human population 70,000 years ago was only a few thousand, possibly reduced by natural calamity (such as disease or the Toba super volcano). We have been restocking and moving every since. However the 21st Century human world divides itself into nations with movement only permitted through bureaucratic passports and visas. That is the theory. In practice, there are hundreds of millions of migrants and refugees on the move, with or without documentation. In many settled populations (including Australia) transnational human movement frequently becomes a major political issue. Wherever there are major political issues old ideologies and new ideologies are amongst the weapons brought into play. I sense that in the coming century questions of human movement will become acute as populations increase, the knowledge of regional disparities in wealth become far more universal, universal instant communication worldwide enlists sympathies and inflames fears, and any part of the world can be travelled to in a few hours. It is already apparent that in the matter migration there are privileged classes of people. Those with needed skills and/or money are welcome everywhere, and there may even be international competition for their residence. Then there are vast masses of people, many with great ability and energy but without the privilege of money or needed skills. In desperation and hope they also move. We have already seen that old ideologies, like viruses, know no borders. It is therefore reasonable to expect new ideologies which try to deal with the moral dilemmas of human migration, may grow more flesh in coming decades on the bones of the UN convention on refugees, and the UN declaration of human rights. Equally, there will be forces to oppose the implementation of any such generalized humanitarian principles.


  1. The return of Nature to human consciousness – ideological consequences


The modern urbanization of populations has, for over a century, given most educated people a mental holiday from the implacable imperatives of Nature which governed the lives of farming and hunting communities for millennia, and shaped whatever ideologies they had. Now Nature is back with a vengeance. The ecological balance of life and atmosphere on the planet has always evolved and fluctuated. However there are powerful scientific predictions that human activity has tipped a balance in this process towards catastrophic climate change (a prediction derided by Australia’s current prime minister). The rise of so-called green parties and environmental ideology has now become a strong feature not only in western democracies, but amongst educated populations everywhere (for example, in China). Nevertheless, as with other threats (e.g. the likelihood of nuclear annihilation, which is still very real) political opportunism and the rush for profit will almost certainly overwhelm public ideology in any situation short of immediate catastrophe.


  1. The electronic frontier – a new source of ideologies?


Mass literacy and the printing press were liberating enough to allow scientific thinking to gain traction, and set us on the path to industrialization, with all the consequences for wealth creation, ideology and government which followed. Less than a generation ago an even more powerful revolution in the tools at our disposal emerged. When  Alan Turing solved the mathematical problem of programmable machine computation in 1936, and John von Neumann followed with a mathematical analysis of the structure of self-replication, they set a mathematical foundation for both modern biology and  for the age of computers, and now the age of the Internet. No human society has previously seen anything like this, and we have barely begun to grasp the consequences. At once we are liberated and endangered. We can communicate worldwide with anyone almost instantly, yet our privacy and independence of action has potentially been shredded. Everything we eat, wear, and use has been facilitated by computing, yet the vulnerability to disruption is acute. The generation of leaders now in political control worldwide are mostly barely aware of these conundrums. For them computing is a little understood convenience. For following generations if there are following generations, computing will forcibly reshape the possibilities of whatever ideologies arise.


  1. Dealing with ideology at a personal level


At a personal level, over a lifetime we either reject or submit to varying ideologies in the practice of daily life. For most people, most of the time, this is a fairly unconscious process, although they may react with a degree of outrage when something they consider ‘normal’ is challenged. There are ideologies attached to workplace culture, community participation, education, healthcare, media, sport, religion, and a multitude of other foci of interest. Individuals are not necessarily consistent when wearing their many hats. Very few take a distanced or philosophical view of the whole ideological process.


  1. Thor’s statement of ideological distance


Although analysing everything to death has done nothing at all for my popularity or life chances, and may be a personality flaw, I have indeed looked at ideology (and many other things) from some philosophical distance. In 1991 I formulated my relationship to the general ideological process, which is given here for what it is worth (perhaps it is too compressed for some tastes). It is on the front page of my home website, The Passionate Skeptic (http://thormay.net):


I don't care what you believe in, so long as you don't believe in it too strongly. A belief is a weapon in the armoury of your heart, and its razor edge will murder the innocent. The ice, the fire of your passion will seduce mundane men and women. Your clarity will excite respect. And the first demagogue who comes along with a key to your heart's armoury will wrest the weapon from your moral grasp. The first cause which wears the colours of your belief will enlist you as a soldier in ravaging crusades. Peace friend. Keep your passion to doubt with. Our civilization is a simple matter of live and let live, of giving dreams a go, but stepping back with a wry smile when we get it wrong. Let the fundamentalists perish in their own pillars of fire. Spare a dollar for the living, and have a nice day, Doubt well, do what you can, then let it be. Presidents, priests, wage slaves, hustlers, men and women, kids, we all live by the grace of those we love to despise...  Leidenschaft ist, was Leiden schafft (passion is what makes you suffer - German Proverb). 
                                                                                    -  Thor @1 November 1991


Summay: 20th Gentle Thinkers Debate

“What will be the dominant ideologies of the 21st Century?

The 20th Century revolved politically around competing interpretations of Capitalism, Communism, Socialism and Fascism. These are all ways to organize the lives of people on a large scale. Are real alternatives or new interpretations likely to emerge in the challenging years ahead? What might they look like?”

Note by Yena: This summary is based and interpreted from notes taken during the debate and may contain errors. If you wish to correct, be attributed to or contribute content, please contact me or post a comment.

Note by Thor : I have some difficulty recognizing parts of the summary this time by Yena, which shows how differently two people can interpret the same event! For me, some of the points listed below seem incoherent, or begging for more explanation. Perhaps the 'should' part of it needs to be separated out more clearly; (I confess that for me a 'should' carries very little weight, unless it is informed by a persuasive connection to real world possibilities, and a sound understanding the history of preceding generations who wrestled with the same issues).


- Discussion around this topic can lead us to two different questions, “what WILL the ideologies be” and “what SHOULD the ideologies be”.

- A key concept in this discussion is proportion, this is a game of numbers.

- There Is No Alternative (TINA) is often raised in this kind of discussion.

- Ideologies need a formal interpreter (ruling party) who provide people with a comfortable base for group acceptance.

- Using the scientific method and peer review process towards evaluating ideologies may be a good strategy for weeding out the dangerous and badly thought out ones. It may also help stop one jumping onto an ideological bandwagon.

- Accepting that uncertainty exists helps us keep an open mind and encourages us to keep improving our methodologies for seeking and making changes to the world.

- Ideologies are ideally a personal development initiated and continued by the individual. Think of them as an intellectual buffet for you to pick, reject and redesign.

- People need some outside influence to assist with creating and developing their ideologies. Nothing is created in a vacuum. That said, one shouldn’t allow another person to dictate or force an ideology on another.

- We can’t hurt those who have created their own ideologies outside of the normal. These people may in fact be our heroes (depending on the ideologies they create).

- One member of the group suggested that human nature is full of greed and rage which provides the source for ideologies past and present.

- One member commented, that humans tend to become more tribalistic under stress.

- Tribal disputes often originate from an individual rather than a problem shared by the group.

- Another member of the group suggested that this may be a matter of human behaviour rather than nature.

- We may struggle to maintain our “authentic self” when confronted with the beliefs of others.

- Some of the group felt that despite our best intentions and efforts, there will also be a fanatical ideology (and people) to take the place of another.

- Ideologies may arise from crisis and people under pressure may be attracted to radical ideas and charismatic people.

- One of the problems with the 21st century is dealing with fundamentalists. Jihadists may be some of the most isolated in comparison with other ideologies.

- One member asked if terrorism an ideology, as it is a way of enforcing your views and controlling others. Terrorists do have a way of getting support from the oppressed. E.g. The IRA is a terrorism group which has splinter groups who are active in the political system. By extension, military coups could be considered a form of terrorism (or ideology).

- Ideologies can be economical in nature, like policies involving asylum seekers maybe be a defensive action to safeguard resources (like jobs and natural resources).

- In the coming decades if climate change proceeds on cue with resource depletion, we may be likely to see a regression of all the progress we have made towards an inclusive, tolerant and progressive culture in the West.

- Some of the domineering ideologies of the 21st century might be, materialism and environmentalism. Arguably corporatocracy [Wikipedia] is the current governing system of most of the world.

- If climate change proceeds on cue, then perhaps ultimately environmentalism will come to be the majority ideology, simply because those who did not prepare did not survive, making environmentalism as an ideology win simply by a process of natural selection.

- The ruling elite use ideologies and promote them for their own benefit. These groups may not necessarily believe in the ideologies despite their use of them. These people and fanatics may be the most dangerous to encounter.

- Capitalism doesn’t work without resources and economic growth (and arguably socialism) to be successful.

- In the capitalistic model, profits are privatised and problems are socialised. This is not the ideal situation, socialising the profits and risk may be a solution. Self managed work teams is another solution in the capitalistic model.

- If you are exposed to corporate culture, you may have to compromise your values (you may be forced to choose between your job and your ideology).

- There was a consensus that corporations (and governments) needs heavy regulation, transparency and reformation. No government is prepared to deal with the consequences of privacy and transparency.

- Having alternatives on offer to small communities may help the development of revolutions.

- Despite a long history of dealing with complex systems to organise and manage countries and environments, we are still flying in the dark and making things up along the way.

- When discussing ideologies or how to change the world, people have a tendency to present lists of changes they think will work but no one knows how to implement them or if they will be effective. This might be an area to consider when developing your ideologies.

Interesting questions posed by the group:

- Why do people choose an ideology?

If ideologies are organising principles for large groups of people, how useful are they in general and how do we use them to do this?

- Is terrorism an ideology? Who is using terrorism as an ideology?

- Did protectionism in the United States cause the Great Depression?

- Are environmentalists better informed than others given the poor level of science literacy of the populous?

- Does Australia need defence and police forces?

- Are these effective means of societal and crime control?

- If there wasn’t any control (anarchy?), would people co-operate more?

- Would a technocracy [Wikipedia] work?

- Do we need more educated people in power?

- How can we improve democracy?

- Should Australia be a republic? Would abolishing the states, standardise all our governing systems?

- Is Bitcoin [Wikipedia] a movement against corporatocracy?

- Who controls a transparent government?

Additional content covered by the debate:

Singapore as a country run by a corporation

Military coups of Fiji

Thailand’s current political situation

Alice Miller  [Wikipedia]

Mondragon Corporation [Website]

Free Trade agreements

The Trans-Pacific agreement

Abolition of Australian States [Abolish the States Collective] [Courier Mail article]

MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) [MOOC List] [Huffington Post article] [Chronicle of Higher Education]

Khan University [Website]

The Venus Project [Website]

Open Source Ecology [Website]

We are currently living in an Ice Age [io9 article]

Evolution of Australia’s indigenous population

The rate of extinction in (Australian) endangered species

Bonus Content

Egalitarianism [Wikipedia]

What will be the dominant ideologies of the 21st Century? (c) Thor May 2013


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