Political Ideas and Human Nature for A Level Politics

The Question of Human Nature in Political Theory

Human nature has long been a subject of inquiry in political theory. Understanding how human beings are perceived in different political ideologies can provide valuable insights and help with your evaluation of political ideas in A Level Politics. In this blog post, we will explore the ways in which human nature is seen in conservatism, liberalism, socialism, feminism, and nationalism, referencing key thinkers and highlighting the differences between these ideologies.

Human Nature in Conservatism: Tradition and Order

In conservatism, humans are seen as flawed and imperfect. Conservatives believe that human beings are inherently selfish, driven by their own self-interests. They argue that society needs a strong authority and established institutions to maintain order and preserve tradition.

Key thinkers in conservatism, such as Edmund Burke and Michael Oakeshott, emphasise the importance of tradition, gradual change, and the preservation of social hierarchies. They believe that human nature is best suited to hierarchical structures and that attempts to change society radically will lead to chaos and the erosion of social order.

Liberalism: Individual Rights and Freedom

Liberalism, on the other hand, sees human nature as inherently rational and capable of moral reasoning. Liberals argue that individuals possess certain inherent rights and freedoms that should be protected by the state. They believe that these rights and freedoms are essential for human flourishing and societal progress.

Key thinkers in liberalism, such as John Locke and John Stuart Mill, emphasise the importance of individual liberty, limited government intervention, and the pursuit of happiness. They argue that human nature is best served by allowing individuals to freely pursue their own interests, as long as they do not harm others.

Socialism: Equality and Solidarity

Socialism takes a different approach to human nature, viewing it as inherently social and cooperative. Socialists argue that human beings are naturally inclined to work together and share resources. They believe that society should be organised in a way that promotes equality and solidarity.

Key thinkers in socialism, such as Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, emphasise the importance of collective ownership of the means of production and the redistribution of wealth. They believe that human nature is best fulfilled in a society where everyone has equal access to resources and opportunities.

Feminism: Gender Equality and Empowerment

Feminism focuses on the ways in which gender shapes human nature and social relations. Feminists argue that human nature is not fixed but constructed through social and cultural norms. They seek to challenge and dismantle patriarchal structures that oppress women and restrict their opportunities.

Key thinkers in feminism, such as Simone de Beauvoir and Sheila Rowbotham, emphasise the importance of gender equality, women’s empowerment, and the recognition of diverse identities. They argue that human nature is best understood through an intersectional lens that takes into account the experiences of different genders and marginalised groups.

Nationalism: Identity and Belonging

Nationalism places a strong emphasis on the collective identity and cultural heritage of a nation. Nationalists believe that human nature is deeply rooted in a sense of belonging to a particular community or nation. They argue that the preservation of national identity is essential for social cohesion and stability.

Key thinkers in nationalism, such as Johann Gottfried von Herder and Marcus Garvey, emphasise the importance of cultural traditions, shared values, and national pride. They believe that human nature is best fulfilled when individuals feel a sense of belonging to a larger community and actively participate in its preservation.


The question of human nature in political theory is complex, with Different ideologies offering contrasting perspectives on the nature of human beings and their role in society. You can get a comprehensive grasp of these perspectives as part of our Core Political Ideas and Non-Core Political Ideas courses to develop your understanding for A level Politics.

Understanding these perspectives can help us critically analyse and evaluate the principles and values that underpin political ideologies. By exploring the ways in which human nature is seen in conservatism, liberalism, socialism, feminism, and nationalism, we can gain a deeper understanding of the diverse range of political thought. The BBC World Service series ‘A History of Political Thought’ looks at some of the theories covered in A Level Politics and the key thinkers involved.

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Human nature in political theory

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