The Power of “Isms”

The suffix “ism” in the English language is a powerful one.

  • Racism
  • Sexism
  • Imperialism
  • Industrialism
  • Liberalism
  • Conservatism
  • Communism
  • Marxism
  • Nazism

Historians regularly look at the “isms” but don’t necessarily always consider their full power and potential as both ideologies and conceptual tools.

Racism, for example, is an “ism” because it is a world view, a way of analyzing the word – something that has consequences and implications for everything. Racism influences economics, legislation and adjudication, cultural productions and representations, education and curriculum, the list is endless.

Same with “industrialism.” When we look at the Second Industrial Revolution of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era and the accompanying rise of industrialism – it changed everything creating pollution, dangerous work environments, scientific management labor philosophies, further corrupt and hypocritical government practice, poverty, a general sense of confusion, new notions of leisure time, Social Darwinism with a classist spin, etc.

The rise of imperialism in the late 1800s has a close relationship with production, political decisions, racism, science, and more of the day.

Liberalism, communism, nazism, and other political ideologies also seek to provide a worldview through which the world should operate and can be understood. When people live by “isms” such as these, it can easily lead to narrow-mindedness and potentially dangerous events. 

An “Ism” cannot be understood in isolation because each one is not an isolated concept or event. “Isms” refer to powerful, persuasive, and pertinent world views that have consequences across the board. 

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Categories: Thoughts and Perspectives

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3 replies

  1. “When people live by “isms” such as these, it can easily lead to narrow-mindedness and potentially dangerous events.” I think this is a profound sentence. Even when we are not directly aware we subscribe to these ideologies, I think sometimes we fall into living by their tenets. And people get so set in their ideologies that they refuse to even consider another way of thinking or doing things! We are shaped so much by our experiences in youth and we often take on our parents’ ways of thinking, or we subscribe to ideas that justify how we live. In other words, if we come from a middle class background, we subscribe to the ideas that support the middle class. It’s an interesting topic. One thing I have been thinking a lot about is age-ism (Sorry, I’m not sure how to spell that). Perhaps all of us over a certain age being labeled as “over the hill” serves as our great equalizer because then it’s not about class, race, sex, or whatever. It’s about the idea of a label being applied to everyone who lives to a certain age, no matter the other factors. Just random thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for your thoughts, my friend!

    I love your sentence: “And people get so set in their ideologies that they refuse to even consider another way of thinking or doing things!”

    And I sure to wish historians looked more at individuals as products of society/the environment in which they grew up in. Going to FB mail you another idea that I’m keeping under cover for now. lol 🙂

    Like

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  1. 21 Essential Concepts for Succeeding in Introductory U.S. History | Andrew Joseph Pegoda, A.B.D.

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