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.