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The first section of this book focused on 'government'-that is, the institutional structure of Australia's liberal-democratic system, We turn now to look more at the 'politics' of that system: the organisations and ideas that compete for power and influence in Australian government. This chapter looks specifically at the main clusters of ideas, known as 'ideologies', through which political debate is conducted both in Australia and overseas. Ideologies are the way we individually and collectively interpret the political world and think it should operate. Most importantly, ideologies are our vision of what government should do and how it should do it. They are the visions around which political parties have been constructed and through which political parties function and are perhaps most familiar in terms of the distinction between 'Left' and 'Right'. The dominant ideology in Western societies is liberalism. However, liberalism not only has important competitors but is also divided within itself. This chapter identifies the defining features of each of those main ideological tendencies and discusses the way in which the relationship between them has fluctuated over time.
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