How ideology shapes territories: comparing capitalism and communism.

How ideology shapes territories: comparing capitalism and communism.

The causal effect of ideology on politics and society has long been established. But what about how ideology shapes the land?

Humankind has entered in the Anthropocene, climate change and sustainable development issues have never been more pressing according to our well-intentioned world-leaders at the UN. In that sense, this short articles aims to explore how ideology has shaped the land.

First of all, it is important to define the terms at stake here.

In The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt observes that an ideology differs from a simple opinion in that an ideology claims to possess “the key to history” or “intimate knowledge” of “hidden universal laws.” Kimball (2002).

An ideology is, according to Ted Honderich in The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, is “a set of beliefs and values attributed to a person or group of persons, especially as held for reasons that are not purely epistemic”. In other words, ideologies also shape the way people see and understand the world. Ideologies influence specifics conceptions on the economy, society, religion, etc.

“Ideologies are the science of ideas”. Aintoine Desttut de Tracy


Communism, as an ideology, is “a system of government in which the state plans and controls the economy and a single, often authoritarian party holds power, claiming to make progress toward a higher social order in which all goods are equally shared by the people”.

Capitalism, also referred to as the “free market economy or free enterprise economy, is dominant in the Western world. In such systems, means of production are privately owned and production is guided and income distributed largely through the operation of markets.

How do communism and capitalism shape land management ?

An indirect yet essential consequence of ideologies is how the land is conceived and organized. We have all seen the large bar building in communist and authoritative-leaning countries such as Russia or China in documentaries. In such context, the notion of private property doesn’t exist. Everything belongs to the State. The State is the highest authority, it is more important than religion or family.

Soviet-Era Communal Apartments

At the opposite side of the spectrum there is capitalism, where the notion of private property is key. Here individual liberties and property rights embedded in the culture. The leading example of such country is of course the United States of America.

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Typical American Suburd


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