manawydn (manawydn) wrote in hp_essays,

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Real-world politics and the Hogwarts Houses

Undoubtedly someone has already addressed this subject in an essay. I however was unable to find it and so am writing my own. This is my first HP essay but hopefully not my last (unless it is truly dreadful and then it would must certainly be hoped to be the only one).

With the different values and characteristics prevalent within each of the hogwarts houses, it is not difficult to see certain parallels between them and certain political ideologies that flourish throughout the world today.

First let us look at the most popular of all houses, Gryffindor. It seems to me that Gryffindor best represents the social democrat ideology such as that characterised by the British Labour Party. Gryffindors, like social democrats, are seemingly obsessed with making sure everything is fair. Social Democrats concern themselves with the fairness of workplace relations and trade schemes, while Gryffindors become furious when teachers are unfair to them (ahem, Snape) or even life itself is unfair to them (as noted by Snape about Sirius and Harry). Gryffindor has a somewhat anti-authoritarian streak, perfectly embodied by Fred and George. This could be seen to be at loggerheads with social democracy, which strives for such strong authority. However, social democratic parties frequently employ means such as strikes and protest marches, in effect disruptive strategies. This is of course very similar to Fred and George who are never downright anarchic (except to Umbridge but who wouldn't be then!) And of course social democratic parties are progressive, with some factions being immensely supportive of multiculturalism and gay rights. This progressive nature is best characterised by Hermione's work with S.P.E.W. The lack of support she receives from her fellow Gryffindors is indicative of the fractured nature of many social democratic movements. Gryffindors would welcome such government initiatives as the welfare state with its altruistic and utilitarian compulsions. Helping people who may not want to be helped is what Gryffindor is all about.

Secondly let us look at Slytherin. Frequently I have heard the comparison between Slytherin and fascism. While the Death Eaters and fascism are most certainly analogous, I don’t feel that it truly extends to Slytherin itself. Instead Slytherin seems to me to epitomize Classical Liberalism. While Gryffindor worried about fairness, Slytherin is concerned with freedom. They want as much of it as they can get. Slytherins want to be free to do whatever they want, study any type of magic they wish without having the government interfering into their lives. However, they understand the necessity for the existence of government and laws, as without them there is no means to protect their interests and their freedom. Slytherin, like Classical Liberalism, is about the individual. Its focus is always inherently on what the individual is able to do and to what lengths they are able to do it. But within that, it is an idea of benefiting the individual so as to benefit the community. By the individual’s ability to exercise his freedom, he is able to achieve great things, which will invariably aid others. Classical liberalism has always maintained that it is through the individual’s struggle to be the best that the community is made increasingly larger and more prosperous. Both Classical liberalism and Slytherin see ambition as a virtue for this very reason.

The intense rivalry between Gryffindor and Slytherin becomes so clear when they are viewed as social democratic and classical liberal. Both these ideologies are inherently opposed. Social democrats believe that institutions should be owned by the public, through the government, for them to be able to fairly cater for all. This instantly puts them against the Classical liberals who believe that the only way an institution will be run effectively and offer the best possible service is for it to be privately run and aiming to make money. Therefore Slytherins see Gryffindors as wishy-washy nanny staters while Gryffindors see Slytherins as money-hungry individualists.

It could seem truly bizarre that one could go from being a classical liberal Slytherin so easily to a fascist Death Eater as so many did. Fascism itself is almost impossible a term to define, and there is much contention about how it should be defined. However, fascism tends to define itself by what it opposes. This is of course extremely similar to the Death Eaters who define themselves by their opposition to Muggles and “Mud-bloods”. Fascism also promotes itself as a ‘higher-cause’ rather than simply a political movement which is why it managed to gain widespread support in several countries. It was not tied to a particular ideology other than ensuring the glory of their kind. With Slytherin being the main recruiting ground for the Death Eaters it is thus not surprising that this was the place the support was created. After all, Slytherins embrace freedom and thus feel they should be free to follow whatever movement they so wish.

Thirdly let us examine the House of Ravenclaw. As we all know, wit and intelligence are the points of supreme importance to Ravenclaw students. This is the first indication that Ravenclaw promotes a meritocracy like that which exists in Singapore. Wealth, family connections, class privilege, cronyism and popularity (as in democracy) are all irrelevant to Ravenclaws. All that matters is merit, talent and competence. Holding intelligence at the pinnacle means that those who strive for knowledge are those that come out on top, just like in a meritocratic state.

Hufflepuff is of course communist through and through. How could a house that values hard work, loyalty and teamwork the most be anything else? I do not refer to communism as the government in place in China, Cuba or what was formerly in the Soviet Union. I mean communism as that outlined by Marx. The system where everyone actually is equal, and all must work together for the good of each other. A utopian wonderland for the working class. That is what Hufflepuff is inherently all about.

This brings me to the end of my essay. I realised I have not spent as much time outlining the points on Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff as I did the other two, but this was primarily because Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff’s political ideologies seemed much more blatantly obvious and thus didn’t require it. I hope you enjoyed reading my essay and would appreciate hearing your thoughts on the matter.
Tags: house:house system, wizarding world:politics
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