Following Napoleon’s final defeat in 1815, conservatives faced the daunting task of not just creating a new political order (considered in the next chapter), but in holding in check the political ideologies unleashed during the revolutionary era. Enlightenment thinkers had first proposed the ideas of social and legal equality that came to fruition in the American and French Revolutions. Likewise, the course of those revolutions along with the work of thinkers, writers, and artists helped create a new concept of national identity that was poised to take European politics by storm. Finally, the political, social, and economic chaos of the turn of the nineteenth century (very much including the Industrial Revolution) created the context out of which socialism emerged.
An "ideology" is a set of beliefs, often having to do with politics. What is the purpose of government? Who decides the laws? What is just and unjust? How should economics function? What should be the role of religion in governance? What is the legal and social status of men and women? All of these kinds of questions have been answered differently from culture to culture since the earliest civilizations. In the nineteenth century in Europe, a handful of ideologies came to predominate: conservatism, nationalism, liberalism, and socialism. In turn, briefly put, three of those ideologies had one thing in common: they opposed the fourth. For the first half of the nineteenth century, socialists, nationalists, and liberals all agreed that the conservative order had to be disrupted or even dismantled entirely, although they disagreed on how that should be accomplished and, more importantly, what should replace it.