An analysis of the concept of liberalism

What is liberalism and what are its characteristics? Article shared by Liberalism is too dynamic and flexible a concept to be contained in a precise definition. Right from its inception, it has been continuously changing, adding something and discarding the other. It has undergone many changes and requires a historical rather than a static type of analysis.

An analysis of the concept of liberalism

The diversity of liberalism can be gleaned from the numerous adjectives that liberal thinkers and movements have attached to the very term "liberalism", including classicalegalitarianeconomicsocialwelfare stateethicalhumanistdeontologicalperfectionistdemocratic and institutionalto name a few.

At its very root, liberalism is a philosophy about the meaning of humanity and society. Political philosopher John Gray identified the common strands in liberal thought as being individualist, egalitarian, meliorist and universalist. The individualist element avers the ethical primacy of the human being against the pressures of social collectivismthe egalitarian element assigns the same moral worth and status to all individuals, the meliorist element asserts that successive generations can improve their sociopolitical arrangements and the universalist element affirms the moral unity of the human species and marginalises local cultural differences.

The moral and political suppositions of liberalism have been based on traditions such as natural rights and utilitarian theoryalthough sometimes liberals even requested support from scientific and religious circles. These ideas were first drawn together and systematized as a distinct ideology by the English philosopher John Lockegenerally regarded as the father of modern liberalism.

Employing the idea of a state of nature—a hypothetical war-like scenario prior to the state—he constructed the idea of a social contract that individuals enter into to guarantee their security and in so doing form the State, concluding that only an absolute sovereign would be fully able to sustain such a peace.

Hobbes had developed the concept of the social contract, according to which individuals in the anarchic and brutal state of nature came together and voluntarily ceded some of their individual rights to an established state authority, which would create laws to regulate social interactions.

Whereas Hobbes advocated a strong monarchical authority the LeviathanLocke developed the then radical notion that government acquires consent from the governed which has to be constantly present for the government to remain legitimate. He concluded that the people have a right to overthrow a tyrant.

By placing life, liberty and property as the supreme value of law and authority, Locke formulated the basis of liberalism based on social contract theory. To these early enlightenment thinkers, securing the most essential amenities of life— liberty and private property among them—required the formation of a "sovereign" authority with universal jurisdiction.

Once humans moved out of their natural state and formed societies, Locke argued as follows: And this is that, and that only, which did or could give beginning to any lawful government in the world".

Early beliefs about revolution

One political scientist described this new thinking as follows: In the First Treatise, Locke aimed his guns first and foremost at one of the doyens of 17th century English conservative philosophy: Filmer's Patriarcha argued for the divine right of kings by appealing to biblical teaching, claiming that the authority granted to Adam by God gave successors of Adam in the male line of descent a right of dominion over all other humans and creatures in the world.

Reinforcing his respect for consensus, Locke argued that "conjugal society is made up by a voluntary compact between men and women".

For Locke, this created a natural right in the liberty of conscience, which he argued must therefore remain protected from any government authority.

Three arguments are central: Rather than force a man's conscience, government should recognise the persuasive force of the gospel. His central argument was that the individual is capable of using reason to distinguish right from wrong.

To be able to exercise this right, everyone must have unlimited access to the ideas of his fellow men in " a free and open encounter " and this will allow the good arguments to prevail. In a natural state of affairs, liberals argued, humans were driven by the instincts of survival and self-preservation and the only way to escape from such a dangerous existence was to form a common and supreme power capable of arbitrating between competing human desires.

Modern liberals claim that formal or official guarantees of individual rights are irrelevant when individuals lack the material means to benefit from those rights and call for a greater role for government in the administration of economic affairs.

As heirs of the Enlightenment, liberals believed that any given social and political order emanated from human interactionsnot from divine will.

From the 17th century until the 19th century, liberals from Adam Smith to John Stuart Mill conceptualised liberty as the absence of interference from government and from other individuals, claiming that all people should have the freedom to develop their own unique abilities and capacities without being sabotaged by others.

Classical liberals were committed to individualism, liberty and equal rights. Writers such as John Bright and Richard Cobden opposed both aristocratic privilege and property, which they saw as an impediment to the development of a class of yeoman farmers.

This new kind of liberty became known as positive liberty to distinguish it from the prior negative version and it was first developed by British philosopher Thomas Hill Green.

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Green rejected the idea that humans were driven solely by self-interestemphasising instead the complex circumstances that are involved in the evolution of our moral character. If it were ever reasonable to wish that the usage of words had been other than it has been [ In a few years, this New Liberalism had become the essential social and political programme of the Liberal Party in Britain [64] and it would encircle much of the world in the 20th century.

An analysis of the concept of liberalism

In addition to examining negative and positive liberty, liberals have tried to understand the proper relationship between liberty and democracy.

As they struggled to expand suffrage rightsliberals increasingly understood that people left out of the democratic decision-making process were liable to the " tyranny of the majority ", a concept explained in Mill's On Liberty and in Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville.Neoliberalism or neo-liberalism refers primarily to the 20th-century resurgence of 19th-century ideas associated with laissez-faire economic liberalism.: 7 Those ideas include economic liberalization policies such as privatization, austerity, deregulation, free trade and reductions in government spending in order to increase the role of the private .

Revolution: Revolution, in social and political science, a major, sudden, and hence typically violent alteration in government and in related associations and structures. The term is used by analogy in such expressions as the Industrial Revolution, where it refers to a radical and profound change in economic.

Liberalism in the 19th century. As an ideology and in practice liberalism became the preeminent reform movement in Europe during the 19th century. Its fortunes, however, varied with the historical conditions in each country—the strength of the crown, the élan of the aristocracy, the pace of industrialization, and the circumstances of national unification.

by John C. Goodman 1.

Neoliberalism - Wikipedia

Prior to the 20th century, classical liberalism was the dominant political philosophy in the United States. It was the political philosophy of Thomas Jefferson and the signers of the Declaration of Independence and it permeates the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers and many other documents produced by the people who created the American.

by John C. Goodman 1. Prior to the 20th century, classical liberalism was the dominant political philosophy in the United States. It was the political philosophy of Thomas Jefferson and the signers of the Declaration of Independence and it permeates the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers and many other .

Liberalism in the 19th century. As an ideology and in practice liberalism became the preeminent reform movement in Europe during the 19th century.

An analysis of the concept of liberalism

Its fortunes, however, varied with the historical conditions in each country—the strength of the crown, the élan of the aristocracy, the pace of industrialization, and the circumstances of national unification.

What Is Classical Liberalism? | Goodman Institute for Public Policy Research