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  • Created on: 30-05-14 18:58

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Summary of Liberalism
· origins in the Enlightenment
· central value is that individuals have a fundamental right to personal freedom
· Liberals accept that liberty entails responsibility ­ the actions of an individual should not
harm others or curtail the individual's own freedom.
· Liberals support the existence of a state and its laws to enforce this kind of responsibility
· Liberal state must be formed by popular consent and must be accountable to the people ­
to ensure that it does not curtail freedom without justification
· Liberal state must be limited and only act in such a way as to advance freedom and
· Liberals demonstrate strong attachments to equal rights for all groups, tolerance, diversity
and equality of opportunity.
· More recently: embraced the idea of social justice, accepting that people are naturally
unequal but insisting that they should all have equality of opportunity, and that wealth
should not be achieved at the expense of the poorer members of society
· In modern politics, liberalism can be compatible with both conservative and social
democratic movements.
Introduction to Liberalism
Liberalism has been the dominant ideology in Western society since the early part of the
20th century
All mainstream parties in modern democracies have liberal values as part of their core
Liberalism has seeped into the social and political culture of all economically developed
During 19th C, liberalism was not so popular ­ conservatives placed themselves in direct
opposition to liberal values as a threat to the preservation of order
Later, socialists associated liberalism with capitalism and so challenged it on fundamental
towards end of 19th C, liberalism began to transform itself into a doctrine, able to answer
criticisms posed by conservatives e.g. creation of disorder ­ libs introduced the idea of
social responsibility
in response to socialist claims that the philosophy of liberalism entails excessive inequality,
liberals developed the concept of equal opportunity
After WW1, it was clear that the dominant values of liberalism would prevail in the most
economically developed, non-communist societies
The challenge of fascism in the interwar period (Nazis) was ultimately a futile threat to
DOCTRINE: a strongly held single view or collection of connected views, which is less
comprehensive than an ideology in that it does not encompass a complete vision of a
desired society.
The desire for freedom in its various forms is a doctrine.
For socialists, equality is a doctrine
Liberalism can be seen as a doctrine that includes closely connected beliefs that all liberals
believe in strongly.
The Enlightenment
· roughly corresponds to the 18th century
· may not have created liberalism, but made such a movement possible.

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New philosophies of the period challenged existing assumptions about the nature of
humankind and society
· made never known/done before assertions (confident beliefs) about the human condition
each person is born a free, rational individual
the individual does not have to accept the judgement of rulers or the established churches.
Each person is the judge of his or her own interests.…read more

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Liberalism became necessary to underpin the development of free market capitalism
· growth of international trade, old feudal order was crumbling, industrialisation
· spawning new social classes
· rapid economic growth by freedom of the individual
· ADAM SMITH: The wealth of nations. New economic order was inhabited by individuals with
free will who would pursue their own self interest. "hidden hand" would regulate the
economy. Governments should be restricted to ensuring all to obey the law, and should
steer clear of economic management.…read more

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French liberal Benjamin Constant. "the aim of the moderns is the enjoyment of security in
private pleasures"
· Rousseau and Godwin before ­ quite radical
· Liberals saw that the enemies of liberty were: governments were too paternalistic, claiming
to do what was best for the interests of the people. Also, governments regulated the
behaviour of individuals without just cause ­ some things did not threaten anyone else in
society.…read more

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· Government should operate within strict boundaries to ensure freedom
· fear the exercise of arbitrary power i.e. power that has no legitimate authority
· fear the tendency for power to become too concentrated in too few hands
· fear the democratic systems may simply become the tyranny of the majority, to the
detriment of legitimate minorities.
A LIBERAL CONSTITUTION- typically proposed by liberals:
· it would be sovereign.…read more

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JEREMY BENTHAM ­ all actions by government should be judged on the basis of a kind of
algebra or calculus, which would establish whether total utility would be increased or
Implications of two principles: governments had to accept what the people asserted would
give them satisfaction. Second, government should be limited to providing what the people
as a whole preferred.
· economists: free trade within and between countries.…read more

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SAMUEL SMILES: it is within the capability of all individuals including members of the
working class to improve themselves through diligent activity and a willingness to set up
new economic ventures. Nobody should rely on others
-closely associated liberalism
-Many conservatives and neo liberal thinkers took their support for free markets to
extremes e.g.…read more

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General modern liberalism (summary almost):
1. extension of individual and group rights
2. support for a multicultural society
3. campaigns to extend both worker and consumer rights
4. environmental protection
5. policies to counteract the growth of inequality has resulted from neo liberal free market
measures introduced by New Right conservatives.
6. Equality of opportunity
7. reduce the causes of crime rather than relying on punishment
8. political reform design to counteract the growing power of the centralised state.…read more

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Saw state intervention as a threat to individual liberty
· then argued against the utilitarian view that sole motivation of human beings was the
pursuit of material pleasures.
· "better to be a human dissatisfied than a pig satisfied"
· main contribution = defined limits of freedom POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE BUT BERLIN WAS
· Governments should tolerate self regarding behaviour but are justifies in regulating
other-regarding actions.…read more

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