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Modern Liberalism
Modern Liberalism = described as '20th century liberalism'. Modern liberals were related to the further development of
Industrialisation had brought about a massive expansion of wealth for some, but was also accompanied by the spread of
slums, poverty, ignorance and disease.
Social inequality became more difficult to ignore as a growing industrial working class was seen to be disadvantaged by
low pay, employment and degrading living and working conditions.
liberals found it difficult to maintain the belief that the arrival of industrial capitalism had brought about with it general
prosperity and liberty for all.
Consequently, they came to REVISE the early liberal expectation that the unrestrained pursuit of self-interest produced a
socially just society.
The idea of economic individualism came increasingly under attack, liberals rethought their attitude towards the state.
The minimal state of classical theory was quiet incapable of rectifying the injustices and inequalities of civil society.
Modern liberals were therefore prepared to advocate the development of an interventionist or enabling state.
Classical Liberals have argued that modern liberals have effectively broke the principles that previously defined liberalism.
It had abandoned individualism and embraced collectivism.
However, modern liberals have pointed out that they built on rather than betrayed classical liberalism.
Classical liberalsm is characterized by clear theoretical consistency. Modern liberalism represents a marriage between new
and old liberalism. Thus embodies ideological and theoretical tensions, notably over the role of the state.…read more

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Mill: `Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign'.
A conception of liberty that is essentially negative for it portrays freedom as the absence of
restrictions on an individuals `self-regarding' actions.
Mill believed this to be a necessary condition for liberty but not in itself a sufficient one. He
thought that liberty was a positive and constructive force. It gave individuals the ability to take
control of their own lives, to gain autonomy or achieve self-realization.
He found the notion of human beings as UTILITY maximizers both shallow and unconvincing.
He believed passionately in Individuality: The value of LIBERTY is that it enables individuals to
develop, to gain talents, skills and knowledge and to refine their sensibilities.
He disagreed with Utilitarianism ( Bentham) who stated that human actions are so to gain
pleasure or pain. For Mill, there were `higher and lower' Pleasures.
He was concerned to promote those pleasure that develop an individuals intellectual, moral or
aesthetic sensibilities. Thus, he was particularly concerned with PERSONAL SELF-DEVELOPMENT.
Mill's model of individualism placed emphasis on human
flourishing rather than the crude satisfaction of interests.…read more

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Positive Freedom `The economic liberty of
the few had blighted the
life chances of the many.
Green: Believed that the unrestrained pursuit of profit, as advocated by Classical Liberalism, has given rise to new form of
poverty and injustice. He also rejected early liberals conception of Human beings as essentially self seeking utility
maximizers and Green suggested a more optimistic view of human nature
Individuals have sympathy for one another; they are capable of ALTRUISM.
The Individual possess social responsibilities and not merely individual responsibilities. Therefore, individualist are linked
to one another by ties of caring and empathy.
This conception of human nature was influenced by socialist ideas which emphasised the sociable and cooperative nature
of humankind. Thus, green ideas have been described as `socialist liberalism'.
He also challenged the C/L notion of liberty. Negative liberty merely removes external constraints on the individual, giving
the individual freedom of choice.
He proposed the idea of POSITIVE FREEDOM. Freedom is the ability of the individual to develop and attain individuality; it
involves the ability of the individual to realize his or he potential, attain skills and knowledge and achieve fulfilment.
Negative freedom acknowledges only legal and physical constraints on liberty, Positive freedom recognizes that liberty
may also be threatened by social disadvantage and inequality.
By protecting individualism from the social evils that threaten to cripple their lives, the state can expand freedom, and not
merely diminish it. In place of minimal state, Modern liberals have therefore endorsed an ENABLING STATE ­ exercising an
increasingly wide range of social and economic responsibilities.
Modern liberals share the classical liberal Example
preference for self-reliant individuals who take In the case of businesses that wish to maximize profits, Freedom of
responsibility for their own lives; the essential choice in the marketplace is an inadequate conception of
difference is the recognition that this can only individual freedom. This is because Negative freedom justifies their
occur if social conditions are conducive to it. ability to hire the cheapest labour possible ( employ children
rather than adults or women rather men).Economic freedom can
therefore lead to exploitation or the `freedom to starve'.…read more

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Social Liberalism
The central thrust of modern liberalism is to help individuals to help themselves.
The 20th Century witnessed the growth of STATE INTERVENTION in most western states. This intervention took the form of
social welfare: attempts by government to provide support for its citizens by overcoming poverty, disease and ignorance.
During the 20th century= Modern states became WELFARE STATES. Due to Governments fighting to achieve national
efficiency, more healthy work forces and stronger armies. They also came under electoral pressure for social reform from
newly enfranchised industrial workers.
Within liberalism, the case for social welfare is made by modern liberals in marked contrast to classical liberals who extol
the virtues of self-help and individual responsibility.
Modern liberals defend welfarism on the basis of equality of opportunity. If particular individuals or groups are
disadvantaged by their social circumstances, then the state possess a social responsibility to reduce or remove these
disadvantages to create equal life chances.
Beveridge Report (1942) which set out to attack `five giants' ­ want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness. It promised
to protect citizens `from the cradle to the grave'.
Social liberalism was further developed in the second half of the 20th century with the emergence of so-called social-
democratic liberalism. It is distinguished by its support for relative social equality usually seen as the defining value of
RAWLS: developed a defence for redistribution and welfare based on the idea of `equality as fairness'. He argued that if
people were unaware of their social position and circumstances, they would view an egalitarian society as `fairer' than an
inegalitarian one, on the grounds that the desire to avoid poverty is greater than the attractions of riches.
He proposed the `difference principle': That social and economic inequalities should be arranged so as to benefit the least
well-off, recognizing the need for some measure of inequality to provide an incentive to work.…read more

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Economic Development
20th century western government also sought to deliver prosperity by `managing' their economies. They
rejected the classical liberal belief in a self regulating free-market and the doctrine of laissez-faire.
The abandonment of laissez-faire came about because of the increasing complexity of industrial
capitalist economies and their apparent inability to guarantee of general prosperity if left alone.
The interventionists policies were guided by JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES.
Keynes challenged classical economic thinking and rejected its belief in a self-regulating market.
Classical economists had argued that there was a market solution to the problem of unemployment and
all other economic problems.
Keynes argued however, that the level of economic activity, and therefore of employment is
determined by the total amount of demand-aggregate demand- in the economy. He suggested that
governments could `manage' their economies by influencing the level of aggregate demand.
Government spending is an `injection' of demand into the economy. Taxation is a `withdrawal' from the
economy: it reduces aggregate demand and dampens down economic activity.
At time of high unemployment: Keynes recommended that governments should `reflate' their economies by
either increasing public spending or cutting taxes. Unemployment could only be solved by government
intervention not by the invisible hand of capitalism. Keynesian demand management thus promised to give
government the ability to manipulate employment and growth levels and hence to secure general
Modern liberals see economic management as constructive in promoting prosperity and harmony in civil
society. Keynes was not opposed to capitalism but its saviours. He simply argued that unrestrained private
enterprise is unworkable within complex industrial societies.
Unregulated capitalism tends to bring low investment, short termism and social fragmentation.…read more


Old Sir

A useful survey of the philosophical roots of modern liberalism. Students preparing for A2 synoptic questions might want to develop the knowledge here by adding examples in more detail, highlighting areas of consensus, such as in post war Britain and issues that divide liberal politicians too.


amazing notes, very useful and I highly recommend!

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