Liberalism Ideology

  • Created by: g1234.w
  • Created on: 10-03-20 09:55

Human Nature

Human nature

  • Rejecting the idea that human nature is flawed. See individuals as enlightened, rational and capable of self improvement. 

  • John Locke and JS Mill both argued that people can use their rationality to achieve goals for themselves and society

  • People can reach rational conclusions through tolerance, reasoned arguments 

  • Individuals naturally self seeking and likely to act in self interest. 

  • Individuals are competitive but consider others interests.

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The State - Original Liberals

  • State of nature - natural conflicts between individuals and groups, state exists to reduce that 

  • Law established should be based on liberal concept and protect life, liberty, property

  • State should improve tolerance

  • State should promote democracy

  • State should promote meritocracy

  • Constitutional gov should replace arbitrary gov or monarchy

  • Limited power of government - separation of powers

  • Government by consent.

  • Under rule of law people have foundational equality

  • State should tolerate and protect the interests of minorities

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The State - Classic Liberals

  • Role of state should be limited to protecting individual freedoms 

  • State should protect property rights

  • States primary role is to protect from external threat

  • State shouldnt interferre with economic activity except to regulate monopoly powers

  • Gov should use representative not direct democracy to avoid tyranny of the majority

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The State - Modern Liberals

  • State should promote equality of opportunity

  • State should organise welfare 

  • Promotion of Social justice

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  • A long as state respects natural rights and natural law it will also be a natural state  which will rule a natural society 

  • A natural society humans will obey laws which ensure sympathy and tolerance

  • Society should promote freedom and cultural, economic, intellectual progress. 

  • In a truly free society those with ability will prosper and rise to top - meritocracy

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  • Private property ownership is a natural right. 

  • Adam Smith influence - free market would promote economic activity and wealth creation

  • Economic liberty is synonymous with liberty in general

  • Capitalism and free trade will lead to creation of wealth.

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Classical Liberalism

  • Based on negative freedom, the highest form of freedom is freedom from constraint. Eg freedom from gov, and then also crime etc

  • Based on the idea of minimal state, confined to defending nation, law and order and protecting markets from monopoly power. 

  • Equal rights extend to all sections of society other than those who may threaten society. 

  • Laissez faire capitalism

  • People succeed or fail due to their effort but cant control their position in society. State should therefore provide welfare for the most vulnerable.

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New Liberalsim

  • Positive liberty - the promotion of opportunities for individuals to achieve self realisation. 

  • Individuals have a responsibility to help one another 

  • State should operate in providing equality of opportunity

  • Welfare should be provided to help those with no other means of support

  • Equality should be not just foundational but also economic and social treatment - LT Hobhouse & JA Hobson 

  • Hobhouse and Hobson also suggested the state should promote social justice further

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Neo Liberalism

  • Part of the revival of New right ideas in the late 1970’s and 1980’s 

  • Free market capitalism is essential for economic and social progress 

  • State should not interfere with free markets as this will interfere with wealth creation- support of minimal state

  • Oppose dependency culture, where welfare is too freely distributed and people become dependent on them and are no longer economic contributors.

  • Support of free trade and globalisation

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John Locke

  • Enlightenment thinker 

  • Didn’t believe in divine right of kings, rule by consent instead

  • Before the state people lived in the state of nature where humans claimed natural law and natural rights

  • Laws should follow and confirm natural rights and natural laws. 

  • State resulted in a social contract, government subject to consent and in return people agree to obey laws

  • Gov should be limited and there should be separation of powers

  • Should be tolerance of religious and political views.

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Mary Wollstonecraft

  • Wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

  • People were rational and human nature is naturally good

  • Women as capable of rational thought as men

  • Individualism was essential if society wanted progress culturally and economically

  • All citizens should be free to enjoy equality under law and be free from discrimination

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John Stuart Mill

  • Believed in NEGATIVE LIBERTY - each individual should be free to take whatever choices they choose as long as they do no harm - harm principle

  • Distinguished self regarding and other regarding actions, self regarding choices shouldnt be restricted and then other regarding actions should be if they may cause harm to others.

  • Individual liberty was essential for the development of the individual in terms of creativity, culture and intellect. 

  • If individuals were able to develop their individualism all society would benefit

  • Opposed popular democracy where the interests of the few crushed by the majority. So therefore supported representative democracy.

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John Rawls

  • American philosopher

  • Formal equality added the need for equal social and political rights

  • If asked he believed people would say they’d prefer a society with little inequality and there is equality of opportunity. 

  • His conception of social justice was that inequality in a capitalist system could be justified as long as those who gain the most don't do it at the expense of others

  • Strong supporter of individual liberty but insisted freedom of formal social and economic terms should be available to all on an equal basis. 


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Betty Friedan

  • Strong belief in individual freedom, and that people should be able to reach their potential. Self realisation was key.

  • Women were principal victims of lack of opportunity and life choices. Due to patriarchy and dominant attitudes.

  • Adamant that if the state was based on liberal principles then it would  be possible to achieve equality of opportunity.

  • Did not see the state as the principal vehicle of patriarchy, blaming dominant cultural attitudes instead.

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Tensions - Human Nature

  • Original Liberalism Position that all human beings are naturally rational and will always obey laws, as they see this being in their self interest

  • Modern Liberals have a less optimistic view and believe that human beings have the potential to be good and prefer good actions to bad actions. This potential must be nurtured by education and by a free, progressive society.

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Tensions - Society

  • Early Liberals & Classic Liberals & Neo-Liberals all emphasise individualism rather than society. An atomistic society that is in pursuit of enlightenment and self- interest. 

  • Modern Liberals see society as more organic and believe individuals should act to control their self interest in the pursuit of social cohesion.

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Tensions - Economy

  • Early Liberals and Neo Liberals favour a free-market economy, free competition and little/no regulation from the state. 

  • Modern Liberals believe that free market capitalism leads to too much deprivation and inequality. They then see state interference as justified in order to promote social welfare and social justice

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Tensions - The State

  • Early liberals feared the power of the state and saw it as a threat to liberty and believed it would inhibit enterprise and reduce the dynamism of the economy.

  • Modern Liberals have accepted an expanded state especially in education, welfare and redistribution of income. This was opposed by modern Neo-Liberals

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