• Created by: loupardoe
  • Created on: 21-08-18 22:53

the origins of liberalism

  • the roots of liberalism lie in the Reformation- religious movement affecting much of northern Europe in the late 15th and 16th centuries
  • led by religious protestors
  • founders of protestant christianity argued that individuals seeking to communicate with God and understand His demands need no longer rely on priests, popes and other intermediaries
  • printing press and the printed word- promoted wider literacy
  • luther- christianity could not assume a more individualistic character; each person undertaking their own private prayers and undertaking God's work in their own way
  • it was the enlightenment that sought to extend these religious ideas into the political and secular spheres
  • an intellectual movement that emerged in the mid 17th century; coincided with the English civil war, overthrow of King Charles I
  • had a profound effect on politics in the 18th century- influenced the American and French revolutions
  • defined by a belief in reason and scrutinising anything that was unthinkingly accepted
  • each individual is someone with free will
  • each individual's life should be shaped by their actions and decisions
  • writers began to question the relationship between individuals and governments, seeking to define why and how individuals should defer to those who governed them
  • today such an exercise may seem routine
  • in the 17th century it had revolutionary potential
  • until then it had been assumed that the natural form of government was monarchical; that a king had been put in place by God; a king's decisions should be instinctively accepted by a king's subjects (the divine right of kings)
  • underpinning this agreement were a society and culture dominated by faith, religion and superstition
  • the enlightenment was to challenge and destroy such medieval attitudes
  • human beings were uniquely endowed with the power of logic, calculation and deduction
  • mechanistic theory- it was logical that human beings should create by themselves and for themselves a political system based upon reason

the core ideas of liberalism

human nature

  • liberalism's view of human nature strongly reflected the view associated with the enlightenment
  • medieval notion of human nature was strongly tied to the religious doctrine of original sin- held that mankind was deeply flawed and imperfect; man's only hope lay in him acknowledging his flaws and imperfections while praying for the grace and forgiveness of God
  • liberalism has always denied this bleak view
  • offers a more optimistic view of human nature
  • argues that human nature has a huge capacity to bring about progress and an unending ability to forge greater human happiness
  • belief that individuals are guided principally by reason or rationalism
  • are able to calculate answers to all sorts of problems
  • mankind's innate reason is manifested in debate, discussion, peaceful argument and the measured examination of ideas and opinions
  • individuals have the capacity to plan their own future and effect a preconceived outcome
  • the concepts of planning and the subsequent plan itself are central to the rationalist idea and the cheery liberal belief that human nature allows us to shape our own destiny
  • human problems are merely challenges awaiting reasoned solutions


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