Liberalism (Key thinkers (John Locke - Classical Liberal:
John Locke - Classical Liberal:
- Locke says that in a state of nature people would not kill each other like Hobbs said.
- Locke said people are optimistic, perfectible, and rational and in a state of nature would help each other
- Natural rights are rights which are recognised before there was government and every person recognises them such as all men are created equal and property is also a natural right <------ Justification for political government.
- Locked thought people should have to consent to government <------ can hold government accountable and replace it
- Social contract between government and people for example through a constitution, keeps powerful leaders in check
John Stuart Mil - Classical:
- Most enduring idea was idea was 'negative liberty' this meant that freedom mainly involved an absence of restraint. This connected to Mills 'harm principle' which meant that people can do what they want as long as it did not infringe on other peoples rights and only when those actions did infringe peoples rights should the state get involved.
- Mill divided human actions into 'self regarding' and other regarding.
- 'Self regarding' means that the actions you do in society does not impinge on other peoples freedom in society and therefore should be tolerated e.g religion ,drinking alcohol
- 'Other regarding' means that you do does harm the freedom of others in society and it should not be tolerated by the liberal state e.g violence.
- Mill did not just not want to liberate individuals he wondered what they could become and wanted to perfect them e.g through education - developmental individualism.
- Mills - "Human nature was never a finished article as there will always be room for improvement".
- Feared tyranny of the majority, greatest happiness for the greatest number - only rational people should vote.
- Though 'collective opinion' would infringe other peoples liberty.
- Should not suppress opinions because we would not be able to find truth from that and learn from it.
John Rawls - Modern Liberal:
- Restated the idea of the core liberal principle of 'foundation equality' meant individuals required not just formal equality under the law and constitution but also greater social and economic equality.
- This was necessary Rawls argued to ensure a just society where all lives could be rich and fulfilled by only by the redistribution of wealth through the enabling state.
- A theory of justice set out to show that such a redistribution of wealth was not a 'surrender to socialism' but perfectly consistent with liberal principles. To do this Rawls constructed a series of philosophical conditions.
- The second condition was the 'Veil of Ignorance', whereby individuals would have no perceptions about the sort of people they themselves might be in this new society.
- Rawls argued that when faced with such conditions, human nature would lead individuals to choose a society where the poorest members fared significantly better than in present society. Key point here was that this 'fairer' society where inequalities were reduced was the one individuals would choose.
- Rawls noted that though most individuals would indeed choose to improve the lot of the poorest, they would still want considerable scope for individual liberty. Although Rawls argued that a lot of the poor should be improved by the state he did not argue that the gap between rich and poorer should be reduced - his philosophy was still distinct from socialism
Mary Wollstonecraft - Classical:
- Her primary claim was that the enlightenment's optimistic view of human nature and the assumption that it was guided by reason should apply to ALL human beings both male and female
- She went on to argue that in 18th century England both society and state implied that women were not rational and thus they were denied individual freedom and equality. Women could not vote and therefore could not give consent to government
- Wollstonecraft stressed strong support for a republic and female equality. But such female equality, she restated, must be accord to all individuals not just men. She welcomed both American and French Revolutions.
- She also conceded that women themselves were complicit in their subjugation. For this to be corrected she argued that formal education should be made available to as many women (and men) as possible. Without this she said that individuals could not develop their rational faculties, never realise their potential and never realise the absurdity of illiberal principles.
Betty Friedan - Modern Liberal:
- Concern for individualism at the heart of her philosophy. She insisted that all individuals should be free to seek control over their own lives and then realise their full potential.Improve social equality by positive discrimination. Gender was a serious hinderance to all females - Wollstonecraft.
- Argued that it was liberal attitudes in society not human nature that condemned women to underachievement. She said that these attitudes were nurtured and transmitted via society's various cultural channels e.g religion, media
- These channels of cultural conditioning said that their lives were determined by human nature rather than their own rationality.
- She always disdained violence for change and argued that significant progress was possible through legal equality brought about by a liberal state.
- She acknowledged the principles of the US constitution and endorsed its capacity to allow continuous improvement to individuals lives and she rejected that the state was 'patriarchal and under control of the other gender.
- A state should be driven by the representatives (not masters) of the people, is one of the most important 'core' principles of liberalism and it needs to be emphasised that such Lockean ideas required vigorous argument and sometimes revolutionary upheaval.
- The American revolution after 1775 and later the American constitution of 1787 both reflected his insistence upon natural rights, the separation of powers and the principle of government by consent.
- Similarly the core idea of 'rationalism' - that humanity's prime characteristic was a capacity for reason and logic - was far from firmly accepted in the 18th century.
- Early classical liberals (Voltaire) were conscious that individual liberty - a crucial 'natural right' - was vital to self-determination and self reliance, as well as being the condition of government by consent.
- Early 'liberal feminists' such as Wollstonecraft tried to relate such ideas such ideas to the individual liberty of women.
- Classical liberals were also conscious that 'liberty' was a vague term which needed clarification if individualism was to be protected.
- From this came NEGATIVE LIBERTY one which saw freedom as the absence of restraint.
- Individuals should therefore assume they were naturally free until someone or something put a brake on their actions.
-This complemented one of liberalisms core beliefs that individuals were potentially autonomous, atomistic and self-reliant.
- For early classical liberals this definition would have consequences for both the size of the state and the economics of classical liberalism.
- Governments should not just be limited in terms of how they could act but also limited in terms of what they could do. The limited state should co-exist with the minimal state.
- Thomas Jefferson summarised this best when he said "The government that is best is that which governs least ... when government grows, our liberty withers"
- The notion of a minimal state also served to strengthen classical liberalism's faith in the dispersal of political power; a state with assorted checks and balances would be one where bold state action was fraught with difficulty and therefore infrequent.
Laissez faire capitalism:
- Negative liberty and the belief in minimal government led classical liberalism into economic activity and it became linked to the issue of how the state should respond to the emergence of capitalism in the 18th century.
- Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations (1776) became the most important expression of classical liberalism. Smith argued that capitalism via the 'invisible hand' of market forces had limitless capacity to enrich society and the individuals within it.
- That wealth aquired by individuals would then 'trickle down' to the rest of the population so long as the state took a Laissez faire approach to the economy.
- Smith therefore advocated for the end of tariffs and duties. and the spread of 'free trade' between nations and their commercial classes.
4 Key features
- Postie Liberty - social justice, Freedom to do ... not freedom from restraint.
- The nature of society meant individuals were increasingly subject to socio-economic faults beyond their control and these problems which they are not in control of may harm and restrict their liberty.
- People had to be enabled through positive liberty
- The state should help people fur fill themselves.
- Modern liberals had no qualms about claiming only a larger state could repel the new socio-economic threats to freedom and individualism
- Rawls found themselves justifying a substantial extension of the state in the name of individual liberty - state spending etc
- If a state is to be bigger it must be improved.
- Most important of modern liberalism's interest in constitutional reform has been its support for liberal democracy - completing the link between liberal values and universal suffrage.
- However it has shown little interest in direct democracy - fearing tyranny of the majority
- State should remove barriers that prevent some groups having the same liberty as everyone else
- Increased tolerance of racial and sexual orientation.
- Thinkers like Betty Friedan argued the answer for this came in further legislation due to the enlarged state and positive discrimination.