Presentation on theme: "Liberalism Sarah Richardson"— Presentation transcript:
Liberalism Sarah Richardson firstname.lastname@example.org
Outline Definitions Common features Origins (England/France) Challenges Is Liberalism still relevant?
Clegg & Cameron Nick Clegg (May 2010): For me, that is what liberalism is all about: ensuring that everyone has the chance, no matter who they are and where they are from, to be the person they want to be. To live the life they want to live. You can call it fairness. You can call it responsibility. You can call it liberalism. Whatever words you use, the change it will make to your life is the same. David CameronDavid Cameron (July 2010): Let me briefly explain what the "big society" is and why it is such a powerful idea. You can call it liberalism. You can call it empowerment. You can call it freedom. You can call it responsibility. I call it the "big society".
Common Features Individualism: it asserts the moral primacy of the person against the claims of any social collectivity Egalitarian: claims all men are equal rejecting differences of moral worth between individuals Universalist Progressive: all social institutions and political systems are able to be continually improved.
Origins Some Liberal ideas exist in ancient world – particularly classical Greece and Rome But as a movement Liberalism has only existed since the 17th century. Word is first used when the term was adopted by the Spanish political party the Liberales in 1812. Roots of liberalism come from two very different traditions of English and French political thought.
England: Hobbes Hobbes first expounds the idea of civil association: every man may pursue individualism without coming into conflict with other individuals But also argues that ignorance and slavery are the natural conditions of man with enlightenment and freedom the exceptions. Hobbes provided a context for the work of John Locke.
Title-page to Hobbes' Leviathan (London: Andrew Cooke, 1651) An allegory of governance and the nature of civil and ecclesiastical authority. A crowned man (Leviathan) whose body is made of numerous human bodies, emerges from a mountain at the foot of which is a city, holding a sword in his left hand and a crozier in in right hand thus wielding both religious and secular power, and formed of men who have come together in a voluntary and artificial covenant to form a commonwealth Bottom half contains ten framed allegories: Left side: castle, crown, cannon, military trophies, battle Right side: church, bishop mitre, thunder, trident and forks, and assembly of magistrates
England: Locke Locke (1632-1704). Context: a Britain emerging from civil war and religious strife towards commercial prosperity. Twin ideas: The contract theory of government. Basis of limited, constitutional govt (Two Treatises of Government, 1690) & religious toleration (‘A Letter on Toleration’, 1689)
Key concept: civil society of free men, equal under the rule of law, bound together by no common purpose but sharing respect for each others rights. Incorporates doctrine of natural rights Links private property with individual liberty Regarded the state as a human construction, established by an original contract. If government attempts to exceed its powers, it breaks contract, is dissolved, and its subjects are at liberty to set up another in its place.
England: Adam Smith Wealth of Nations (1776) adds economic dimension Smith merged the Hobbes/Locke ideas of civil society with economic theory. Pre-eminence of laissez- faire or free trade economics in liberalism Used concept of "invisible hand" where benevolent God administered a universe in which human happiness was maximised
France: Rousseau ROUSSEAU (1712-78). Leading philosophe, contributed to the Encyclopdie of Diderot, and participated in the salons in Paris His Social Contract (1762) and theory of the general will demonstrate alternative origins of Liberalism. Men must resolve problems through capacity to choose how we ought to live.
Social Contract "Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains". Humans are essentially freebut the ‘progress' of civilization has substituted subservience to others for that freedom Purpose of politics is to restore freedom to us by submitting our individual, particular wills to the collective or general will
Rousseau: a totalitarian? General will = strong and direct form of democracy. Only possible in relatively small states. Rousseau threatens freedom because he was promoting collective tyranny. Rejected representative democracy But is the totalitarian interpretation anachronistic?
Age of Classical Liberalism France French Liberalism grappled with a series of challenges when compared to the English experience. Dilemmas faced by French liberals: how to ‘end’ the French Revolution how to reconcile order and liberty in a nation torn apart by civil war called for a rethinking of Liberalism 3 major figures: Alexis de Tocqueville, Benjamin Constant and Francois Guizot.
Guizot (1787-1874) His father executed during the Terror. Became professor at the Sorbonne at the age of 25 and member of the doctrinaires. Guizot `deconstructed’ the French Revolution, and distinguished between moderate liberalism and extremist Jacobinism. Resorted to selective readings of the past, one that emphasised continuities but acknowledged the development of political institutions was dependent on the social conditions in which they operated.
Moderate Liberalism – constitutional monarchy – civil liberties but can be curtailed against revolutionary threats – free trade – religious toleration – belief in gradual progress rather than revolution. – limited ‘nightwatchman’ state
Age of Classical Liberalism England Liberal society par excellence? Classical variant of liberalism challenged by new liberalism. Important legislation: Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, the Reform Act of 1832 and the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 (Cobden & Bright) But this classic ‘night-watchman’ state never achieved even in Britain.
John Stuart Mill (1806-73) Work included logic and metaphysics, history and literature, economics and political theory. Learned Greek at three, Latin a little later; by the age of 12, he was a competent logician and by 16 a well- trained economist. At 20 he suffered a nervous breakdown Utilitarianism: ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number’. Mill: should maximise human development for a better society
On Liberty Government might be antagonistic to the causes of individual freedom Sole purpose of government is “self-protection” May only coerce others in self-defence Was Mill frightened of mass democracy or middle-class conformism?
Economics & Feminism Developed ideas of Adam Smith for a modern age. Principles of Political Economy (1848) judged the Wealth of Nations to be ‘in many parts obsolete, and in all, imperfect’. Mill identified disabilities of married women Subjection of women (1869) addressed legal subjection of women as wives and their inequality in the worlds of paid labour and politics.
Challenges to Liberalism from above: conservative upper classes from below: socialism religion Great Depression, 1873-96: prompts moves away from free trade militarism and imperialism
Liberal upsurge? Growth of prosperity & decline of traditional industry has encouraged individualism Experience of communism has made liberal concerns with ‘freedom’ more relevant Decline of belief in utopias and revolutionary violence Role of America, where liberalism was never replaced by socialism? But which variety of Liberalism is dominant?
Challenges to modern Liberalism There are two faces of liberalism: political and economic Economically liberal states may be in the majority but autocracies remain prevalent Eg China unprecedented economic growth rate over the last three decades but remains authoritarian Populace is “prepared to accept autocratic government so long as economic growth continues.” Instead of the liberal order that was predicted at end of Cold War, conventions of global politics are diverging
Concluding questions Is liberalism solely a western ideology? As an ideology is it fit for purpose in the post- Cold War world? In economic (global economic crisis/quantitative easing etc) and/or political (% of autocratic regimes unwilling to embrace democracy) terms What are the limits of classical liberalism?