• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Analyse the similarities and differences between Classical and Modern Liberalism

Extracts from this document...


Analyse the similarities and differences between Classical and Modern Liberalism Typically Liberalism can be categorised into two different strands, Classical and Modern (yet some thinkers advocate a third strand that is referred to as Neo-Liberalism), each characterised by their differing and to some extent unavoidably overlapping attitudes regarding the theory behind the ideology and how it should be put into practice. Prior to examining how these relate to one another and before making any comparisons, it is important to give a definition, as best as possible, of Liberalism as a concept. Liberalism is an ideology and due to the changing views of historical persons, who have each viewed themselves to be Liberals, is difficult to define precisely. There are five agreed defining tenants of Liberalism. The most important of these, percolating through the ideology, is the 'Importance of the Individual', and closely interlinked with this is 'Freedom', which leads on to the concept of 'Individual Freedom or liberty'. Liberals believe that humankind is a rational species, and thus 'Reason' is a third tenant. Furthermore Liberalism advocates that the principle of 'Justice' and Toleration' are fundamental in the well being of society and each of these aspects relates directly back to the quintessential first tenant. Liberalism, according to Habermas "emphasises individual freedom from restraint and is usually based on free competition, the self-regulating market, and the ...read more.


Classical liberals hold the view that individuals are 'isolated atoms', who are egotistical and self-seeking in nature; Macpherson refers to this as 'possessive liberalism.' Modern liberalism advocates a more optimistic view; that individuals have a social responsibility for one another and the helpless and weaker amongst them. These differing views are reflected in practice by the economic policies of each strand, and their attitude towards the role of the state. The general liberal view is that people should have the freedom to do what they want; to live and work and say what they wish. This is not absolute and Mill says in is essay 'On Liberty' that the "only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of civilised community against his will, is to prevent harm to others." This view only accepted minimal restrictions to prevent this and thus did not accept self-harm preventing restrictions that are apparent today such as cycle helmet or seatbelt laws. Isiah Berlin explains that there are two "different concepts of Liberty": 'negative', which typically reflects an earlier time period and bases its principles purely on the absence of external restrictions and constraints, and 'positive', which focuses on the autonomous nature of the individual and follows Mill's argument that liberty is more than just freedom from restrictions, but also man's capacity to develop and achieve self-realisation and gain fulfilment. ...read more.


People should have free choice in economic activity, as they are rational and that for example if unemployment was rising wages would naturally fall to prevent this. This theory of 'laissez-faire' economics was revived later by the Neo-liberals such as Thatcher and Reagan, who reversed the trends of 'big' government intervention and claim the market was morally and practically superior to the government. Modern liberals take a different view on economic management, particularly reflected by the period post Second World War until 1975, which is associated with the application of 'Keynesian economics.' They disagree with the classical view that wages would drop to prohibit unemployment because of Trade Unions, and claim that according this view unemployment would enter a vicious spiral. The implications of this are that Modern liberal economics advocates the state managing the economy and that logically the state has a role to play in helping people achieve the self-fulfilment, that liberalism works towards. This is consistent with the Modern liberal view of freedom effectively as an 'enabling process'. The Modern and Classical strands of liberalism share similar principles - indeed if they did not, it would be wrong to classify them as two strands of the same ideology. It seems the fundamental differences between them rely on the 'negative' and 'positive' views, which define them and which lead on to the fundamental opposition inherent in liberalism: the role of the state. ?? ?? ?? ?? Alexander Phillips ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Political Philosophy section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

4 star(s)

4 Stars - A thorough, articulate and well argued essay that demonstrates a strong understanding of the main elements of liberalism. The different liberal traditions are compared effectively, but I feel to improve there needs to be a sense of ongoing evaluation and a more decisive conclusion that directly addresses the question.

Marked by teacher Dan Carter 15/10/2013

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Political Philosophy essays

  1. Conservatsim favours pragmatism over principle, discuss.

    Individuals should be encouraged to be self-reliant and make rational choices in their own interests. This therefore caused the shrink of the state, and the amount of help they gave to people who were struggling; completely opposing the idea's previously stated by Disraeli.

  2. An essay on David Ricardo's Major Contribution to Economics

    His review of Ricardo's work in 1818 greatly helped to boost the sales of the treatise. The third supporter was Thomas de Quincy (1785-1859), although he was better known as a writer rather than an economist he was nevertheless a true advocate of Ricardo's theories.

  1. What are the main advantages and limitations of the trait and type approaches to ...

    In the other main approach to the study of personality, typology, there are five approaches, including Hippocrates' four humours, Sheldon's typology, Eysenck's typology, 'big five factor' theory and Jung's typology.

  2. A Comparison of Marx's and Rousseau's Philosophies.

    Although their ideas about freedom is exactly the same, in regard to impediments to freedom, they were not like-minded. Rousseau saw inequality as an impediment to freedom, whereas Marx considered private property and the capitalist relations of production as the impediments to freedom.

  1. 'Socialists have disagreed on both the means and ends of socialism' - Discuss

    Even Marx, towards the end of his life, was prepared to speculate about a possible peaceful transition to socialism in more developed countries, and Engels supported the tactics of the German Social Democratic Party. The Fabian society, founded in the late 19th Century, took up the cause of bringing about

  2. Compare and Contrast Positive and Negative Conceptions of Liberty.

    Berlin used the idea of positive liberty to answer the question 'What, or who, is the source of control or interference that can determine someone to do, or be, this rather than that?' 5. Not intended to describe two distinct kind of liberty, the 'positive' and 'negative' concepts are interpretations of a single political ideal.

  1. To what extent do the similarities between Classical Liberals and Modern Liberals outweigh the ...

    On the other hand, modern liberals also want to allow humans to flourish and realise their potential, but they believe that if there is inequality in society, the disadvantaged, with fewer opportunities will be unable to achieve this, so it is the duty of the state to intervene and give them the means to realise their potential (positive freedom).

  2. Do you agree with Churchill's statement that "democracy is the worst form of government ...

    What is the purpose of this essay? A. To show the understanding of Democracy. B. Argue or Agree with Winston Churchill?s assertion. What is the Arguments? [Neutral] A. Democracy is not perfect, however we can?t say dictatorship will bring more advantages.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work