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Discuss the factors which were necessary for the emergence of liberal democracy in Britain

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Introduction

Discuss the factors which were necessary for the emergence of liberal democracy in Britain. Liberal democracy, a political system characterised by freedom of expression and education, free elections, universal suffrage and a multiplicity of political parties, political decisions made through an independent governing body, and an independent judiciary, with a state monopoly on law enforcement (Elkin, 1985. p.1-8), became a central element of political discourse and struggle in the 19th century. It was an age of intense debate and battles over the relationship between state and civil society and proper distribution of political power between and within both. Old regimes of these states - monarchy, church, aristocracies and landlords - found themselves challenged by a cluster of institutions that emerged, such as the bureaucratic nation-state, extension of franchise, industrialisation and the changing social composition of the population. In this essay I shall discuss these social and economic conditions that gave rise to the emergence of a liberal democratic state in 19th century Britain. By the 19th century the invention of labour-saving lime-saving machines had revolutionised industry. By 1851 at the Great Exhibition the UK was dubbed the workshop of the world as most mass manufactured items were produced more efficiently and competitively in Britain than elsewhere. ...read more.

Middle

This is an example of the political system being required to defend civil liberties against the encroachment of the government institutions and powerful forces in society, a concept attached to liberal democracy. The luddites also encouraged the state monopoly on law enforcement, another dominant discourse of the emergence of liberal democracy. However, representative democracy does not always act for the majority of the public and it is often argued that a government of elected representatives 'can and in fact often does serve as a mechanism through which a ruling class organizes its domination over other classes' (Levine, 1944. p.151). Patterns of community and family life were factors of the changing social composition of the population. Newly radically politicised men argued for working class women to be confined within the domestic sphere (Clark, 1995). Women's work was construed as immoral and the notion of a family wage was put forward. Restrictions on women's and children's hours of work were made in factory reform acts and in the Ten Hour Bill. In 1854 Barbara, famous for activist feminism nowadays, wrote her first nation-wide publication, 'A Brief Summary of the Most Important Laws concerning Women'. ...read more.

Conclusion

The movement presented petitions to parliament three times and was rejected on each attempt. But although the Chartist movement ended without achieving its aims, the fear of civil unrest remained and many Chartist ideas were included in the Reform Acts of 1867 and 1884. The Chartist movement encouraged more universal suffrage and free elections, both essential to representative liberal democracy. In this essay I have briefly discussed the social and economic conditions that gave rise to the emergence of a liberal democratic state in 19th century Britain, focussing particularly on the impact of industrialisation and the growth of the nation-state, political democracy and population. We can see that struggles in these areas against exclusions on the basis of class and gender introduced factors such as more universal suffrage, trade unionism, education and a civil service, key features of the development of liberal democracy. Although large advancements were made towards the emergence of liberal democracy some would argue that, in practise, it is neither liberal nor democratic. Marxists and socialists argue that liberal democracy is an integral part of the capitalist system which is class based and, therefore, not fully democratic. Because of this it is seen as fundamentally restricted, existing or operating in a way that facilitates economic exploitation. 1358 words. ...read more.

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