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Discuss the rival concepts of individualism and contrasting models of freedom within Liberalism

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Introduction

Discuss the rival concepts of individualism and contrasting models of freedom within Liberalism People who consider themselves to be Liberals place strong emphasis on the concepts of individualism and freedom but they have different ideas as to exactly what these concepts convey. The Classical Liberal view of the individual is that each has unique qualities and value and therefore equal worth. The individual must be viewed as a unit in themselves, as opposed to merely a part of society. In Classical Liberal thinking society is merely a 'collection of individuals' and hence the value of the individual cannot be judged numerically, as Immanuel Kant put it "you must treat each human being as an end in themselves, never a means to an end". This high value of individualism is strong within Classical Liberalism because of the positive view of the individual as rational, self-reliant and capable of making self-benefiting decisions. ...read more.

Middle

The Liberal thinker John Stuart Mill particularly emphasised intellectual improvement, defining appreciation of art, literature and philosophy to be 'higher' pleasures than those of food and sexual intercourse because they emphasised expansion of the mind rather than satisfaction for the body. He stated "it is better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a pig satisfied". Whilst Mill and other Modern Liberals supported the traditional Liberal idea of the importance of the individual their concept of individualism was more developmental than that of Classical Liberals. Progressive Liberalism views society as holding more value than just a 'collection of individuals' and whilst Classical Liberalism accepts than individuals should aim to benefit themselves, Modern Liberalism supports the idea that society should allow individuals to develop their potential in order that society itself keeps improving. Hence Modern Liberals support the concept of positive freedoms offered by the state in order to improve both individuals and society. ...read more.

Conclusion

It perhaps has most in common with the Progressive approach due to the shared support of state intervention, though the aforementioned supports state intervention for reasons of individual improvement rather than maintaining social order. Within Liberalism the rival concepts of individualism and contrasting models of freedom are hugely inter-linked. The Classical Liberal concept of the individual as rational and capable of making their own decisions leads to the model of negative freedoms, the individual is rational enough to be free to make decisions without interference from the state. Meanwhile the Modern Liberal approach of developmental individualism where the individual is expected to pursue self-improvement goes hand in hand with the positive freedom model where freedom is seen as a way to improvement, with state intervention if necessary. Both Neo-Liberalism and Libertarianism support freedom in economics but take a stricter view on other freedoms, supporting some restrictions. The concepts of individualism and freedom take different meanings within different strands of Liberalism. ...read more.

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