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

Liberalism has a dual commitment both to individual freedom and equality. How does liberalism try to reconcile these two commitments? Does it succeed? Can freedom and equality really co-exist?

Extracts from this document...


Liberalism has a dual commitment both to individual freedom and equality. How does liberalism try to reconcile these two commitments? Does it succeed? Can freedom and equality really co-exist? The ideas of liberalism have been around for more than three hundred years and inevitably these ideas have changed over time. These changes led to the development of two strands of liberalism, which are referred to as 'classical liberalism' and 'modern liberalism'. These two liberal traditions clashed over their views on certain aspects of society, particularly on the role of the state. Many key political ideas were derived from liberalism, both classical and modern. The work of the classical liberalist Adam Smith on protections in international and national trade could be clearly seen in Margaret Thatcher's economic policies and ideas on the free market. Her ideas on the role that the state should play in society also followed a classical liberalist approach. Due to the emergence of the two strands the ideology of liberalism was now subject to inherent contradictory beliefs. ...read more.


This would cause a severe inequality. Under this example the two cannot co-exist, one must give way to the other. For example, if one man wants to kill another man, it is impossible for both men to have absolute freedom of choice. It is this which led modern liberals to the conclusion that, the very existence of freedoms leads to a necessity for restrictions. If equal restrictions are placed on each and every individual then perhaps it becomes possible for freedom and equality to co-exist. Individual freedom itself provides a commitment to equality. The belief that all individuals are born equal is embedded in a set of basic and irrefutable human rights. All liberals unite in the belief that individuals should not be disadvantaged in society on the grounds of gender, class or ethnicity and that every individual should be granted equal legal and political equality. It is clear that liberals believe that every individual must have an equal opportunity to achieve success. ...read more.


A huge obstacle on the narrow path to deciding whether individual freedom and equality can really co-exist is the presence of both conservative and socialist ideas which both help lay the foundation of liberalism. This mixture of ideologies within liberalism has led commentators to argue that it is best described as a "general attitude and not a distinct set of political beliefs2". Perhaps the most accepted answer in modern society is that individual freedom and equality do co-exist to an extent. However, many would argue that it is impossible to achieve individual freedom and equality unless all wealth including property was redistributed first. Others would disagree claiming that the cream would always rise to the top and even after wealth had been redistributed and freedom and equality co-existed successfully an elite would once again come to be in a better position due to the theory of meritocracy. Perhaps it is best to see individual freedom and equality co-existing as much as they can and at certain times maybe one has more influence over the other, interchangeably. Thank you 1 Heywood 2 Freeden pg 141 ?? ?? ?? ?? ...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

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. Marked by a teacher

    How and to what extent has modern liberalism departed from the ideas of classical ...

    5 star(s)

    helps those who help themselves", clearly representing a belief in the individual's importance in their own affairs rather than relying on exterior help. However, Modern liberals have most significantly departed from this early liberal belief, and this can be considered to be because of their belief in equal opportunities and self-realisation as the key to freedom.

  2. Marked by a teacher

    Analyse the similarities and differences between Classical and Modern Liberalism

    4 star(s)

    in the form of benefits people ion the basis of race, colour, gender or religion. They therefore have both legal and political equality resulting in equality before the law; "one person, one vote; one vote, one values." Liberals claim that people should have 'equality of opportunity' as thus have the same chance to rise or fall in society.

  1. Notes on John Stuart Mill's On Liberty

    What constitutes harm? a) Basic answer: This is a very tricky question, and there have been very large books published which try to answer just this question. I'll do my best in a paragraph or so. Harm certainly includes most any form of physical harm (e.g., you punching me out, or you smoking near to me).

  2. Distinguish between negative and positive freedom and explain the implications of each for the ...

    and is commonly linked to the achievement of goals or benefits, usually personal development, self-realization or self-mastery. Thus positive freedom is concerned more with the individual's ability to gain fulfilment and achieve self-realization. In this way, Modern Liberals generally adopt a more positive view towards state intervention.

  1. Analyse The Main Features of Classical Liberalism

    Ethical individualism is another form of individualism. Ethical individualism, on the other hand, implies that society should be constructed so as to benefit to the individual, giving moral priority to individual rights, needs or interests. Classical liberals and the new right subscribe to egotistical individualism, which places emphasis on self-interestedness and self-reliance.

  2. Compare and contrast some of the ways in which major political thinkers have tried ...

    offence, in such a situation individuals take the law in their hands thus anarchy or chaos.

  1. How far has Modern Liberalism departed form Classical Liberalism?

    The classical liberal idea is that individuals can do whatever they please as long as it does not infringe upon others freedom. It involves government not interfering with individuals by passing laws restricting what they can do, unless it is to stop individuals doing something which affects other people's freedom.

  2. How and to what extent, have modern liberals departed from the ideas of classical ...

    These were the natural rights that the government should uphold. The rest of the classical liberal doctrines and theories included Utilitarianism, Economic Liberalism, Social Darwinism and Neoliberalism. Also these stated that the market should operate on its own and tied in to the natural rights theory that the individual should be left on his/her own to develop.

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