• 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...

Introduction

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 years1 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'. It is important to distinguish between the two strands as these liberal traditions clash over their views on certain aspects of society, particularly on the role of the state. From a classical liberal perspective the state should play a minimal role in society, this idea is exemplified by the New right. From a modern liberal view point the state should play an active role in society, for example the welfare 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. ...read more.

Middle

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. However, it's important to understand that liberal thinkers do not necessarily believe that all individuals should have an equal result in terms of their success. Liberals acknowledge that individuals are all different from one another and therefore possess different talents, skills and work ethics. This idea that individuals should have an equal opportunity to develop their unequal abilities holds strong ties to the theory of meritocracy. This is the idea that the most able and most hard working people will succeed the most in life, regardless of social factors. Classical liberals believe that meritocracy works and can be applied to all aspects of life for any member of society, regardless of class. John Locke was a pioneer of such ideas in the seventeenth century. In opposition, the modern liberal Robert Nozick has argued that when capitalism replaced feudalism all individuals had equal opportunity and still certain individuals came to be in a better position than others. ...read more.

Conclusion

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. There is no doubt that liberalism does make an effort to fulfil its commitment to both individual freedom and equality. However, liberalism itself is particularly diverse and depending on the position one takes on the ideological spectrum, it can be seen to succeed or not succeed in fulfilling the dual commitments. Possibly, 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. (Word count: 1, 464 words.) 1 It was not until the early part of the 19th century that Liberalism was seen as a political ideology. It was first used in Spain in 1812 and by the 1840s the term was widely recognised throughout Europe. 2 Collins and Gem. Dictionary and Thesaurus, ('Freedom' and 'Equality') 3 Political Ideologies: An Introduction. Author: Andrew Heywood. (Chapter 2, Page 29) 4 Political Ideologies: An Introduction. Author: Andrew Heywood (Chapter 2, Page 60) 5Ideologies and Political Theory, a conceptual approach. Author Michael Freeden, (pg 141). ?? ?? ?? ?? Andrew Farleigh Page 1 10/05/2007 ...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)

    Although classical liberals believed in equality before the law, they were decidedly sceptical of any attempt to create material equality, and indeed believed that inequality was inevitable. This viewpoint persevered until well into the 1800s, and was reflected in public opinion - in 1859 Samuel Smiles famously wrote that "heaven

  2. Marked by a teacher

    Analyse the similarities and differences between Classical and Modern Liberalism

    4 star(s)

    natural rights as "Life, liberty and property". Immanuel Kant views humans as "ends in themselves", implying that and he makes two implications; that individuals are unique, and that they share the same equal status. Nevertheless, there are two historically differing views, with classical being the earlier and modern the later.

  1. Assess the view that liberalism has triumphed as the dominant ideology in contemporary British ...

    Margaret Thatcher and her special adviser, Sir Keith Joseph were heavily influenced by neo-liberal thinkers such as Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. Thatcher set about using her dominance to convert their fellow conservatives to their beliefs. Their goal was to roll back the frontiers of the state.

  2. How and why does Locke explain the creation, value and protection of property?

    Locke believed primitive man existed in a state of nature, which was one of peace, goodwill, and preservation. In this state, property was common in the sense that everyone had an equal right to draw subsistence from whatever was offered in nature.

  1. Notes on John Stuart Mill's On Liberty

    Even if they could tell, they could not be trusted to refrain from passing oppressive laws. An analogy here is this: you can imagine that there is a surgical procedure that will have some minor beneficial effects, but that there are some people who have a very serious negative reaction

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

    Laissez-faire capitalism is therefore commonly supported by Classical Liberals since it allows individuals to rise and fall according to their merit while ensuring prosperity. Positive freedom, on the other hand, is generally supported by `modern Liberals. It is the belief that freedom should allow individuals to develop their own individuality

  1. Analyse The Main Features of Classical Liberalism

    In the form of methodological individualism, this suggests that the individual is central to any political theory or social explanation. Thus, all statements about society should be made in terms of the individuals who compose it. Ethical individualism is another form of individualism.

  2. 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.

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