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

Have modern Liberals abandoned individualism and embraced collectivism?

Free essay example:

Have modern Liberals abandoned individualism and embraced collectivism?

Modern liberalism is a development within liberal ideology that has revised some of the ideas of classical liberalism. Some classical liberals argue that modern liberalism has abandoned individualism and embraced collectivism to the extent that it has abandoned a belief in the free market and the minimal state and endorsed economic and social intervention.

An alternative view is that modern liberalism has built on and revised core liberal ideas rather than abandoned them, much like the relationship between traditional conservatism and the New Right. The two schools of thought in this case agree on the same core values and goals, but the way in which they go about attempting to achieve them is different. Thus the modern liberal case for government is based on a belief in developmental individualism (linked to human flourishing), and positive freedom (viewed as personal fulfilment). The modern liberal case for state intervention is an equivocal one: they only support intervention when individuals can’t help themselves, usually because of social disadvantage.

A further view could be that modern liberalism is characterised by an attempt to reconcile individualism with collectivism.

Collectivism is the belief that collective social action is morally and practically superior to individual self-striving. It highlights the social aspect of human nature and portrays collective bodies or social groups as meaningful entities.

Individualism is often associated with attempts to contract or minimising the state with a view to widening individual freedom and strengthening individual responsibility .This is reflected in the classical liberal preference for a minimal state and, in its most extreme form, in anarcho-individualism.

However, developmental individualism has been used by modem liberals to support qualified interventionism, linked to the expansion of positive freedom.

Collectivism is commonly associated with pushing the state forward, the state being a mechanism through which collective energies are harnessed and collective ends achieved. This is evident in socialist support for social and economic intervention and, ultimately, state collectivisation.

However, collectivism can have anti-statist implications in that it highlights the capacity for social harmony, most clearly reflected in ideas of anarcho- collectivism.

The Classic Liberal view is that society exists for the sake of the individual. The highest purpose of the state, if there is to be a state, consists in aiding individuals to achieve their own happiness. The result of this understanding of moral philosophy is that each individual, each human being, is supremely important. Each individual should regard his or her own success in life as of supreme importance.

The above concept of Individualism fits in perfectly with Classical Liberalism. Every person is sovereign in a social and political context. The citizen in a Classical Liberal society is recognised as having a moral nature with personal authority over his or her own life. No state or government may deny individuals their natural rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of their own happiness. The state exists for the sake of the individual and not the individual for the sake of the state.

In a way, modern liberalism can be seen as a bridge between liberalism and socialism. John Rawls developed an argument in favour of redistribution of wealth, arguing that if people were unaware of their social position, they would view an egalitarian society as “fairer” than an inegalitarian one, because the desire to avoid poverty is greater than that of attaining great riches.

Individualism does not mean that one isolates oneself from society, communities, associations, organisations, and so forth. In fact, Individualists need to join together and work together if the political philosophies of Classical Liberalism and Libertarianism are to be promoted, however Modern Liberals take this a step further in arguing that we ourselves should compensate for others misfortune.

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Politics section.

(?)
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

Related GCSE Politics Skills and Knowledge Essays

See our best essays

Related GCSE Politics essays

  1. A Modern World Study - Modern China.

    The belief that China faces great challenges isn't one that needs to worry about but it does need a strong central government to deal with even the smallest of challenges that it could encounter. It is a member of the United Nations, a nuclear power and the 10th largest trading nation in the world.

  2. Prospects for India's development

    The subsidization has created a culture whereby citizens see utilities as a right and not as a service. As a result, private companies face unique challenges and therefore remain ambivalent about entering into the Indian utilities markets, should they not have high levels of revenue protection.

  1. Why did the Liberals concentrate on poverty? 1906-11.

    Joseph Chamberlain launched his tariff reform campaign in order to address this problem. This could be related to New Liberal ideology. Chamberlain's measures whilst in office as Mayor of Birmingham made the Liberal party realise that such ideas as local governments managing their own amenities and facilities, could work and benefit the whole community.

  2. Asian Values in Singaporean Perspective.

    For instance a rapist was punished in relation to the woman's chastity. A woman who was chaste, or in other words obedient to just one man, her husband, had more rights than a woman of debased social position or one who engaged in extramarital sexual intercourse.

  1. To what extent are the experiences of Yang Digong and Li Zucui typical of ...

    This wasn't very typical, as most people focused on money, but had to exchange family care for this. Most people, especially students, believed that politics were not important; money is the key to a good life: " We students don't talk about politics in our dormitory.

  2. To what extent are the experiences and attitudes of Yang Digong and Li Zucui ...

    and poverty; in fact if a woman knew she was pregnant with a female baby then the foetus was immediately aborted. Li, being illiterate, somehow managed to send a letter to a woman's magazine explaining her many problems, without her husband's knowledge.

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