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'Liberalism is an incoherent ideology'. Discuss.

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'Liberalism is an incoherent ideology'. Discuss. 'Liberalism', as a term, it has a lot of meanings, it not one simple, undifferentiated doctrine. Liberalism can be understood as a political tradition, a political philosophy and a general philosophical theory. As with other doctrines or ideologies, there are varieties of liberalism, but all liberals agree on the primacy of individual freedom and individual choice. Along with the evolvement for 300 years of period, the ideology of different period of liberalism is more or less different, such as classical liberalism and modern liberalism, which have tensions of principles of individualism, freedom, economy and so on. Actually, although it has been dominant for so long time, some of the liberal ideology is clear and coherent, but some of others could be seen as incoherent. Liberal ideas resulted from the breakdown of feudalism in Europe and successfully challenged the absolute power of the monarchy. Liberals who were supported by middle class sought fundamental reform, even revolution change, for example, American and French revolutions which were strongly influenced by liberal ideas. Then it gradually formed a distinctive set of political ideas from the early part of the nineteenth century. More different from feudalism, liberalism proclaims the freedom of the individual and believes that civil right should be guaranteed by social contract. And they "advocated an industrialized and market economic order 'free' from government interference, in which businesses would be allowed to pursue profit and nations encouraged to trade freely with one another". ...read more.


Its ideas were related to the further development of industrialization. Although the main point of these two groups of liberalism is the same of individual freedom, the particular of the principles are more or less different. The individual is 'at the heart of classical liberalism and the purpose of politics is to enable individuals to develop their talents and abilities so that they can maximise their own happiness'. (Roberts. 1997) It means that classical liberals subscribe to egoistical individualism. According to C.B. Macpherson, classical liberalism was 'possessive individualism' and regarded the individual as 'the proprietor of his own person or capacities, owing nothing to society for them'. (Heywood, 2003) And the essence of classical liberalism is the belief that individual rights should be protected by maximising freedom of choice and by limiting the powers of government. In other words, 'it represents a rejection of the absolute powers of a monarch or other ruler and seeks to establish limited government, tolerance and freedom under the law'. (Budge, 2001) But according Isaiah Berlin this theory of liberty was called a 'negative' one. This concept of liberty is 'negative' in that it is based upon the absence of external coercions or restrictions to individual. However, for John Stuart Mill, whose ideas provided a bridge between classical and modern liberalism, He concerned with personal self-development. ...read more.


These ideas of modern liberalism are called social liberalism. Modern liberals think welfarism is based upon equality of opportunity and believe the responsibilities of government do not embarrass individual rights, namely positive rights. In contrast, classical liberals believe that the only rights to which the citizen is entitled are negative rights. In addition, the economic management of modern liberalism involved rejecting classical liberal ideas-laissez-faire and market solution. According to classical liberalism, unemployment will fall if wages are allowed to drop. For modern liberalism, the level of employment is determined by the aggregate demand. Keynes suggested that the drop of wages could arise depression of the free market. In a word, the main principle of the two kind of liberalism is the same, clear and incoherent. But there are still many tensions within classical liberalism and modern liberalism. For instance, classical liberalism advocates the principles of economic liberalism, egoistical individualism, negative freedom and individual responsibility. But modern liberalism advocates the principles of social liberalism, developmental individualism, positive freedom and social responsibility. In a sense, the ideology of liberalism is incoherent. Modern liberals, however, have been at pains to point out that they built on, rather than betrayed, classical liberalism Reference: 1. Budge. I, Crewe. I, Mckay. D & Newton. K (2001) The new British Politics. 2nd edn. Pearson Eduation Limited. P389-390 2. Heywood. A. (2003) POLITICAL IDEOLOGIES AN INERODUCTION. 3rd edn. Palgrave Macmillan. P26. P27. P29. P30. P25-68 3. Roberts. D. (edited) (1997) BRITISH POLITICS IN FOCUS Causeway Press Limited. ...read more.

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