Liberalism: Ideas of Liberty, Contract Liberty, Negative Liberty, New Liberalism Political Science YouTube Lecture Handouts

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Liberalism: Ideas of Liberty, Contract Liberty, Negative Liberty, New Liberalism|Political Science

Title: Liberalism

Idea of Liberty

  • Humans are naturally in “a State of perfect Freedom to order their Actions … as they think fit … without asking leave, or depending on the Will of any other Man” (Locke, 1960 [1689] : 287) .
  • Liberalism is more than one thing. On any close examination, it seems to fracture into a range of related but sometimes competing visions.
  • freedom is normatively basic, and so the onus of justification is on those who would use coercion to limit freedom. It follows from this that political authority and law must be justified, as they limit the liberty of citizens. Consequently, a central question of liberal political theory is whether political authority can be justified, and if so, how.

Justification to Contract Liberty

  • Social contract theory, as developed by Thomas Hobbes (1948 [1651] ) , John Locke (1960 [1689] ) , Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1973 [1762] ) and Immanuel Kant (1965 [1797] ) , is usually viewed as liberal even though the actual political prescriptions of, say, Hobbes and Rousseau, have distinctly illiberal features.
  • In so far as they take as their starting point a state of nature in which humans are free and equal, and so argue that any limitation of this freedom and equality must be justified (i.e.. , by the social contract) , the social contract tradition expresses the Fundamental Liberal Principle.

Negative Liberty

  • Liberals disagree, however, about the concept of liberty, and as a result the liberal ideal of protecting individual liberty can lead to different conceptions of the task of government.
  • The heart of liberty is the absence of coercion by others; consequently, the liberal state՚s commitment to protecting liberty is, essentially, the job of ensuring that citizens do not coerce each other without compelling justification. So understood, negative liberty is an opportunity-concept. Being free is a matter of what options are left open to us, regardless of whether we exercise such options.

New Liberalism (Economical Aspect of Liberalism)

  • What has come to be known as ‘new’ , ‘revisionist’ , ‘welfare state’ , or perhaps best, ‘social justice’ , liberalism challenges this intimate connection between personal liberty and a private property-based market order.
  • First, the new liberalism arose in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a period in which the ability of a free market to sustain what Lord Beveridge (1944: 96) called a ‘prosperous equilibrium’ was being questioned.
  • Believing that a private property-based market tended to be unstable, or could, as Keynes argued (1973 [1936] ) , get stuck in an equilibrium with high unemployment, new liberals came to doubt, initially in empirical grounds, that classical liberalism was an adequate foundation for a stable, free society. Here the second factor comes into play: just as the new liberals were losing faith in the market, their faith in government as a means of supervising economic life was increasing.
  • Robert Nozick (1974: 160 ff) famously classifies Rawls՚s difference principle as patterned but not historical: prescribing a distribution while putting no moral weight on who produced the goods being distributed. One stark difference that emerges from this is that new liberalism՚s theory of justice is a theory about how to treat the pie while old liberalism՚s theory of justice is a theory about how to treat bakers.


1. Liberalism has emerged more an economic concept than the political one in post-world war scenario?

2. Marxiam and Liberalism in terms of private property contradicts each other considering the fact they actually complement each other in other aspects?

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