In What Ways Do Social Liberals Seek To Amend The Classical Liberal Tradition? Are They Right To Do So?

1710 words - 7 pages

Historians have defined the nature of liberalism in a variety of ways. Some feel liberalism is a cultural attitude; others believe it is the ideology of the rising bourgeoisie, many explaining it as opposition to excessive state power and a coherent body of principles based upon the idea of individual freedom. However, the concept of Social liberalism locates middle ground between uninhibited classical liberalism and more extreme ideologies. More a fusion of individual rights and active government, it consists of two main parts. Firstly, the social-welfare component prescribes significant social and economic functions to alleviate the effects of capitalism. The philosophy's second major component, liberalism, reaffirms classical liberalism's central values. Nevertheless, social liberalists argue that such values are not best interpreted through the tenets of laissez-faire, but rather are beneficial to the greater part of society if translated in a different tongue: that of positive liberty. In many respects one could argue that the nature of classical liberalism or "negative" liberty is less effective than its "positive" counterpart: social-liberalism, and hence the latter is justified in amending certain elements of the classical-liberal tradition, specifically high restriction on state intervention in matters of economic and individual subsistence.It is first very important to understand the fundamental distinction between the two different kinds of liberty and consequently the origins of such. In 1690 John Locke wrote the essay, Two Treatises of Government, where he redefined the relationship between government and the people, proclaiming that the state was founded and erected in order to "preserve the natural rights of it's citizens," and that if it failed to do so, the people had the responsibility to rebel improve their conditions. In the pre-industrial days of Europe and America, the poor had a relationship with the upper class that was characterised by deference towards a fraternity which wanted little or nothing do with them. Thomas Jefferson, the main proponent for the laissez-faire policy in the framing of the United States' Constitution, believed that the government would only prevent the people from living their lives freely, imposing regulations which would deteriorate the liberty on which the country was founded. This idea was coined negative liberty, because the negative or absent role of the government, would ensure the liberty of the people.As industrialization had begun its sweeping changes around the world, capital and the need for labor were growing at a unparalleled rate. Mass production was supported by the bourgeoisie, and a new self-made class of men emerged. The mentality of capitalism had shifted dramatically from a method of subsistence, to an enterprise of surplus and profits. The rise in industrialization and the need for maximum capital, led to a cruel neglect of the lower classes, and the conditions of their lives...

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