Liberalism and Conservatism

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Liberalism and Conservatism

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Liberalism and Conservatism. Liberalism. Liberalism descended directly from the Enlightenment’s critique of the 18 th century absolutism 19 th century liberals believed that individual freedom was best safeguarded by reducing government powers to a minimum. Liberalism. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

Transcript of Liberalism and Conservatism

Page 1: Liberalism and Conservatism

Liberalism and Conservatism

Page 2: Liberalism and Conservatism


• Liberalism descended directly from the Enlightenment’s critique of the 18th century absolutism

• 19th century liberals believed that individual freedom was best safeguarded by reducing government powers to a minimum

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• They wanted to impose constitutional limits on government, establish the rule of law, eliminate all restrictions on individual enterprise – specifically, state regulation of the economy – and ensure a voice in government for men of property and education

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• Romanticism influenced liberalism by emphasizing individual freedom and the imperative to develop the human personality to its full potential

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• Liberalism was also affected by nationalism, especially in multinational autocratic states like Austria, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire, in which free institutions could be established only if political independence were wrested from Vienna, St. Petersburg, and Constantinople respectively.

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• Liberalism was both an economic and a social theory

• In 1776, Adam Smith (1723-1790), a Scottish economist, published An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations– Smith advocated freeing national economies from

mercantilism, under which the state regulated the prices and conditions of manufacture

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• Smith argued for letting the free forces of the marketplace shape economic decisions, stating that the economy would be guided as if ‘by an invisible hand’

• In France this policy was called laissez faire (to leave alone)

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• Thomas Malthus (1766-1834), an English stockbroker, in his An Essay of the Principle of Population argued that if employers paid their employees more money they would marry earlier and have more children, thus flooding the labour market and driving wages down

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• David Ricardo (1772-1823), an English stockbroker, in his Principles of political Economy (1817), stated that capitalists had to keep lowering wages, because they were their major expenses, and that the economy is driven by laws and any intervention will worsen the situation

• Liberals in the political realm argued that political power must be limited to prevent despotism (an individual ruler with too much power)

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• While some liberals, such as Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), known for his Utilitarianism, and John Stuart Mill (1803-1873), both of England, argued for universal suffrage, other liberals feared the masses and vigorously opposed democracy, believing that the vote should be reserved for the well-off and educated

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• Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), an American president and follower of the enlightenment, asserted in the Declaration of Independence that “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” were inalienable rights

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• The basic tenets of liberalism were the sanctity of human rights, freedom of speech and freedom to organize, the rule of law and equality before the law, and the abolition of torture

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• Conservatism was the guiding principle of the powers represented at the Congress of Vienna

• The period after 1815 is known as the Restoration, for the restoration of the conservative order and hereditary monarchy

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• Conservative ideology developed as a reaction against the ideas of the philosophes and the revolutionaries

• In particular, conservatives objected to the excessive reliance of the philosophes on reason, especially abstract reason which was used to justify ‘natural rights’ and the introduction of new political and social institutions

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• As a coherent movement conservatism sprang up both during and after the French Revolution to support resistance to the forces of change; prior to this it hadn’t been thought necessary to create a coherent conservative ideology; the existing political institutions appeared to be permanent

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• Conservatism emphasized the need to preserve the existing order

• Edmund Burke, an Irish-born, English statesman and political theorist, launched one of the first intellectual assaults on the French Revolution in his Reflections on the Revolution in France

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• In an attack on the claims by the revolutionary National Assembly, which stated that ancient prerogatives had been superseded by the rights of man and principles of human equality based on appeals to natural law, Burke stated that such claims were abstract and dangerous and that the belief in human equality undermined the social order

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• Burke appealed to “experience” as a guide in politics, which was part of a broader appeal to “tradition” and “history” which were at the heart of conservative political thought

• Some counter-revolutionaries and ultra-royalists wanted to restore society to its pre-revolutionary condition

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• Burke, however, was willing to countenance some change, but it had to take place slowly because both society and government are products of a long historical development, and therefore of a great deal of experience that no man could amass in one lifetime

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• Most conservatives agreed that society was an organism that had evolved over centuries and that the individuals who composed it were forever bound with those who had preceded then and those who were to follow

• For conservatives it was meaningless to talk of “individual liberty” apart from society, since freedom could be achieved only through the community– The community took precedence over the individual

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• This was in opposition to the Enlightenment emphasis on the individual and his rights

• This emphasis stemmed from John Locke and his disciples who viewed society and government as necessary evils or artificial constructions

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• Conservatives deplored the persecution of the church during the revolution and the lack of respect for ecclesiastical authority and attacks on Christian dogma

• For conservatives, organized religion was essential for social order

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Conclusion• The birth of modern ideologies took place in the 19th

century Europe

• These ideologies grew and were modified over time

• These ideologies remain in our present day and continue to be debated, with conflict taking place between them

• The greatest showdown between ideologies took place in World War 2 and the Cold War which followed