Introduction to Political Studies (POLS1007)
Tutorial : 13:15
18 March 2013
THE CONTRIBUTION OF LIBERALISM TO LIBERAL DEMOCRACY
“A political arrangement that promotes the liberty of the individual citizen from arbitrary government” , ( Gamble, n.d.) . This is a political ideology that seems to put great emphasis on the protection of the individual through key principles such as individualism, freedom and equality (Heywood, 2007). Principles that are of supreme importance to the practical well-being of an individual.
Liberalism can be traced back to the seventeenth century, making it the oldest of the modern political ideologies (Funderburk, Thobaben, n.d.) . The early ideas of liberalism were advanced by a stress on the importance of man’s individuality over “the collective” which was the core principle of the liberal ideology ( Heywood, 2007 ). Liberalism puts high emphasis on the protection of the individual by allocating each individual maximum negative freedom. Negative freedom can be defined as, “ the absence of external constraints upon the individual” which is commonly known as non-interference from both government and other individuals (Dewey, 2005). However the ideology of liberalism cannot be advanced unless we are able to distinguish between individualism and collectivism. Individualism is often seen as an attempt to strengthen individual responsibility by constraining state power. Collectivism suggests that the state is a mechanism through which collective goals are achieved thus expanding state power (Dewey,2005). The concentration of power proved to be the liberals fear, since they believed that government is always bound to become a tyranny against the individual because the greater concentration of power the greater room for rulers self-interest thus the greater corruption. Hence the development of the ideology of liberalism which, as stated above, is “ a political arrangement that promotes the liberty of the individual citizen from arbitrary government” ( Gamble, n.d. ). So in an attempt to further protect the individual, the doctrine of “natural rights” was developed by Thomas Hobbes and John Locke ( McNaughton, 1996). Their argument was that each individual was born with certain rights which are natural and cannot, therefore, be denied to the individual by any other man ( Hobbes, Locke, n.d. as cited in McNaughton 1996) . These particular rights suggested basic rights such as the right to life and liberty, to pursue happiness, avoid pain and enjoy one’s personal property. Moreover, individuals are obligated to obey the law of nature, which is basically to acknowledge and respect the natural rights of others ( Locke, n.d. as cited in Funerburk, Thobaben,1989). Thus it is said that individuals have natural rights prior to or in the absence of government. These rights can therefore be defined as “Inherent rights” of free individuals ( Funderburk, Thobaben, 1989). Locke argued that, human beings, in the absence of government and society, society being the collective, are capable of viable existence as reasonable beings apart from society. John Locke went on to argue that since individuals are naturally free, those that stand out as rational individuals may voluntarily enter into civil society ( Locke , n.d. as cited in Funderburk, Thobaben). These individuals formed the government, However the functions of the government itself were inherently limited because according to Lockean theory, government was put into place solely for the protection of God-given rights of men ( Hagopian, 1985 ). Individuals therefore are obligated to remain obedient because of the consent to be governed ( Funderburk, Thobaben, 1989). However, it is not enough to classify this government as just a “government”, because in a liberal context it goes far beyond just “government”, the government has to be a government that focuses solely on the protection of the individual, while...
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