Liberalism has meant many things over the last 400 years and has provided significant benefits to the human race. Basically, liberalism is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights and so, the main theme of liberalism throughout the period of its development was that the purpose of state is the promotion and protection of human freedom and equality and ensuring of human happiness. Liberalism meant the removal of traditional distinctions that were imposed on people. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of the principles of liberty and equal rights, but most liberals support such fundamental ideas as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights, capitalism, free trade, and the freedom of religion. These ideas are widely accepted, even by political groups that do not openly profess a liberal ideological orientation. Liberalism encompasses several intellectual trends and traditions, but the dominant variants are classical liberalism, which became popular in the eighteenth century, and social liberalism, which became popular in the twentieth century. Liberalism first became a powerful force in the Age of Enlightenment, rejecting several foundational assumptions that dominated most of the earlier theories of government, such as hereditary status, established religion, absolute monarchy, and the Divine Right of Kings. The early liberal thinker John Locke, who is often credited for the creation of liberalism as a distinct philosophical tradition, employed the concept of natural rights and the social contract to argue that the rule of law should replace absolutism in government, that rulers were subject to the consent of the governed, and that private individuals had a fundamental right to life, liberty, and property. The revolutionaries in the American Revolution and the French Revolution used liberal philosophy to justify the armed overthrow of tyrannical rule. The nineteenth century saw liberal governments established in nations across Europe, Latin America, and North America. Liberal ideas spread even further in the twentieth century, when liberal democracies triumphed in two world wars and survived major ideological challenges from fascism and communism. Conservatism, fundamentalism, and military dictatorship remain powerful opponents of liberalism. Today, liberals are organized politically on all major continents. They have played a decisive role in the growth of republics, the spread of civil rights and civil liberties, the establishment of the modern welfare state, the institution of religious toleration and religious freedom, and the development of globalization. Political scientist Alan Wolfe wrote, "liberalism is the answer for which modernity is the question".
HISTORY The history of liberalism spans the better part of the last four centuries, beginning in the English Civil War and continuing after the end of the Cold War. Liberalism started as a major doctrine and intellectual endeavour in response to the religious wars gripping Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries, although the historical context for the ascendancy of liberalism goes back to the Middle Ages. The first notable incarnation of liberal unrest came with the American Revolution, and liberalism fully flowered as a comprehensive movement against the old order during the French Revolution, which set the pace for the future development of human history. Classical liberals, who broadly emphasized the importance of free markets and civil liberties, dominated liberal history for a century after the French Revolution. The onset of the First World War and the Great Depression, however, accelerated the trends begun in late 19th century Britain towards a "new liberalism" (social liberalism) that emphasized a greater role for the...
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