Moral and ideological stance of liberalism
The term 'Liberalism' is in itself an ideology of the west; it constitutes itself with four elements that are fundamental in its creation of a Liberal Democracy. The moral and ideological stance of liberalism is embodied in a commitment to The Individual, Liberty, Rationality and Equality. However the composition of these elements vary within liberal democracy, similar to the construction of comparative anatomy where these four elements are organised within a structure that has different consequences both morally and ideologically, and yet still possess the same genetic make-up.
The origins of liberalism show a distinctive transition in the concept of The Individual with greater emphasis on the individual's interests and possessing personal and unique identities (Heywood, A. Pg.28, 2003). The transition into a market-orientated society offered a broader range of choices and social possibilities that encapsulated the idea of individuality. However many critiques such as Marxists, have identified the alienation of man within the market as a mere "abstraction, being reduced to performing undifferentiated work on humanly indistinguishable objects, deprived of human variety and compassion" (Ollman, B. Pg.134, 1971).
A belief in the primacy of the individual is central to the theme of liberal ideology, yet the emphasis of the individual has contrasting implications. Firstly, by emphasising the uniqueness of each individual, those characterised by inner qualities & skills, this has led many liberals to view society as irrelevant and merely a collection of egotistical, self-seeking and largely self-reliant individuals (Heywood, A. Pg.29, 2003). Secondly, that as individuals we nevertheless should share the same status as equal human beings and offers a more positive assumption of human nature. This categorisation of human nature has implicit overall repercussions within the placement of liberalism and beyond.
A belief in the supreme importance of the individual leads naturally to the commitment of liberty. Liberty broadly defined in liberal terms, is the opportunity to pursue their own interests by exercising choice: choice of work, of property, what to buy and so forth. Liberals also see liberty as lifting constraints on our ability to develop skills and talents in order to fulfil their potential. Again a split forged in the way in which liberal democracy should exercise these freedoms. Keynes for instances, was a keen advocator of the welfare state and recommended economic planning for the provisions of welfare measures to ensure individuals have a secure platform from which to exercise liberty best. However von Hayek (1960) saw the market as the sole way of coordinating individual freedoms and the freedom that regulation creates is denounced as un-free, that justice, liberty and welfare are merely camouflaging slavery. In contrast, Polanyi (1944)believed that this idea of freedom degenerates into a mere advocacy of free enterprise, meaning that the fullness of freedom is for those whose income, leisure and security need no enhancing and that a mere pittance of liberty for those that need sheltering from the power of the owners of property. In Polanyi's view the market offered a duality of good and bad freedoms, but yet the bad ones take over (Harvey, D. Pg.37, 2005).
The liberal case for freedom is closely linked to a faith in rationality. Individuals are rational thinking creatures, capable of pursuing their best interests. This idea of reason buildings in the strong bias that individuals should not be prevented from exercising their own choices and if necessary should learn from their mistakes. This of course leads many to question the degree to which other individuals can manipulate this position. Furthermore rationalism has liberals believing in progress, that the individual posses' the ability to improve through education and scientific revolution. Rationalism lifts the individual from the grip of the past and from customs & tradition. Rationalism builds a belief in cooperation that with discussion and debate reason will inevitably give rise. Liberalism is generally optimistic about human nature; however also recognising the power of self-interest and egoism. However many Marxist thinkers believe that these elements of human nature occur due to the structural implications of capitalism, that individuals who battle for scarce resources, increased profits and national strategic security measurements do so, due to the competitive nature of capitalism.
Finally the forth element of what makes a liberal democracy is the belief in equality. "Equality, for a liberal, means that individuals should have equal opportunity to develop their unequal skills and abilities" (Heywood, A, Pg.35, 2003). This position again has been disputed between many liberals, those who endorse meritocracy on economic & moral grounds, believing that inequality will favour both the rich and poor by providing incentives for wealth creation and poverty disbandment. Classical Liberals also believe that the negation of feudalism by capitalism created conditions in which individuals could prosper according to their skills and abilities. Many modern liberals however argue that unrestrained capitalism has lead to forms of social injustice that have benefited some and not others. Many Marxists would go further highlighting that the negation of feudalism to capitalism merely played into class interests, that wealth was conditioned into the wealthiest hands and made immobile from then onwards.
The general split between liberal's remains centralised around economic freedoms, with all liberals assuming that economic freedom exists purely in the form of capitalism, yet the purity of free market planning differing on the degree of state intervention. In general liberals assume that a capitalist economy remains the only political-economic system capable of achieving equality whilst maintaining individuality. However it appears rather apparent that this has not been the case, that equality has not been solved through free market economics or capitalism in general.
However I would suggest that liberal ideology does not rest totally on capitalism and that liberal values of individual freedom can exist outside of a capitalist market economy. I would also stress that ethical principle of individual freedom has outgrown capitalism, as capitalism has failed to provide prosperous economic freedoms for all who deserve and lacks real space for opportunity due to coercive forces that capitalism embodies.
Comparative anatomy is used to describe vertebrate forelimbs that are used for flight (birds and bats), swimming (whales and seals), running (horses), climbing/swinging (monkeys, lizards). Yet, all vertebrate forelimbs contain the same sets of bones organized in similar ways, despite their dissimilar functions.
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