BA LLB first-year political theory sample model practice question answer papers Unit-2 Liberalism

UNIT-II(ba llb notes)

Major Political Ideologies – Liberalism, Socialism, Marxism Utilitarianism, Gandhism, and Sarvodya. Sovereignty-Concept of Political and Legal Sovereignty.


Q. 1. Define liberalism and examine its basic principles.

What is liberalism? Explain its basic features and add a short criticism. 



Liberalism includes various philosophical, social-political and economic ideas. It is, therefore, not possible to give a definition of its conservatism. Conservatives are those who seek to preserve traditional institutions and are opposed to radical changes. Liberals, on the country, have no Tove for Traditions and seek the transformation of existing institutions. They are not even afraid of revolutionary changes. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, liberals waged a relentless struggle against the privileges of the nobility and the church and against absolute monarchy. They fought for liberty, equality, and democracy. But liberalism of today is not a revolutionary creed. It defends the institution of private property and the capitalist economic system. It is opposed to the contemporary revolutionary ideologies like socialism and communism. Thus liberalism is not an all-time revolutionary creed. It was revolutionary only in a particular social context.

Liberalism is sometimes identified with individualism. But it is not proper to do so. No doubt, individualism is an essential element of liberalism, but the two are not identical. George Sabine states that till the third quarter of the nineteenth century there was no basic difference considered to be the fundamental creed of liberalism. But after that, the situation changed and liberalism was considerably modified. The posited the concept of positive-freedom against the negative concept of Carly individualism.

Similarly, it is wrong to identify liberalism with democracy. Liberals no doubt are champions of democracy, but democracy in practice means the rule of a majority, and a democratic state may not accept the principles

of individualism. The majority may breach the rights of the minorities

as the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka and the Sunnis in Pakistan are doing. But liberalism does not recognize the claims of a majority to crush the rights of minorities. From the above discussion, it is clear that it would be wrong to identify liberalism with laissez-faire individualism or with democracy in the sense of majority government. In this connection, the view of W. M. McGovern seems to be correct. He writes To the present writer it seems clear that liberalism as a political creed is a compound of two separate elements. One of these is democracy the other is individualism. Principles of Liberalism

(1) faith in Human Reason. Faith in human reason is an essential elements of liberalism. It repudiated the Christian doctrine of revelation and scriptural infallibility. It sought to establish the supremacy of human reason in the field of knowledge. It lore as under the shackles that had enchained the human mind for centuries. Thomas Paine declared in a challenging lone that he had no faith in the authority of any church and said, “My own mind is my own church.” This attitude of mind gave a tremendous impetus to free-thinking which prepared the way for the development of science. The liberal thinkers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had unbounded faith in the power of human reason. They believed that all the problems of life could be solved by the human mind.

(2) Hatred for Tradition and History. Liberalism was opposed to the traditional political, social and economic institutions which were based on privilege and inequality. The liberals sought to make a clean sweep of the past and build a new social order based on freedom and equality, and they believed that the basic elements of human nature were universal and therefore a rational social order could be devised which would suit all peoples in all places and ages. They denied the importance of history and tradition in the life of people.

(3) faith in Human Progress. Liberalism has faith in human progress, I believe that mankind can make boundless progress if the traditional restrictions on individual freedom are removed. Lībcaals held that if the old rotten political and social institutions are swept off and society is reconstructed on a rational basis, conditions can be created in which a happy and prosperous life for all may be possible. Thus according to the liberal thinker, the golden age of mankind lies in the future.

(4) The concept of Masterless Man. This is a very important element of liberalism. Liberalism believes that fran is born free has no master. He is his own master. His personality is an independent moral entity. Everyone is responsible for his own material and more good. Nobody else has a right to impose his own concept of good him. This concept of masterless man is revolutionary in the sense that it provides the widest scope for the revolutionary of individual personality and its development in various possible direction.

(5) Mechanical concept of Society and State. According to liberal thinkers, both society and state are artificial, and their nature is mechanical. Individuals have created them for the protection of their own rights and the promotion of their own happiness. They can change or modify them according to their wills. The basis of man’s social relations is contractual. There is nothing organic in the nature of a society or the state. They have no life or purpose of their own which may be separate from the life and purpose of the individuals who compose them.

(6) Individual an-End, Society and State Means. The above argument of the liberals leads to the logical conclusion that the individual is an end in himself and society and the state is mere means for the protection of his rights and the promotion of his happiness. His material and moral welfare is the end for which the state and society exist. There is no higher or more important entity than the individual. He cannot be sacrificed at the altar of the state, society, nation or class.

(7) Concept of Natural Right. It has been an article of faith the liberal that the individual is endowed with certain inalienable rights. These rights have an exponent of the theory of natural rights. According to him, life liberty and property are important natural rights of man. These rights have not been created by any human agency. Sociсty or the State is not their creator. Rather society and the state themselves are the product of these rights. This concept of natural rights exercised a tremendous influence on the leaders of the American and the French Revolutions. It continued to influence the leaders of the American and the French Revolutions. It continued to influence political thought until the nineteenth century, Herbert Spencer believed in it. However, the utilitarian thinkers like Bentham and Mill did not believe in it. The liberals of this age have altogether’ renounced it.

(8) The Ideal of Freedom. According to liberals, freedom is the most important right of the individual. Man is born free, freedom

is his inalienable right. Freedom means the absence of restraint. A man is free insofar as he is not restrained from doing what he wants to do or what he would choose to do if he knew that he could. The idea of choice implies a kind of freedom. Herbert Spencer said, “Every man is free to do that which he wills, provided he infringes not the equal freedom of any other man.”

J. S. Mill was one of the greatest defends of individual liberty. He writes: “The principle is that the sole end for which mankind are warranted individually or collectively in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number is self-protection. that the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community against his will is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. the only part of the conduct of anyone for which he is amenable to society is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.” Hobhouse in his famous book. Liberalism, has described the following nine kinds of liberty.,

(i) Civil Liberty. It means that government should be based on An Individual should be treated according to law. Nobody should have a deal with him in an arbitrary manner. People should be governed not by men. Moreover, the law should be the same for all.

(ii) Fiscal Liberty The liberals regard an individual’s right to property as sacred. Fiscal liberty, therefore, means that nobody should be deprived of his property without his consent. This idea is succinctly taxation without representation.

(iii) Personal Liberty. It implies that the individual should be free to decide how he would like to exercise his inherent powers’ and to determine and regulate the conditions of his own life. It includes freedom of thought expression, association, etc.

(iv) Social Liberty It implies equality of opportunity for all. It means that the doors of all professions, posts’ and education must, be open to all, and no discrimination should be made on the ground of race, religion, etc.

(v) Economic Freedom. It means that the government should interfere in the economic field, in trade and industries. The individual should be free to pursue economic activities without state intervention. summarized in the phrase laissez-faire or free economic competition.

(vi) Domestic Freedom. It implies equal rights for women. Women. should be free to hold property and carry on business activities.

(vii) Racial and National Freedom. It implies that every nation should have the right to self-determination. But the liberals supported this freedom only European nations. They were not prepared to grant this freedom to Asian and African nations.

(viii) International Freedom. Liberalism is opposed to the use of force in international affairs. It is also opposed to armament.

(ix) Political Freedom. It means mat every adult should have a share in the governance of the suite. It implies the right to vote, the right to seek election to public offices and the right to be eligible to government posts.

(9)The Ideal of Equality. The above discussion shows that the ideal of equality is an important moment of liberalism. The liberal support freedom for all This in itself implies equality. They support

equality on two grounds. (i) all men are born equal and (ii) all men · are endowed with reason and moral consciousness. According to the

liberals, all men and women should be equal before law Nobody should be discriminated against on the ground of race, religion, color, sex;


(10) Authority and Functions of State to be Limited. Liberalism stands for limiting the authority and functions of the state. In the nineteenth century sought to reduce the functions of the state to the minimum. They believed in free and open competition in all spheres of life. But there came a change in their attitude towards the end of the century. And now they have accepted the ideal of the welfare state. But they are opposed to all sorts of collectivization.

(11) The Ideal of Popular Sovereignty. The principle of popular sovereignty is an essential elements of liberalism. From its very inception has been opposed to all form of arbitrary government. The Virginia Bill Right states, “That all power is vested in and consequently derived from people the magistrate is their trustees and servant, and at all. items amenable to them.” Similarly, the French Declaration of Rights of Men and Citizens states: “The nation is essentially the source of all sovereignty, nor can any individual, or anybody of men, be entitled to any authority which is not expressly derived from it.”

(12) The Ideal of a Secular State, Liberalism supports the ideal of a secular state. The State should not establish endow or support any

religion. Besides, it should not interfere in the religious affairs of any individual or community

(13) The Ideal of National Self-Determination. Like the point above, liberalism supports the ideal of national self-determination. It implies that every nation should be independent. It should be free to determine its own form of government and its own social and economic life. But in this respect, the attitude of the liberals has not been consistent. They supported the right to self-determination only for the white nations of the world. They were not prepared to extend this right to the nations of Asia and Africa. Even J.S. Mill thought that Asian and African nations were not fit for self-government. Merits of Liberalism

A great merit of liberalism is its intrinsic humanism. It stands for liberty, equality, and democracy. It is opposed to all forms of authoritarianism and totalitarianism. Il regards the individual as an end and the state as a means. It emphasizes the moral dignity and worth of the individual. It stands for religious toleration and supports the idea of the secular state. It is opposed to all sorts of obscurantism.


Liberalism ignores history and tradition. It ignores the organic · nature of society and lays too much emphasis on competition as opposed

to co-operation. It defends the institution of private property in the means of production, distribution, and exchange, and thereby indirectly justifies the exploitation of man by man. Its concept of liberty is negative and that of equality formal. It is opposed to socialism which seems to be the only solution of the economic inequalities of the capitalist system.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *