The Similarities Between Classical and Modern Liberalism Are Greater Than the Differences

1723 words 7 pages
Similarities between classical and modern liberalism are greater than the differences. Discuss. (45 marks)
Typically, liberalism is categorised into two separate components; classical liberalism, which was fashioned during the 19th century as a result of the industrial revolution, and the more recent Modern Liberalism which emerged as industrialisation continued within the UK. Although both divisions of Liberalism unavoidably overlap in attitudes and approaches regarding the theory behind the ideology, I believe, fundamentally, that clear tensions between these aspects of Liberalism are more evident when analysing this ideology.
Some will say that both classical and modern liberalists possess a number of parallel approaches towards this
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Classical liberals believed that the existence of a state was evil, in that it imposed collective will on society; thereby limiting the freedom and responsibility of individuals. Thus, a state’s role should be minimal and should only be used as a system for maintaining laws that protect individual rights and freedoms, as well as acting a protection service from attack by other nations. Some, like the Lord John Acton, perceived any power or dominance given to the state to be disastrous, stating that “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Thus the state’s role should be minimal, reducing its power so that it was enough to protect individuals, but not enough to become superior to the people. However, Modern liberals on the other hand allowed and even encouraged state intervention, as they believed, similarly to T H Green, that this would ensure that each individual would be able to develop and reach their full potential and autonomy. Unlike classists, who believed in no such support for people, and that they should be left alone to their own devices, modern liberals saw the state as an essential tool to create and maintain a system of ‘equality of opportunity’. This meant that the state should act as a support, helping those in need, to ensure that all people are, as it were, ‘on a level playing field’. Although the state could not determine the same outcomes for everyone, modern liberals


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