To What Extent Does Modern Liberalism Depart from Classical Liberalism

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The classical liberal ideology emerged as a result of the Enlightenment period, which brought about new philosophies, challenging the existing assumptions about the nature of humankind and society. Modern liberalism developed around 1870 as a result of both philosophical and practical changes, including mass industrialisation. Classical liberals argue that modern liberalism has broken the principles of doctrines central to liberal thought whilst modern liberals claim that they are simply adapting and building on classical liberalist ideas. This essay will discuss the extent to which modern liberalism departs from classical liberalisms by analysing approaches to the size of the state, democracy and the concept of freedom and aims to justify …show more content…

This suggests that whilst there is a considerable difference in attitudes between modern and classical liberals, some parallels can be drawn between them.
Moreover, one way in which modern liberalism has departed from the ideas of classical liberalism is the extent to which the state should involve itself in the lives of the individual. Classical liberals, in particular John Stuart Mill, emphasised a minimal state and believed that an interfering state would impede upon the private lives of individuals. Yet modern liberals fully supported an enabling state; Beveridge believed that citizens should be protected by the state s from ‘the cradle to the grave.’ This implies that, unlike classical liberals, modern liberals supported a government which is fully involved in the lives of individuals and would therefore support policies such as benefits and the national health service. However, classical liberals, notably Samuel Smiles, thought that people should take responsibility for their own welfare because the individual is the guardian of their own prosperity and therefore state intervention is dangerous. This contradicts the belief of modern liberals, who believed that a state should be established in order to help people to help themselves.
Although, it could be argued that modern liberalism does not depart significantly from the ideas of classical liberalism with regards to the size of the state. This is because both forms f the ideology work towards the same aim;

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