To What Extent Has Modern Liberalism Departed from the Ideas of Classical Liberalism?

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To what extent has modern liberalism departed from the ideas of classical liberalism? The further development of industrialisation led to social and economic inequality. This led to a revision of classical liberal ideas to prevent the spread of ignorance and poverty. It is suggested that modern liberals have betrayed classical liberal ideas as they embrace collectivism and diverge from classical liberalism on issues such as freedom. However, it can be argued that modern liberals have simply built on classical liberal ideas such as its commitment to the individual. One area in which it is suggested that modern liberalism has departed from classical liberalism is individualism. Classical liberals believe in egoism, that individuals are…show more content…
Mill disagreed with Bentham as he believed in ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ pleasures that can be derived from actions and promoted those pleasures which developed an individual’s skills and abilities rather than short-term pleasure seeking actions. He placed emphasis on individual development and flourishing. Another area in which it is suggested that modern liberalism has departed from classical liberalism is freedom. Classical liberals believe in negative freedom. This is simply that there should be an absence of external constraints on the individual and as such they should be left alone to make their own choices. In this way classical liberals were heavily influenced by the natural rights theories of John Locke and Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson claimed that we were born with inalienable rights and therefore no individual or government had the right to take these away. Freedom from constraints is therefore an essential condition for exercising these rights. In practise, this has meant that classical liberals have advocated a minimal state or what John Locke referred to as the ‘night-watchman state’. The activities of this state should be limited to the enforcement of contracts, maintaining order and protection from foreign threats to prevent the state from infringing on individual liberties as much as possible. Modern Liberals on the other hand have advocated a more positive interpretation of freedom. Positive
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