The Classical liberalism tradition Homework
Classical liberalism tradition comes from a tradition of thinkers who developed an ideology, rather than a political system. Although many say that classical liberalism stopped after the nineteenth century, libertarians argue that is no interruption in the classical liberal tradition. and Karl Marx offer a critique of various aspects of the Classical Liberal Tradition argument.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was somewhat supportive of the liberalism tradition, which argues that society exists in order to protect the basic inalienable rights of its citizens. However, he also disagreed with the tradition.
According to Rousseau” “Man is born free and yet we see him everywhere in chains. Those who believe themselves the masters of other ceases not to be even greater slaves than the people they govern. How this happens, I am ignorant but I believe it may be in my power to resolve the question.” (p. 205)
In this statement, Rousseau condemns the liberalist society for limiting the natural spontaneity of its citizens. He thinks that a good government can be justified in terms of the compromise to which each individual contributes so as to gain “civil liberty and the proprietorship of all he possesses.” (p. 205)
Rousseau believed that liberalism should be replaced with a social contract. According to Rousseau’s social contract, individuals may exit an anarchic system by voluntarily giving some of their personal rights to the community in exchange for security of life and property. All rights and property would be vested in the State, which would be under the direct control of the people. The social contract would be a voluntary state.
According to Rousseau, “the earliest and only natural societies are families yet children remain attached to their fathers no longer than they need his protection. When the need ceases, the bond of nature is dissolved. Both children and fathers return to independence. If they remain together, it is not a natural but voluntary union.” (p. 205)
Rousseau maintained that the state would have complete control over the lives and property of its citizens because these individuals have voluntarily granted it this right through social contract.
Rousseau believed that the liberalism tradition encourages people to be driven by their own appetites and desires, which prevented them from becoming self-governing, self-disciplined beings. (p. 206)
Rousseau sought for an alternative solution that would solve the problems presented by liberalism. “Where shall we find a form of association which will defend and protect, with the whole common forces, the person and property of each associate, and by which every person, while uniting himself with all, shall obey only himself to remain free as before. Such is the fundamental problem of which the social contract gives the solution.” (p. 213)
Rousseau’s solution to the classic liberalism tradition was to have the state limit property in an effort to avoid the existence of classes, ultimately forcing the existence of an egalitarian liberal society. “Each member of the community, at the moment of its formation, gives himself up to it just as he is: himself and all his forces, of which his wealth forms a part.” (p. 218)
Under this theory, state would be made master of all wealth and all men would have equal rights to necessities. “Each of us place in common his person and all of his power under the supreme direction of the general will.” (p. 214)
Rousseau believed that the transformation from the state of nature to the civil state produces a significant change in man, by substituting justice for instinct in his conduct, and giving his actions the morality they used to have. He believed that his social contract was the best solution for liberalism’s issues.
Karl Marx opposed most of the political philosophy of the liberalism tradition, in which liberal leaders viewed themselves as advocates of liberty. Liberty, by their definition, was basically the right of individuals to do as they pleased with their own lives and their own property.
According to Marx, “the abolition of classes in society presupposes a degree of historical evolution in which the existence is not simply of this or that particular ruling class, but of any ruling class at all, and therefore, the existence of a class distinction itself has become an anachronism.” (p. 278)
In today’s society, liberalists view the freedom of individuals to live as they please as distinct from the freedom to dispose of property as one pleases. However, liberalism during Marx’s life viewed these freedoms as closely connected.
Marx accepted this connection yet opposed both of these concepts as manifestations of “bourgeois freedom.” He supported the philosophy of nationalism, which stated that men and women from one nation should unite as one and work together and that class divisions should be terminated.
According to Marx: “The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of a feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones.” (p. 345)
Marx viewed the doctrine of the rights of man was faulty for several reasons. Marx believed that the freedom of religion and the freedom to own property represented hollow freedoms, saying that the liberalist tradition did not effectively provide freedom for all people, and only the freedom of the ruling class of capitalist society, which was the bourgeoisie, was respected in this theory.
Marx stated, in Manifesto of the Communist Part, that the liberalist tradition “ideas are but the outgrowth of the conditions of your bourgeois production and bourgeois property, just as your jurisprudence is but the will of your class made into a law for all, a will, whose essential character and direction are determined by the economical conditions of existence of your class.”
Marx simply took the liberalist view of justice a step further, changing liberalism to communism, where burdens would be distributed according to individual capacity while benefits according to individual needs. Marx viewed the as an exploitation of the weak or the working class.
The liberalist means of production basically discriminated against the poor and middle class while “the proletariat seizes political power and turns the means of production into state property.” (p. 376)
According to Marx, “The capitalist mode of production more and more completely transforms the great majority of the population into proletarians; it creates the power which, under penalty of its own destruction, is forced to accomplish this revolution.” (p. 376)
Marx’s solution to the problems presented by the liberalist tradition was Communism, which he said would allow the freedoms that the liberal society denies. Marx did not attack liberalism as an evil concept.
Instead, he marketed Communism as a way to expand liberty. This is how Communism came into existence in many countries, through Marx’s clever marketing. Marx seemed fixated on creating a system of ideals that would explain everything, and into which everything would fit.
Santoni, Ronald, Somerville, John. Social and Political Philosophy. Anchor, 1963.
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