LIBERALISM by Sesa Gill at LexCliq

Liberalism stands against coercive interference of any kind by the authority of the state. It is a passion for liberty. It has faith in the value of human personality. In true sense of the term Liberalism stands for the theory and practice of individual liberty, judicial defence and the constitutional State. Liberalism may be regarded as an idea, an attitude, a philosophy, even an ideology; the heart of which is contained in recognizing the liberty, the worth and the dignity of the individual.

Evolution of liberalism

Liberalism in the modern sense emerged in the 17th C. It was a reaction against the authority of the Feudal Lords, the power of the Clergy and the government by the Aristocrats.

Hobbes, Locke, Bentham, Jeremy Mill and John Stuart Mill contributed a lot to the cause of Liberalism.

Chief Characteristics

  1. Firm belief in the value of human personality.
  2. It postulates certain rights of the individual.
  3. Contract between the state and the individual is the relation between the two.
  4. It believes that, that government is best which governs the least.
  5. Freedom for the individual in almost all fields is the essential requisite of Liberalism.

The implications of Liberalism can be seen in three important directions—-Social, Economic and Political.

  1. In the Social sphere Liberalism stands for man’s freedom from the shackles of religious orthodoxy and social restraints. It enjoins that man should have a scientific temper.
  2. In the Economic sphere Liberalism means, mans freedom to carry on any trade or profession and his also his freedom to keep or dispose off his property.
  3. In the Political sphere, it desires a democratic system with Separation of powers, free and fair elections, freedom of the Press and the Judiciary, protection of the rights of the people and accountability of the rulers to the people.

The development of Liberalism clearly classifies it into two clear concepts:-Negative and Positive.

Negative Liberalism Negative concept of Liberalism is also known as Classical Liberalism or a Laisse Faire Liberalism.

The chief characteristics of Negative Liberalism are-

  1. Individualism formulates the philosophical basis to Negative Liberalism.
  2. Based on the theory of Social Contract – it believes that the State in an artificial institution.
  3. According to it, ‘State in a necessary evil’. It is in favour of free economy.

Positive Liberalism – Demands for democracy and political equality transformed gradually Negative Liberalism into Positive Liberalism.

The chief characteristics of Positive Liberalism are-

  1. It believes in free and open society.
  2. It propounded the theory of positive liberty.
  3. It has firm conviction in the principle of,‘ Freedom through the State’ instead of ‘Freedom from the State’
  4. It considers that the state may be helpful in the development of human personality.
  5. According to it the State must regulate, plan and operate the economy in the overall interest of all.
  6. It tries of fill in the gap between self interest and social interest.

Critical Evaluation

  1. It is a highly fluid philosophy.
  2. It is criticized as a theory of capitalist class.
  3. The Positive liberals have a strong faith in the capacity of the State for social service that it results into tremendous increase in the powers of the State.
  4. We still continue to need Liberalism but it must be supplemented by some other philosophy to have its unfailing and definite contributions.


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