Modern Political Ideologies
Liberalism was created to be the first distinguishing political ideology to over-run religious conformity and ascribed status in European medieval society. These ideals accentuated the notion of freedom and personal liberty as the drive of government. The central idea of liberalism relies on the belief that human beings are balanced and self-interested and are capable of determining what is best for themselves. Throughout history liberalism has been further developed by many philosophers and has been the employed ideology in many state governments in the international system.
In 1517, the Protestant Reformation, initiated by Martin Luther, began as an attempt to reform the power of the Catholic Church. Before this time the Catholic Church forced the conformity of their beliefs against all societies. This disparaging time period brought on the Enlightenment period, which stressed the idea that reason and individualism is the foundation of human experience rather than tradition. This paved the way for Liberalism and in 1651, Thomas Hobbes brought on Leviathan, described as “the first book of philosophical significance to bear the distinctive stamp of liberalism”. (Ball and Dagger) Hobbes’ believed that all individuals are equal and that nobody should have the right to rule over someone else without that persons consent.
Hobbes believed in personal independence, but he also assumed that people should allow absolute power over themselves to a sovereign ruler for the sake of security. Hobbes claimed that without a governing source, human beings would be in a “war of all against all”, (Ball and Dagger) because of the lack of laws, and competition for scarce goods due to the equality of all competitors. Thomas Hobbes developed many ideas that would later be used by many liberal theorists such as John Locke. Locke used comparable arguments to Hobbes to reach different suppositions. He agreed with Hobbes’ theory that human beings need a governing source but he argued that people should be given the right to overthrow a government if their natural rights of life are not being properly represented. He sought after a social contract system between the people and the government that would create an understanding by both parties to benefit all. These views were implemented into the American Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizens. Locke’s views are clearly represented in the Declaration of Independence primarily in these statements. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government.” Liberalism sustained progress in Britain proceeding the theories by Locke.
The next major liberal ideologist was Jeremy Bentham. Bentham supported Hobbes’ idea that individuals seek pleasure and avoid pain and expanded on this behavior which helped influence liberal economic theory. Liberal theorist, J.S. Mill published his writings titled, On Liberty in 1859. In this journal Mill argues his views on the public and private sphere of society. He believed that in the private sphere, human beings should be given the broadest amount of freedom possible, and in that a persons’ individual freedom of speech and thought would be important in the expansion of social development.
Liberalism has been a successful ideology and has effectively performed the four functions of Ideology. These four functions being Explanation, Evaluation, Orientation and Program. Liberal explanation is that