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SDS 131R (45)

Classical Liberalism

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University of Waterloo
Social Development Studies
SDS 131R
Theresa Romkey

Rebecca Griffiths Classical Liberalism The rise of liberalism was a result of three things: Scientific Revolution, Reformation and Rise of the Nation State. Collectively throughout the 16 and 17 century these events saw people challenging the norms of their society and taking control of the way they were being governed. Classic liberalism stems from liberty, in essence being able to make decisions without restriction from higher governing powers. This ideology is specifically focused on the individual and their ability to select legitimate political leaders that allow said individual to make their own decisions as people can are able to think for themselves, help ourselves and we strive to do better. Equality plays a big role in Classical Liberalism as it falls under a very optimistic view of human nature and says people need equality of opportunity. Classically liberalists called for a movement away from ascribed status to achieved status where people could work their way up the social hierarchy. Three main theorists: Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau all start off with the idea of a social contract (giving up something to the state for protection) and move forward into questioning why people chose to create the state. Thomas Hobbes was not a classical liberalist but contributed to Classical Liberalism as understood today. Hobbes had a pessimistic view of human nature and thought that unlimited freedom would be the demise of a society. Instead he suggested a large state in which citizens would have to give up a lot in order to get protection from the state. John Locke wanted a separation from the church and state. He believed that without a common law to govern all
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