Liberalism and John Locke
January 21 , 2014
• Notions and ideas associated with liberalism:
o Protection of private property and regulated policing system.
o Free trade
o Emphasis on human rights as a fundamental aspect of individualism – the
language of rights.
o Progressive – belief in evolving conditions and social advancement.
Talking About Liberalism
• Our institutions have been constructed on liberal premises (those principles listed
above). It is also a discourse/ideology. As a system/structure of rules,
assumptions, and norms, paradigms are they way in which we view the world and
the relationships of those within it – it is a framework of need(s).
• It is a set or structure of fundamental ideas that provide a framework for
understanding the world and why things happen in the way that they do.
• Liberty referred to the entitlement of the right to a voice in Ancient Greece. It has
very much evolved since then. For this reason and many others, liberalism is no
older than the 17 century.
• Liberalism is not unchanging or constant. However, there ARE historical,
fundamental principles that define and facilitate an understanding of liberalism.
o Individualist – the Greeks’ idea of individualism is radically different
than that of contemporary liberalists. To be individualist is to assert the
way reality is structured – the moral primacy of the individual against any
other claims of identity or subject. The individual is the primary social
creature – comes before anything else.
o Egalitarian – It would seem at first that this would conflict with
individualism. However, egalitarian (from the liberalist perspective) has
its own fundamental strain.
o Universalist – affirms the ontological unity. Assumes that all individuals
have the right to liberty and equality.
• Historically speaking, as a paradigm, it emerges with the early onset of capitalist
industrialist economy – this relates back to the element of free trade. There is a
strong connection between capitalism and liberalism – mutually reenforcing. It
required the individual to be portrayed as separate from the communal identity
and attachments that could inhibit the movement of attachments (money, capital,
Light and Dark
• Overthrew previous ideas of identity in the world. • PARADOXICAL: Liberalism has a dark, paradoxical undercurrent (contrary to
the IR theory of perpetual peace). This is evident in history, as liberalism has
been the root of some of the worst humanitarian policies known to man –
genocide, racism, slavery, etc. – these emerged handinhand with Liberalism.
o Rights and individual l