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The Formation of Liberalism: from Putney to Thomas Hobbes and John Locke

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Political Science
POLS 1000
Hannes Lacher

3 The Formation of Liberalism: Tuesday, 1 November, 2011 from Putney to Thomas Hobbes and John Locke Liberalism: • Basic Premise: the sovereignty of the individual who have natural rights • the purpose of the state is to guarantee life. liberty and property • Natural and equal rights, minority protection • Individual Liberties: freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, economic pursuits • Ideal of representative and limited government; constitutionalism; rule of law The Meaning of Liberalism: The political philosophy of Liberalism emerges out of "the attempt to uphold the values of freedom of choice, reason, and toleration in the face of tyranny, the absolutist system and religious intolerance" (Held, 59) -Historical Contest: Emergence of capitalist economy and society in England, with wealth creation dependant on private control over large landed estates. • The emergence of capitalism gave rise to the idea of a 'civil society'; property holders began to consider their interests as 'private', referring to a realm outside the state, in which their values and preferences were formed • King was required to protect landowners against threats to their property from below, but should not be allowed to become strong enough to threaten their "life, liberty and estate" from above. Held: Liberalism's dilemma: • "while the state must have a monopoly of coercive power to provide a secure basis upon which 'free trade'. business. private property and the family can prosper, its coercive and regulatory capability must be contained so that its agents do not interfere with the political and social freedoms of individual citizens, with their pursuit of their particular interests in competitive relations with one another" (Held, p. 59) Liberalisms 'other' dilemma: • Liberalism proclaims the primacy of the property and rights of individuals, which the state is to enable and protect • But what to do with all those who have no property and who might use their right to participate in the state (if they have it) to take away the property of others. especially when the latter are seen to have come by their property illegitimately ( conquest, enclosures) and when many regarded their property rights as anything s but natural • Problem: balancing property vs liberty Liberalism 'Exceptions': Slavery • While classical liberals railed against the 'slavery' of absolute monarchy which deprived individuals of their rights and liberties. most liberals defended the enslavement of Africans. • Slaves were 'property' • Attempts by parliamentary majorities to deprive slave-owners of their property were illegitimate. minorities such as slave-owners required protection from the arbitrary power of majorities • John Locke: defence of slaver • Carolina Constitution: "every freeman of Carolina shall have absolute power and authority of his Negro slaves" • John Calhoun: Slavery is a positive good that civilization can not possibly renounce. Abolitionists are blind fanatics who use every effort to destroy slavery, a form of property legitimized and guaranteed by the American Constitution Liberal exceptions: Wealth • Classical liberals argued strongly against equality in political participation • John Jay (US founding father) • "Those who own the country ought to govern it" • The right to property must limit the liberties of those who might challenge property • Participation on the basis of property qualification • Property is a natural right Putney Debates: Context • King Charles 1 (1600-49) is suspected of pursuing a program of absolutist aggrandizement. threatening Protestantism and the rights of land-owning aristocrats (property rights, taxes, etc) • 1642-45 and 1648-51: Civil War ⁃ 1647: Putney Debates • 1649: King Charles 1 beheaded ⁃ 1651: Thomas Hobbes publishes Leviathan • 1649-60: The commonwealth of England • 1660: Return to Monarchy Putney Debates: 1647 • Who is the sovereign: king, parliament, the people? • What to do with the King? • What does it mean to give consent? • Who is to elect parliament? • Two proposals preceding the Putney Debates: ⁃ Heads of the proposals (Grandees): liberal position, property qualification ⁃ Agreement of the people (Rank and file soldiers, Levellers): democratic position The Democratic Position: The Agreement of the people • Constitution • People enter into a Social Contract • We the free people of England ⁃ Agree to ascertain our government ⁃ to abolish all arbitrary power, ⁃ and to set bounds and limits bother to our Supreme, and all Subordinate Authority, ⁃ Agree that the Supreme……. The influence of the Levellers • The levellers: mostly small and middling proprietors, craftsmen, traders and yeomen farmers (i.e the same class of people that manned the NMA) • Levellers were spokesmen for smaller independent proprietors as against large landowners and wealthy merchants • opposed prac
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