POLS 1000 Lecture Notes - Lecture 15: E. P. Thompson

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27 Mar 2012
Lecture 15 Liberalism, Conservatism, and Socialism
Liberal ideology or thought puts rational, individual property owner in the centre of the world.
o Liberals will argue, as individuals, we all have access to reason
Through reason, we can actually understand our happiness
To be happy, means that we must fully consume nature
Need happiness to withstand the test of time, need property
Property is essential to be happy for liberals and remain happy
Provides general consistency to exist
There is no limit to the consumption of nature
This is why we are rational property owners for liberals
Centre of the world For liberals, individuals comes first, no institution that knows more
than we do what happiness is
Cannot own one without guaranteeing that these things will be protected against passions
To protect property, we need the state (a necessary evil)
In theory, the state will be given minimal functions
However, despite the theoretical idea, the history of practise of liberalism will command the
expansion of state function
The state functions will have to expand because economy itself will have to be expanded,
we will have to allow more and more people to enjoy the power of consumption, to give
them more spending power
State will exist, create social programs that will allow wealth distribution, e.g. income tax,
tax the rich, give to the poor, raise living standards and
Therefore the state will take on a much more important function in practise
If you bring standards of living up, allow people to partake in the joy of consumption, you
take away people’s reason to revolt
o It’s difficult to deny the historical success of liberalism, the power of attraction of liberalism
o From the 18th century onwards, it is liberalism that will guide and shape the major transformation
that will occur in the western society, liberalism will be the driving force
First, industrialization, liberalism will be the guiding force urbanization
Liberalism will reduce/eliminate the arbitrary nature of political power
Reduce the brutal nature of power
Liberal ideology will be evoked against absolute monarchs of Europe
To justify the destruction of monarchy, liberal principles will be used
Major democracies (US, France) contained in liberal thought
When liberals proclaimed universal freedom and equality for all, this will have great political
and social effect
Idea contained in declarations of revolutions
There’s a power of attraction in liberalism that nobody can deny
o Historical success will not come without a price
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Idea of human happiness founding on consumption of nature
Lead to environmental catastrophe
Price paid for the historical success of liberalism
Human costs, economic liberalism (capitalism) will lead to the destruction of traditional
communities, will bread alienation, exploitation, and will attack quality of life of people
around the planet
o It’s important to look at the effects of liberalism because of the dominance of liberalism in 19th
o Will shape the ideological configuration (rival ideologies) of the western world
Development of liberalism will also lead to the formation of new social forces
New social forces will refuse the domination, exploitation contained within liberalism
Strive and create new and competing ideologies
o Emerging social forces will react to the triumph of liberalism
o EP Thompson The Making of the English Working Class WINTER RESEARCH PAPER
o Socio-economic composition of 19th century Europe will shape the ideologies, and the ensuing
conflict of the 19th and 20th century
When think about social forces of 19th century, we think of the working class
Working class will come to dominate the debates of 19th and 20th century
At the beginning of the 19th century, the working class doesn’t quite exist yet
Doesn’t exist as a coherent social force
Emergence of working class, roughly in the middle of 19th century
Will become the an alternative to the bourgeois liberal rule
Working class is neither a social force or really a threat to existing political order
o Beginning of 19th century, confusing and hazing political configuration
Social groups are diverse
Common: powerlessness in the face of liberalism, the triumph of the bourgeoisie
France and England: it’s possible to find a mosaic social group of which 5 are more or less
coherent and can be distinguished, each will play a role in the development of conservative
thought or socialism, or both
1st social group: the nobles
What’s left over from the ancient aristocracy
We can say on a whole, the status of nobles is downgraded
In France, it’s seriously downgraded, in England, somewhat downgraded
At the beginning of 19th century, the noble class is in trouble
They are not devastated by the events of end of 18th century, nor are they without
resources (economic and symbolic/intellectual)
Losing status
Divided into two opposing camps
o On one hand, there are nobles who are nostalgic and yearn for return to the
lost privileges of the old regime, return to the monarchy
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