The Rise, Decline, and Reemergence of Classical Liberalism

Mar 17, 2017 · The Exhaustion of American Liberalism

This account is subject to serious and plausible objections, on bothhistorical and conceptual grounds. But beyond the considerable debatesconcerning the conceptual validity and historical accuracy of Berlin’saccount (extensively documented in Harris 2002), there is considerablemisunderstanding of Berlin’s own attitudes to the concepts hediscussed, and of the goals of his lecture. Berlin has often beeninterpreted, not unreasonably, as a staunch enemy of the concept ofpositive liberty. But this was never wholly the case. Berlin regardedboth concepts of liberty as centring on valid claims about what isnecessary and good for human beings; both negative and positiveliberty were for him genuine values, which might in some cases clash,but in other cases could be combined and might even be mutuallyinterdependent. Indeed, Berlin’s own earlier articulations of hispolitical values included a notable component of positive libertyalongside negative liberty (see e.g., 2002b, 336–44). What Berlinattacked was the many ways in which positive liberty had been used tojustify the denial, betrayal or abandonment of both negative libertyand the truest forms of positive liberty itself. Berlin’s main targetswere not positive liberty as such, but the metaphysical orpsychological assumptions which, combined with the concept of positiveliberty, had led to its perversion: monism, and a metaphysical orcollective conception of the self. Two Concepts of Liberty,and Berlin’s liberalism, are therefore not based on championingnegative liberty against positive liberty, but on advocatingindividualism, empiricism and pluralism against collectivism, holism,rationalistic metaphysics and monism.

The 1970s and the 1980s: The Decline of Liberalism and the Triumph of Conservatism
Photo provided by Flickr

Throughout the 1970s, conservatives were developing their agenda. They knew that by mid-decade, Americans were not quite ready for a real change. What they needed to bring them back to the Executive branch was a Democrat with a failed domestic and foreign policy to come into power – and as we have seen, Jimmy Carter provided just that. Thus, Ronald Reagan ran for the Presidency at a time when Americans were ready for change - change built solidly upon modern conservatism and a rejection of social liberalism.

The sight of them was a profound moment in American political history

Pestritto offers a penetrating account of Wilson's historicist political philosophy and its influence for American politics.
Photo provided by Flickr

Goal #2: To understand the decline of liberalism in the 1970s and how it contributed to the triumph of conservatism in the 1980s

Free Political Essays and Papers - 123HelpMe

His eloquent explanation of consent of the governed reached nearly every adult in the colonies through his pamphlet. Notably, after the conception of the United States of America, Paine journeyed to France to spread his message to the next set of revolutionaries. At this time he also challenged thinker Edmund Burke, calling for an overthrow of the British monarchy in . He was made a French citizen by the Legislative Assembly, elected as a member of the Convention, associated with Condorcet, and imprisoned with the fall of the Girondins. In 1802, he returned to the United States having written and spoken for his political vision in England, America, and France and participated in the two great revolutions of the 19th century.

isms, ocracies and ologies | Musings from the Chiefio

As both the French Enlightenment and Physiocratic movement drew to a close, the colonists on the North American continent prepared to prove that the classical liberal seeds of the past century had found fertile soil in the New World. One of those responsible for generating the momentum propelling America to independence was pamphleteer and author Thomas Paine (1737-1809). An Englishman arriving with personal recommendation letters from Benjamin Franklin, Paine had been in North America only two years when he anonymously published Common Sense (1776). Although he argues (in this work as well as in , 1777, and the two volumes of , 1791 and 1792, respectively) from a Lockean framework of natural law, the passion with which he writes is reminiscent of French anti-authoritarianism: "Government even in its best state is a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one..." (Bramsted 195).