A Comparison Of Liberalism Socialism And Nationalism Politics Essay

The three most powerful ideologies that emerged in the beginning of the nineteenth century were Liberalism, socialism and nationalism. These ideologies came together to destroy older order that existed in Western Europe. However, there is very little that is actually known about the real origin of these three ideologies. Most of the research only talks about the recognized authorizes that exercises these ideologies but do not talk about the real issue. This essay seeks to compare and contrast these ideologies and trace their origin, development and revolution.


This was a product of some kind of enlightenment by human thinking. It held that the progress of human beings was inevitable. This is the reason it believed that all human beings should be viewed to be equal before the law and no one was above the law. Moreover, it believed that every person was born free and is good in some aspect let alone owning the chance to improve in skills and general thinking. Liberalization therefore expected that all governments were representative of its citizens and not part of the citizens. According to Hansen, Curt & Curtis (2008) this could only be achieved through the freedoms of speech, press, assembly and protection from arbitrary arrest.

The nineteenth century liberalism which is also referred to as classical liberalism was against the involvement of the government in the economic and social affairs of the nation. This is therefore very different from what we currently know liberalism to stand for where active government intervention is highly supported and represented through democratic parties. Classical liberalism was first developed by Adam Smith as expressed in his book “Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of Wealth of Nations.” (Hansen, Curtis & Curtis, 2008). He proposed the fact that there was a need for a free enterprise where prices would be regulated by market forces. This he believed would offer a free and equal chance to all citizens to participate in what they do best. In this way both the rich and the poor will benefit rather than a situation where the rich are the only ones who benefit. This was very much different from the earlier situation of mercantilism where the government was very deeply involved in regulation of markets.

While the British were experiencing gradual expansion of freedoms and rights of ordinary citizens, the French were denied of such rights until the 1989 when there was the Revolution. Unlike in France, there was no central instrument with which the British used to be oppressed with like the army ready to do what the monarch said. The British liberalization was never aimed at overthrowing the Monarchy. On the contrary it was aimed at reigning its power through the expansion of representation of the people. Because of common political, ethical, cultural and geographical factors liberalization in the United States took so much from the British kind of liberalism than it took from the French. However, during early stages of Beiner (2003) argues that American Revolution, there was much borrowed from the political thoughts of the British. Subsequent developments then later own changed and took more from the French.

Some common factors with liberalism during the French Revolution and its development in the European revolution were that they both had one fundamental aspect which was to prevent and stop the oppression of the citizens. Even though the sources of oppression and the methods liberalism might different depending on time or location, liberalization still remained to be the sole purpose of liberal political movement and liberal political thinking. Liberalism was therefore much appealing to the lower social class because it get them equal chance as the rich to make use of their skills and take part in national development. Even though it received much opposition from the rich or those of high social status, it later came to succeed and that’s the reason why we even have democratic societies in the Europe and the entire world ( Hansen, Curtis & Curtis, 2008).

In the time of Industrial revolution, liberalism was very much common in Britain especially with the Factory owners since there was a high demand for works more than they could be supply. The factory owners used this ideology to again support against the labor unions sine they were considered to be interfering with the right to work. In the political field, liberals mainly supported representative government. However, they also believed that it was the male who had the right to own the franchise. Liberals were for the idea of universal education for all.


This was a radical doctrine that originated from France. In fact almost all socialists came from France. They regarded the French revolution that occurred during 1789 together with the Industrial Revolution that took place in England as the beginning of change in the society. However, they were troubled by what they considered to be the end result of the issue of transformation of the society. Some of these issues that troubled them included things to do with political competition and capitalism (Hansen, Curtis & Curtis, 2008). According to the socialist, such development were the cause of selfish individualism that ended up dividing the society in the lines of competing factors.

During the French Revolution, socialists pushed for economic planning. They were mainly inspired by the occurrences in France during the end of the eighteenth century. It is for this reason that they proposed that governments were to organize their economy rather than hoping that competition would do so. They considered competition to be a very destructive element in the society. In addition, they also had the desire to protect the poor and avoid cases of exploitation they could face from the rich. One common factor therefore between liberalism and socialism is that these two ideologies advocate for the rights of the poor in the society. Each of them wants the society to provide equal ground for the existence of every one in the society regardless of their social status. It is the reason why they advocated for economic equality for both the poor and the rich.

Socialisms also argued that the government was supposed to regulate private property or even abolish it and let property be owned by the community. This is one difference between liberalism and socialism (Hansen, Curtis & Curtis, 2008). Liberalism advocated for the people owning property. To be specific it was the male who were supposed to own franchise. Socialism on the other hand was for the idea that either the government was to own property or the community. Socialism pushed for the idea that the society was supposed to take charge of most of the things that were going on in the surrounding. They were also to ensure that they do everything possible to develop their economy by the equal utilization of community resources. On the other hand, liberalism was all about the government taking full control of the resources of the country but awarding equal chances for both the rich and the poor to make benefit from them.

Socialism was as a result of the stresses that had been caused on the French economy by the revolutionary movement. Workers missed the old good days when there were radical changes in life and the economy used to be regulated. The skilled craftsmen were very against the idea of wage control and that’s the reason why they opposed capitalism. According to them, it denied the workers capacity to promote destructive competition(Hansen, Curtis & Curtis, 2008).

The introduction of Marxist socialism provided a foundation to the modern day socialism and even paved way to the development of socialism into communism. Between 1818 and 1883, Karl Marx came up with his own idea of socialism where he pushed for the idea that labor was the main source of all kinds of value in the society. This meant that human labor was the main reason as to why the economy of any country would grow. In a way, this was similar to the what liberalism had pushed for where factory owners pushed for the rights to work. Socialism was more appealing to the lower social class because socialists like Saint Simon argues that the parasites of the society such as lawyers and churchmen were to give a chance to the doers like scientist and engineers to help improve the status of the society(Hansen, Curtis & Curtis, 2008). The main idea was therefore the improvement of the living standards of the poor and later on the improvement of the economy of the entire society. The main opponents to this ideology were the rich in the society but they did not succeed.


This was as radical as the liberalism ideology after Napoleon was finally defeated. This ideology came from an imagined or real cultural identity where the main features were common history, common language and common territory. In other words, the main idea behind nationalism was to turn the cultural identity of citizens into some kind of political identity where people from the same origin would push forward similar agenda to help improve the economic standards of their society. According to Beiner (2003), this led to a situation where political boundaries were based on cultural unity. For instance, during the French revolution, you could find that people from different ethnic groups would find themselves being led by the same leader. The intermingling of groups led to every group finding for some way to create their own identity.

The Napoleonic wars together with the French Revolution gave birth to the idea of nationalism. In the time of the Reign of Terror, the Frenchmen as the Republicans used to refer to the people were asked to repel any form of foreign armies which thought of overthrowing the republic. In the time of invasion by Napoleon, the sentiments of nationalists in the entire Europe joined forces to oppose his military campaigns. One renown nationalist is Johann Herder, a German phiplosopher who was of the idea that each and every individual had his own individual spirit and some kind of genius which he could use to survive. This he say was expressed in language and culture (Beiner, 2003).

One conspicuous difference between socialism, liberalism and nationalism is that, national advocates for the idea of different groups in the same society. There is the idea of opponents or ‘us’ and ‘them’. This kind of division might hinder social development because every group would want to do things their own way. On the same note there is the creation of boundaries between different groups which means that resources are owned by individual group (Beiner, 2003). This is against the idea of socialism which calls for abolition of individual ownership and proposes for the property to be owned by the government or the community.

However, in some way the idea of ‘we’ created a sense of nationalism where one group was to behave like they were all brothers (Beiner, 2003). This creates some similarity with the sentiments of liberalism which advocated for togetherness and provision of equal opportunities to the members of one country so that they could have a chance to develop and prosper together. The main reason that made nationalism appealing was the idea of people feeling that they are one because of the fact that they shared the same language or cultures. The good thing with nationalism is that people act like they are brothers of one mothers. One good example of nationalism was that demonstrated by the Nazis where they fought as one. However, this could be termed as nationalism gone awry because of the suffering it caused to the Jew.