History of Liberalism in Western Europe

Liberalism originated in Western Europe during the struggle against absolutism and spiritual domination of the Catholic Church (16-18 cc.). The ideology of liberalism was founded by representatives of the moderate wing of the European Enlightenment. Economists Physiocrats formulated popular slogan «laissez faire, laissez passer» (in French: “do not disturb function”), expressing the idea of laissez-faire and which in the 19th century was one of the basic principles of “classical” liberalism. Social environment that fed the ideology of liberalism in the 18-19 centuries was mainly the bourgeoisie. More radical wing of liberalism associated with democracy, has played an important role in the American and French revolutions. However, in the late 18th century. there has been a conflict between liberalism and radical democracy (Rousseau, and later – the Jacobins). During the Restoration in France B. Constant, F. Guizot and other first character of liberalism gave more or less formalized political doctrine based on certain historical and philosophical background. For the political doctrine of European liberalism of the first half of the 19th century. typical preference ideas of individual freedom was the idea of democracy and constitutional monarchy – the republic. Later, with the expansion of suffrage, the differences between liberalism and democracy smoothed. In the late 19th century. – Early 20th century. in relation to socio-economic changes, the growth of the labor movement, and so on. n., liberalism survived the crisis and was forced to give up some of the basic principles of their doctrine, including the principle of laissez faire.

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Liberalism in each country had the characteristic features due to its historical identity.

In France during the Restoration liberalism took the form of a certain doctrine, versus how feudal reaction and democracy .The fall of Napoleon and his regime, the return to the throne of the Bourbons did not stop one of the class struggle that unfolded in France since 1789 for the approval of the country’s new, capitalist relations. Aristocracy continued to defend feudal beginning, though she was forced to go on the establishment of a constitutional monarchy, the recognition of the major economic, political and legal gains of the revolution. Industrial and commercial bourgeoisie struggled against the restoration of the old order, class privileges, protected individual freedom and equality of all before the law. Anti-feudal ideology of the French bourgeoisie in the first half of the XIX century was expressed by many political thinkers, among which were B. Constant and A. de Tocqueville.

Most of the work on policy, the authorities of the State of Benjamin Constant (1767-1830), which researchers believe was even the spiritual father of liberalism in Europe, was written in the period between 1810-1820 years. (“The course of constitutional politics”).

The ancient Greeks and Romans had the possibility of every citizen to participate directly in the affairs of state. However, the freedom that was common in antiquity, was combined with an almost complete subordination of the individual public authorities and left very little space for the manifestation of individual autonomy.

Constant was sure: people being free, are able to independently and intelligently implement themselves in life. They are able through their individual efforts and without the influence of any transpersonal forces to secure a decent life. Guided by these ideas, Constant seriously corrects Rousseau thesis on the necessity of the omnipotence of popular sovereignty. Its borders must end where begins the “independence of the individual and private life.” The presence of such a framework makes the deterrence power and control over it in the cornerstone of the political and institutional structure of society. Constant’s political ideal were never passive and low-power state.

The modern state is to be in shape, as thought Constant, a constitutional monarchy. In the face of the constitutional monarch of the political community becomes “neutral power.” She – beyond the three “classic” of government (legislative, executive, judicial), independently of them, and therefore is able (and obliged) to ensure their unity, cooperation, normal activity. “The King is quite interested in the fact that no power is intended to subvert the other, but rather that they mutually support each other and act in unison and harmony.”

Tocqueville’s political concept has developed in a fair degree under the influence of Constant, the views of another prominent liberal French – Pierre Royer-Collard. Important role in its formation has played a prominent historian Francois Guizot.

The subject of his greatest interest amounted to theoretical and practical aspects of democracy, in which he saw the most significant phenomenon era. Democracy is interpreted broadly. It represents for him a social system, which is opposite to the feudal and knows no boundaries (birth or prescribed by the customs) between the upper and lower classes of society. The core of democracy – the principle of equality, inevitably triumph in history.

Tocqueville believed that the triumph of equality is not an absolute guarantee of freedom of accession. In other words, universal equality, taken by itself, does not automatically lead to the establishment of a political system that firmly protects the autonomy of the individual, excludes arbitrariness and neglects the right of the authorities.

Freedom and equality, according to Tocqueville, are the phenomenon of different order. The relationship between them is ambiguous. And the people’s attitude to them, is different too. At all times, says Tocqueville, people prefer equality freedom.

Neither equality nor freedom, taken separately, are self-sufficient conditions for a truly human existence. Just being together, in unity, they find such quality. Tocqueville – Democracy outstanding theoretician and simultaneously consistent liberal – deeply comprehended the truth that liberalism has to go towards democracy. This in the era of mass yield on the socio-political scene, in the era of the cult of equality saved supreme liberal values – freedom.

Ideas and idealism are still relevant in France. Ideologue of modern liberalism was sociologist Raymond Aron. And also operates a number of parties with a liberal platform. For example, the New Centre party (fr. Nouveau Centre), or the European Social Liberal Party (fr. Le Parti social liberal europeen, PSLE) – French centrist political party, sticking social liberal position. The new center was created by former members of the Union for French Democracy in 2007, not included in the organized Francois Bayrou Democratic Movement. Leader – Herve Morin, Minister of Defense and former leader of the Union for French Democracy in the National Assembly.

In Germany, liberalism was closely associated with the desire for national unity. Liberal Movement on German soil began in the early decades of the XIX century. On the eve of the revolution of 1848-1849. in Germany it reached a considerable height. Both in terms of scope and organization, as well as in terms of ideological and theoretical maturity. Early German liberalism – one that originated and approved in the pre-revolutionary period – was primarily a “constitutional movement”. In the framework of developing and offering a variety of desirable model for the German states of political and legal order. They sought social support in the bourgeois middle layers. But to a large extent they are expected to use common sense and monarchs, who will be able to heed the dictates of time and become spokesmen for particular interests, as guardians of the common good.

German liberalism of the first half of XIX century was represented by Frederick Dahlman, Robert von Mohl, Carl and Carl Welcker Rottek, Julius Frobel and others. Their views and activities appreciably affect the political and intellectual climate of the time in Germany gained fame as the Pan-European in the first place riddled with liberal ideas work Lorenz Stein.

Lorenz Stein (1815-1890) belongs to a series of fundamental studies on the society, the state, law, management. Liberalism Stein clearly expressed in the fact that at the heart of its socio-political doctrine, he raised the question of the individual, his rights, his property. The main motive that drives the individual, is seen by Stein in the quest for self-realization, the essence of which – extraction, processing, manufacturing, and increase the benefits. Every good produced by a person, belongs to her, identified with her and because becoming as untouchable as herself. This immunity is entitled to benefits. United through to the right person at the same inviolable whole benefit of a property.

A man cannot be engaged in productive activities alone, being isolated from other people. It entirely depends on them and therefore is forced to live with their own kind, to interact, cooperate with them. Thus arises the problem of Stein human community, society. He paints a society where human being is a fundamental contradiction: on the one hand, an irresistible desire for complete domination over the external world (over the material and spiritual wealth), on the other – a very modest capabilities of a particular individual as a separate limited in their potencies being.

The starting point is a unit of any society, in Stein, the division of property. Owners of the latter, owners and people working, always linked in a special way with each other. The law of social life is “inherently permanent and immutable order, depending who does not own, from those who own.” The existence of these two classes cannot be resolved and overcomed.

Stein’s views on society and the state, and their ratio under the obvious influence of the respective ideas of Hegel. The concept of society Stein appears as a separate and in their own personalized social education. From the simple amorphous set of individuals it distinguishes the existence of such an integrating factor as a constant-round dependence of people from each other. Feature of society is also something that everyone in it is guided only by its own will. In view of these circumstances in the society, according to Stein, there is no ground for freedom Hence his categorical conclusion: the principle on which society rests – un free. The highest form of society is the state, which at the same time has a different organization and different goals than the society. It establishes the organic unity of a variety of individual wills and actions of people forming the society.

Society and the state (because they are based on diametrically opposed principles) confront each other and are constantly at each other influence. And the company is committed to construct the state in his own image and likeness, and the state – and to create their own social system pleases Him. This, which are under control of spontaneous, unbridled elements of society and between social classes to maintain a balance. Towering over the society, the state must remain master of his and mentor.

His main role is to be able to fulfill, the conviction of Stein, when the executive power in the state will be true and reliable to serve the legislative authority. This subordination – a guarantee of transformation simply state to state legal and bail them preserve this quality. Stein – a supporter of law, in which “the right of management is based on the constitution and there are legal distinction between laws and regulations.” Optimal form of legal state Stein sees a constitutional monarchy.

In a constitutional monarchy, in which the executive and to faithfully serve the legislative authority, the central figure of the monarch ought to be, since he could not prevent the prevalence of particular interests in society. Only the monarch to provide dominance in society common to all people of interest. Together with its officials monarch should “stand alone against the will and the natural tendencies of the ruling classes of the lower elevation, first socially and politically subordinate class.” Stein expects constant progress in raising the status of education and lower strata of the population, to achieve a higher level of productivity of their labor, a higher level of consumption, the higher life opportunities.

Stein’s ideas regarding the state of the social reforms in favor of the workers to improve their material and cultural conditions, caused a backlash from supporters of the revolutionary way of satisfying the interests of the proletarian masses.

Liberal ideas have not lost their electorate in Germany. Free Democratic Party (FDP) is one of them. This is a liberal party in Germany, founded December 11, 1948 Member of the FDP was the first German President Theodor Heuss.

In 1859 he founded the German National Association, in 1861 she collapsed on the German Progressive Party and the National Liberal Party.

In 1880, of the National Liberal Party split off its left wing formed the Liberal Union, in 1894, GLP and the Liberal Union merged forming the German Freethinkers party, but in 1893 it broke on Freethinkers People’s Party, and free union, but in 1911 they teamed up with German People’s Party, founded in 1868, in the Progressive People’s Party, and in 1918 after the merger with some leftist member of the National Liberal Party, it was renamed in the German Democratic party, in 1930 it merged with Mladogermanskim Order in the German state party, part GFC members formed the Radical-democratic Party.

In 1918, the National Liberal Party after the merger with the leftist members of the Free Conservative Party was renamed the German People’s Party.

One of the biggest parties of Germany, the third largest (after the SPD and CDU / CSU) party of the country adopted a liberal policy: reducing taxes, reducing state influence on economic policy, the promotion of large and small businesses. Economic FDP motto – “So much of the state, as necessary, but as little as possible.” The main support is among the entrepreneurs and managers of large companies.

After appearing in the political arena “Green” Party FDP role as “kingmaker” significantly decreased. New elections in 1998 won a coalition of the SPD / Green led by Gerhard Schroder, remained in power until 2005, when Gerhard Schroder announced early parliamentary elections. In the elections of 2005, the FDP has shown excellent results in 11 per cent – in fact, the FDP was the only one of the four leading parties, which showed growth in the number of votes. However, this victory was a Pyrrhic one: because of the fact that the allies of the FDP, the CDU / CSU led by Angela Merkel scored significantly fewer votes than expected, the coalition of the CDU / CSU / FDP not typed in the amount of 50% plus one vote needed to forming a government. After lengthy negotiations with the SPD CDU / CSU coalition with the FDP terminated and formed a government of so-called “grand coalition”, the CDU / CSU / SPD.

In federal elections in 2009 the FDP received 14.6% of votes and 93 parliamentary seats – 0 single-seat constituencies and 93 on the party list. The party enjoys less support in the territory of the former GDR.

The main difference between the new doctrine began to redefine the role of the individual and the state in society. Social Liberals believed that the freedom of individuals should not carry unlimited nature, individuals must coordinate their actions with other members of society and their actions should not cause them harm. Expand the functions of the state in society, which was to take care of its citizens, provide them with equal rights to education, health care.

Both liberal and humanistic doctrines were reformist; Liberals rejected the revolutionary way of transforming society; were supporters of gradual progressive reforms. A number of liberal ideas was borrowed by conservatives and socialists. In contrast to the liberal parties who are experiencing some difficulties in modern history, the liberal doctrine is an important component of modern political culture.