ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

Small 'l' liberalism before big 'L' Liberalism: Political, not economic?

Democracy
Political Theory
Freedom
Céline Spector
University Paris Sorbonne
Céline Spector
University Paris Sorbonne

Abstract

Before « neoliberalism » in the XXth century, classical liberalism was generally assigned to two different forms: political liberalism, often defined as a theory of individual rights and basic liberties which the State should protect; economic liberalism, grounded on the harmony of private interests, which considers the intervention of the State in the economy as potentially oppressive, arbitrary and harmful. We often bring into conflict these two forms of liberalism, to grant to the one what we refuse to the other: political liberalism is praised for the emancipation of the individual from religion and oppressive politics ; economic liberalism is often dismissed for its evil effects (increase of economic inequalities, plunder of natural resources, submission of the social life to profit requirements). On the one side, thus, a theory of freedom, at the origin of human rights - the limited government, against absolute sovereignty; on the other one, a doctrine of the equilibrium between supply and demand. The brilliant face of the medal: Locke as a hero of natural rights, justifying the right of resistance, or Montesquieu as an advocate of the balance of powers. And the other side of the liberal dream: Adam Smith, even more than the Physiocrats, claiming the rights of the « invisible hand ». This paper intends to reassess this view. To what extent is it relevant? Should we distinguish between a « good » kind of liberalism stemming from Locke and Montesquieu, and a « bad » kind, that of the mystic of the market ?