Define individualism and explain its importance within liberal ideology

Topics: Liberalism, Political philosophy, Classical liberalism Pages: 3 (693 words) Published: January 26, 2014
Define individualism and explain its importance within liberal ideology

The liberal ideology is formed on several ideologies. Individualism is considered one of the most crucial. It's involved in most liberal characteristics like freedom, the economy and the role of the state. But there is notable division between modern and classic liberalists as to what it focuses on with modern liberalists focusing on individuality and classics believe in utilitarianism and and social darwinism. However it is widely agreed that individualism is a key concept within liberal ideology.

Firstly, to discuss the importance of individualism, it must be defined. Individualism is the social theory favouring freedom of action for individuals over collective or state control. Essentially the belief that the individual is more important than the social group. This is then split further into methodological individualism where the individual is placed at the centre of political theory and ethical individualism where moral priority is given to the interests of the individual.

One place where individualism plays a key role within liberalism is in the role of the state. This appears in the form of a constitutional government that liberal thinkers view as essential with two other aspects to guarantee individualism. The first is the separation of powers where capability would be disbanded between various parts of government in order to prevent a focused centre of power which would be able to destroy individual freedom. The second is a limited government, where the state is only given enough powers necessary to allow individuals to follow their own eccentric pursuits. Therefore it can be see individualism plays an important role in liberals ideology as liberal government is designed to protect this. John Locke sums this up as 'the state that governs least is the state that governs best'.

Another place where individualism is important within liberal ideology is with regard to the...
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