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Understanding Society - Classical Liberalism Essay Example for Free
Understanding Society Classical Liberalism Essay The individualism that Durkheim sees and defends as the ethic of our time is an ethic not just of the individual hut of the individual as man. This is an absolutely fundamental point, and not as obvious and straightforward as, at first sight, it might seem. It involves a dualism, in which an ideal of individuality is part of the ideal of humanity (Miller, 1996 96). The dualismÃ¢â¬â¢s Durkheimian explanation concerns the development of the division of labor, such that there are increasingly only two fundamental identities we can have, the identity of the distinct Ã¢â¬Å"individualÃ¢â¬ and the identity in common of Ã¢â¬Å"manÃ¢â¬ (Hamilton, 1995 136). However, it also concerns the development of modern society such that it demands a Universalist ethic of Ã¢â¬Å"the personÃ¢â¬ . This means, amongst other things, insistence on every individualÃ¢â¬â¢s same basic moral status and rights to respect and regard. Indeed, an ethic of the person is the only way to extend this status to every individual, and to oppose reactionary individualisms that withhold it. The modern individualist ideal is and has to be, for Durkheim, humanist and republican, its aspirations find expression in 1789Ã¢â¬â¢s Ã¢â¬Å"liberty, equality, fraternityÃ¢â¬ (Miller, 1996 97). Ã¢â¬Å"Liberalism is neither a vague Zeitgeist nor the outlook of modern man, but clearly identifiable set of principles and institutional choices endorsed by specific politicians, publicists, and popular movements. The early history of liberalism cannot be detached from the political history, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, of England and Scotland, the Netherlands, the United States, and FranceÃ¢â¬ (Berkowitz, 1999 256). As for the main character of the discussion, liberalism for Durkheim remains part of the egoistic nature of man towards his environment. Discussion Durkheim published a response entitled, Individualism and the Intellectuals, wherein he discussed Ã¢â¬Å"the argument, always refuted and always renewed,Ã¢â¬ that Ã¢â¬Å"Intellectual and moral anarchy would be the inevitable result of liberalism. Ã¢â¬ Some varieties of liberalism, Durkheim conceded, are egoistic and threaten the common good of societies by encouraging the individual to become excessively preoccupied with self-interest. However, there is a strand of liberalism, Durkheim argued, that is moral and social. This form Durkheim called Ã¢â¬Å"moral IndividualismÃ¢â¬ and he claimed that Ã¢â¬Å"not only is moral individualism not anarchical, but it henceforth is the only system of beliefs that can ensure the moral unity of the country. Ã¢â¬ In industrial, democratic nations such as France, moral virtue and unity are promoted by the liberal practices and ideals of moral individualism. FranceÃ¢â¬â¢s modern moral traditions are largely constituted by liberal institutions and values (Hamilton, 1995 124). Durkheim asserted chat Ã¢â¬Å"all communal life is impossible without the existence of interests superior to those of the individual. Ã¢â¬ From the outset of his career, Durkheim insisted that in modern Industrial societyÃ¢â¬â¢s happiness and freedom are achieved in the context of moral beliefs and practice, embedded in vital traditions and institutions. Durkheim sees in the modern ideal Ã¢â¬Å"all the values to which he adheres most: equality, liberty, justice, fraternityÃ¢â¬ . Moreover, it is important to emphasize, he sees them as coming together in an inseparable package. It will not do to insist on a definition of freedom that in effect writes off other modern ideals, and that camouflages, behind a lot of philosophical talk, a recipe for a minimalist police state and an anemic and oppressive class-divided society (Berkowitz, 1999 257). It is a recipe for such things if only because the other ideals, which the libertarian state has to trample on, will not go away but are part of the modern world (Miller, 1996 97). Similarly, it will not do to insist on conceptions of equality and community that in effect write off freedom, in a recipe for a Ã¢â¬Å"despotic socialismÃ¢â¬ . DurkheimÃ¢â¬â¢s project is a commitment to a continuing, developing search to work and rework the human idealÃ¢â¬â¢s different aspirations, which, whatever the tensions between them, must combine into a whole. It is bound to be a dispute-filled search, if only because of the nature of the human ideal, with its commitment to individualism and free thought, but also, in DurkheimÃ¢â¬â¢s account, because of the nature of modern individuality itself. However, his appeal to the division of labor as a basic source of our individuality can at the same time obscure the point about individuality itself as a source of differences and disputes (Miller, 1996 98). Critics of liberalism tend to be the more aggressive, eager to portray Hobbes as a paradigmatic liberal theorist whose geometric method, materialist metaphysics, mechanistic psychology, and atomistic vision of society exemplify the poverty of the liberal spirit (Tucker, 2001 68). Meanwhile, when confronted with the image of Hobbes as one of their own, liberals often react sharply; pointing to HobbesÃ¢â¬â¢s theory of indivisible and inseparable sovereign power and insistence on state supervision of university curriculum and church teaching, they emphatically declare that Hobbes cannot be understood to be a liberal in any meaningful sense (Hamilton, 1995 138). As often happens when passions flare and partisans draw sharp lines in the sand, the truth in its complexity and fine-grained texture becomes the first casualty, in the debate over HobbesÃ¢â¬â¢s relation to liberalism, each side errs not so much in what it points to as in what it fails to acknowledge in HobbesÃ¢â¬â¢s political theory (Berkowitz, 1999 257). In their efforts to present Hobbes as liberalismÃ¢â¬â¢s torchbearer, liberalismÃ¢â¬â¢s critics abstract from the fact that HobbesÃ¢â¬â¢s political science does little to insure the protection of traditional liberal freedoms and rejects the need, made thematic by the liberal tradition, to limit government power through careful institutional design (Pickering 2001 196). At the same time, liberals who wish to deny any relation whatsoever to Hobbes overlook the fact that HobbesÃ¢â¬â¢s doctrine of absolute sovereignty is explicitly established for the limited purpose of securing and maintaining peace, while subjectsÃ¢â¬â¢ obligation to obey the civil law is limited, according to HobbesÃ¢â¬â¢s theory, by the natural and inalienable right to self-preservation (Hamilton, 1995 139). Hobbes argued that human beings are fundamentally equal and endowed with certain natural and in-alienable rights, defended the idea of a state based on the rule of law: maintained a basic distinction between the public and the private; envisaged a sovereign who respected personal freedom by permitting his subjects the liberty of commerce and contract, as well as the choice of profession, where to live, and how to raise their children: held that a primary task of a good government was to secure a rudimentary welfare for all citizens; affirmed that civil laws govern actions, not inner faith or conscience, insisted on the utility of toleration (Berkowitz, 1999 258). Adam Smith, on the other hand, introduced two forms of liberalism, specifically economic liberalism and social liberalism. Economic liberalism is primarily about efficiency, whereas social liberalism is primarily about freedom. In modern politics, they often appeal to quite different people (McLean, 2006 314). Economic liber als are often social conservatives, and vise versa. People who believe that the state should get out of the market often believe strongly that the state should police morals (Hamilton, 1995 141). The individualization of altruism thus connects with all the emphasis on how we each become an Ã¢â¬Å"autonomous source of actionÃ¢â¬ and a centre of thought in which Ã¢â¬Å"the very materials of consciousness have a personal characterÃ¢â¬ (McLean, 2006 315). It increasingly involves, around this Ã¢â¬Å"common faithÃ¢â¬ , ways of thinking and feeling that are Ã¢â¬Å"very general and indefiniteÃ¢â¬ and that let in Ã¢â¬Å"a growing multitude of individual disagreements (McLean, 2006 323). Dissidences, even if including the differences of organic cohesion, must also refer to the conflicts involved in pluralism, factionalism and the freedom in which we each have our own Ã¢â¬Å"opinions, beliefs, aspirationsÃ¢â¬ (Miller, 1996 99). Moral individualism, wrote Durkheim, is Ã¢â¬Å"the individualism of Kant, Rousseau, of the spiritualities Ã¢â¬â the one that the Declaration of the Rights of Man attempted, more or less happily, to formulate and that is currently taught in our schools and has become the basis of our moral character (Pickering 2001 194). This type of individualism is Ã¢â¬Å"profoundly differentÃ¢â¬ from the egoistic type. Far from making personal interest the object of conduct, this one sees in all personal motives the very source of evil (Tucker, 2001 68). According to Kant, the individual is only certain of acting properly if the motives that influence the person relate, not to the particular circumstance in which the person is placed, but to the equality as a man in abstract (Holmes, 1995 89). On the other hand, RousseauÃ¢â¬â¢s concept of the general will is an authentic expression of justice insofar as it is constituted not by personal interest, but by public goods and concerns (McLean, 2006 326). Durkheim concluded, thus, for both these men, the only moral ways of acting are those that can be applied to all men indiscriminately, which are implied in the notion of man in general duty consists in disregarding all that concerns us personally in order to seek out fellowmen (Pickering 2001 195). It is perhaps more accurate to say that DurkheimÃ¢â¬â¢s moral individualism invented this tradition as much as It belongs to it (Holmes, 1995 86). Durkheim attempted to piece together his own Ã¢â¬Å"communitarianÃ¢â¬ account of his favorite varieties of liberalism (Hamilton, 1995 142). A set of liberal, democratic traditions already existed; however, Durkheim was well aware of competing communitarian traditions, such as those of the Royalists and the conservative Roman Catholics, as well as of competing liberal traditions, such as those of the classical economists and utilitarians (McLean, 2006 320). Durkheim attempted to show that in the vocabulary of moral individualism there is no fundamental opposition between individual rights and the common good. He first advanced what he considered to be the necessary communal, social Interpretation of the Kantian autonomous Individual (Pickering 2001 193). Conclusion Egoism is equated with individualism wherein Durkheim defines it in terms of Ã¢â¬Å"sentiments and representations which are exclusively personalÃ¢â¬ , and indeed just talks of it as Ã¢â¬Å"individualityÃ¢â¬ . This does not sound as if it can just be a matter of organic diversity, of differences that are complementary and cohesive rather than conflicting nor is it. The crucial passage comes earlier on, when Durkheim discusses the nature of the modern conscience collective and of the human ideal at its core. From the perspectives of other liberal philosophers of Adam Smith, liberalism is in the aspects of economic and social strengths wherein the society and industry are in continuous interplays of identities; Hobbes emphasized the universal right to personally convene a decision as the basic form of individuality. Rousseau and Kant exemplified liberalism in the form of rights of man to achieve utmost happiness as the form of individuality. Bibliography Berkowitz, P. (1999). Virtue and the Making of Modern Liberalism. Princeton University Press. Hamilton, P. (1995). Emile Durkheim: Critical Assessments. Routledge. Holmes, S. H. (1995). Passions and Constraint: On the Theory of Liberal Democracy. University of Chicago Press. McLean, L. (2006). Adam Smith, Radical and Egalitarian: Radical and Egalitarian. Edinburgh University Press. MIller, W. W. (1996). Durkheim, Morals and Modernity. McGill-Queens Press. Pickering, W. F. (2001). Emile Durkheim: Critical Assessments of Leading Sociologists. Routledge. Tucker, K. H. (2001). Classical Social Theory: A Contemporary Approach. Blackwell Publishing.