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Liberalism in Kant’s and Rawl’s Views


There are a lot of different conceptions and theories in philosophy which are closely interconnected with world politics. Liberalism, capitalism and democracy are political concepts which were carefully discussed by such philosophers as Kant, Rawls and others. The attention, which is paid to these theories, could be understood as the close relation to government, and government is the main attribute of political philosophy. There is the idea that state both expands and limits people freedom.

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Liberalism is a type of political movement or ideology, which regards a human being to be a master of his own destiny. Liberalism means the freedom of choice, the freedom for decisions and the freedom to dispose the property. Liberalism is a notion which is taken by left political movements as the base of their concept. (Rawls and Kelly 2001) Liberalism is connected with two political issues, such as democracy and capitalism. To see this connection, we should consider these notions. Democracy is the type of political government, when the legislative and executive power belongs to people, to citizens of the state. (Tilly 2007)

Capitalism is the political concept which is based on the private property, on the earning as much capital as possible. (Weber and Parsons 2003) Considering all these three issues, we may come to the conclusion that they all are connected with each other by common relevance to freedom and privacy. Liberalism does not comprise the notions of capitalism and democracy, it just refers to it. Kant and Rawls had their own understanding of liberalism.

There is a famous Rawls’ phrase which gives the understanding of his opinion about liberalism from philosophical point of view:

Each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with similar liberty for others. Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both:

  • reasonably expected to be to everyone’s advantage
  • attached to positions and offices open to all (Justice as fairness 1997).

The sense of this phrase is that all people have common rights if there is a basic liberty which we are talking about. The liberty of some people should be limited to certain issues. People have different responsibilities, so the freedom should be different. There are some social and economic inequalities which should occur, but still these inequalities should not create a border between different people in reference to freedom. People are free and they can do what they want, but still their actions should be limited by law, by some moral and ethical concepts which people should observe.

Kant also paid much attention to liberty as a political concept. Different Kant’s articles deal with freedom and its reflection on people. Kant understands freedom as people’s ability to take up decisions which are their own and not imposed to them by others. Kant emphasizes that freedoms of different people can coexist together as the freedom of one person cannot be the reason of oppression for the others. Considering freedom from Kant’s point of view, it is impossible not to touch the problem of government as the support or the border for freedom. Kant contrasts that the state is not an impediment to freedom. Kant regards government as the means for freedom.

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Kant understands the state as the limitation factor of freedom. People should be responsible before the law what makes them dependant on it. At the same time law is the same for everybody, so law in the state is the factor which makes all people equal. Freedom is the first notion in Kant’s theory. He puts human being to be free in the state concept. Equality comes next. People are equal, so there is no any expansion of one by the other. And the third issue in this division is the independence of every person. All these facts are interconnected. Freedom, independence and equality are three notions which cannot exist separately. (Kant’s Social and Political Philosophy 2007)

To be free people should be aware that there are advantages and disadvantages about the freedom. Being free people should be able to cope with the responsibility which is maintained on them. Free people should be charged with their actions. Responsibility is a very serious notion which goes parallel with freedom. At the same time free people have the ability to choose between different options. The advantage of being free is the ability to be independent.


So, freedom was discussed by different philosophers. Different philosophers considered this notion in different ways. Rawls thought freedom to exist when people have equal rights. There are people who have more social and economical rights, in this case those who do not have such rights are responsible to those who have. In this case we are not going to talk about freedom between different levels of influence. Kant emphasizes that state may be the border for the freedom and its supporter. Freedom has both advantages and disadvantages. The main advantage of being free is the ability to choose. The disadvantage is the responsibility comes closely with freedom.

Works Cited

Rawls, John. Kelly, Erin. Justice as fairness: a restatement. Harvard University Press, 2001.

Tilly, Charles. Democracy. Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Weber, Max. Parsons, Talcott. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Courier Dover Publications, 2003.

Justice as fairness. 1997. Online. Web.

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Kant’s Social and Political Philosophy. 2007. Web.

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