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The Core of the Philosophy of Liberalism


Ideologies of various levels and degrees of influence on people exist and compete with each other in it. One of their leading ideologies at the moment is liberalism. In connection with the frequently arising issues related to the rights and freedoms of citizens, various points of view have been formed. People who proclaim the inviolability of the rights and freedoms of the individual resort to the concept of liberalism.

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What is Liberalism?

One of the most popular and influential ideologies in the modern world is liberalism. Liberalism is understood as a special political ideology based on the sacredness and inalienable nature of individual rights and freedoms, namely, the rights to life, freedom of speech, private property, and so on (Bellamy, 2019). The founders of this ideology were John Locke and Adam Smith (Ryan, 2018). Liberalism can also be characterized as a political philosophy and ideology that shaped the formation and trajectory of American democracy (Phelan & Dawes, 2018). In addition to the fact that it stipulated the rights and freedoms of a person and a citizen, it also determined their priority concerning society and the state as a whole.

Egalitarian Liberalism

Freedom and equality, individual rights and social integration, a fair and effective social structure – the value of each of these ideals, as a rule, does not cause doubts. At the same time, it is very well known how difficult it is not only in practice but also in theory to reconcile these ideals to resolve the conflicts that arise so often between the requirements arising from them. This question has been carefully studied by such American philosophers as John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin.

Rawls formulates his liberalism in the form of a theory, which he called the theory of justice as honesty. Thus, the author emphasizes that the concept of justice occupies a central place in political philosophy. By its nature, Rawls’ theory is distributive since he raises the question of justice in the context of the distribution of so-called primary social goods. Rawls’ general idea is that primary social benefits should be distributed equally unless the unequal distribution of some or all of these benefits will not favor the least well-off members of society.

Ronald Dworkin put forward an original theory based on the concept of equality of resources. Distributive equality becomes a core principle in the author’s ideology (Malik, 2018). Thus, Dvorkin sees the basis of liberalism precisely in the concept of equality of resources, according to which each person makes his choice based on the information available to him and the real cost of this choice and costs. At the same time, the auction market, insurance, and taxation systems are not just a convenient tool for solving technical problems, but an institutionalized form of discovering and adapting the ethical core of the ideal, since they proceed from the fact that the true value of social resources provided to one person is determined by how important this resource is for other people.

Criticism of Liberalism

Despite the seemingly good message about equality of rights, the ideology of liberalism, with its provisions, is criticized.

Individualism, as an important part of the absolute majority of liberal trends, is also widely criticized. Liberalism ignores the collective nature of man, which hinders the social realization of the individual, and its development stimulates egoism and egocentrism, undermines the foundations of the state and society, and leads to the devastation of the individual.

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Rawls’ theory of egalitarian liberalism has also been subjected to considerable criticism. Sandel believed that Rawls’ theory of justice proceeds from incorrect assumptions that the moral individual.

“I” precedes socio-political relations based on the principles of equality and social justice, but this is true when the individual is already burdened with specific cultural values and obligations both concerning the surrounding people and society, and the environment (Lucier, 2018). Manyeli (2018, p. 185) thinks that “the nature of Rawls’ two principles of justice is such that they are irreconcilable”. Therefore, the old bourgeois principles of justice based on some abstract approach to the individual can only serve to regulate the social relations of people who are not related to each other, and even then only in the most formal way. Rupnik (2018, p.32) mentions that “the current decoupling of democracy and liberalism has a good deal to do with the confusion or the collusion of political liberalism with economic liberalism”. All these factors contribute to the criticism of liberalism.

From the egalitarian aspect, the disadvantage of liberal ideas is that freedom cannot exist only in the name of freedom. You can only address a specific people, a specific audience of people who need it at the moment. And when freedom is in the name of freedom, it becomes abstract freedom for no one, and eventually turns into various kinds of tyrannies, dictatorships, and so on, that is, it transforms into authoritarianism. In addition, Marxism is also critical of the liberal theory of the social contract because it considers the state as a separate entity from society.


The core of the philosophy of liberalism is the belief in the dignity of a people, in their freedom to maximize their abilities and use opportunities according to their understanding, with the sole condition that they will not prevent other people from doing the same. This implies a belief in the equality of people in one sense and their inequality in another. This is a fundamental right because people differ from each other and at the same time contribute more than another to the general culture of a society in which many people live.

Reference List

Bellamy, R. (2019). Liberalism. In Contemporary political ideologies. Routledge.

Lucier, R. M. (2018). Environmental Justice and Global Human Rights: Aspects of Self as Agency for Sustaining the Natural World. In Proceedings of the XXIII World Congress of Philosophy, 11, pp. 77-81.

Malik, L. (2018). Ronald Dworkin: Life and Works. Oxford University Press.

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Manyeli, L. M. (2018). A Critique of Rawlsian Egalitarian Liberalism. Lwati: A Journal of Contemporary Research, 15(2), pp. 184-198.

Phelan, S., & Dawes, S. (2018). Liberalism and neoliberalism. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication.

Rupnik, J. (2018). Explaining Eastern Europe: the crisis of liberalism. Journal of Democracy, 29(3), 24-38.

Ryan, A. (2017). Liberalism. A companion to contemporary political philosophy, pp. 360-382.

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