What is Liberalism? “Classical” vs left-liberalism in a nutshell
The traditional view of man is that he is basically a corrupt being, who requires rulers, who by some divine grant (see “philosopher-kings”, “original sin” and the “divine right of kings”) have the wisdom to organize society into a productive order and redirect inherently sinful tendency of man into moral and socially valuable goals. The right-conservatives are the revival of this philosophy in response to left-liberalism.
Liberalism was the rejection of this philosophy. It was the realization by Locke and others that human beings are self-motivated to create positive values, and that society should be structured in a way that maximizes their ability to do so. The liberals advocated free markets and limited governments to enable the expression of ideas and enterprises that would gradually and naturally improve the social order. The liberal philosophy views social and material progress as the expression of self-interested individuals. The view of history as progress (perhaps inspired by the scientific progress of the time) is a new paradigm – history as progress towards a better future, not just a list of events.
Dialectical materialism is the rejection of liberalism. It also views history as progress towards an end, but one driven by the inevitable dynamics of social conflict. Marxism is the belief that human relationships are inherently exploitative, and the pursuit of individual self-interest is destructive. Therefore, both the individual and the social order must be transformed into a new modern man. Therefore, like the traditionalists, Marxists reject both human nature and organic social structures, and seek to replace them with a dictatorship of enlightened rulers and an educational system which creates enlightened, class-conscious workers who will serve the common good.
The basic similarity between “classical” and left-liberalism is that they reject the traditional, static view of history and believe in moral and economic progress. The difference is that classical liberalism accepts man, human values, and voluntary institutions as they are, whereas Marxism seeks to replace both human nature and human institutions with those that facilitate egalitarianism and the “dictatorship of the proletariat.”
Though “traditional conservatism” and “progressive liberalism” have nominally different views of man, they share the same goals and the same means: to control and redirect the corrupt and destructive nature of man into socially-desirable means.
The case, in brief