Liberalism is a most fundamental topic in political ideology. The key concepts in liberalism are:
Liberalism involves reform without revolution, whereby the individual, the basic unit of the society, must be protected by a range of rights. This constitute absolute limits to the powers and actions of official bodies. The individuality is so sacrosanct that the inherent right to choose activities or directions in life must not suffer any restriction.
Liberalism encompasses the capacity of individuals to reason, which is guaranteed by the process of education. With education, agreement and justice can be reached through knowledge and toleration, without resorting to violence.
Liberalism requires a certain form of state in which institutions have specified roles and function such as making laws or implementing justice. There must be specified relationships between the main institutions of state, so that none of them can dominate the others. The State is the necessary evil that must enforce contracts, provide protection against attack by other countries, and to maintain internal order.
In many democratic systems, the Constitution is often called the basic law. For liberals, such basic laws are essential for the protection of individual rights and freedoms. Written constitutions are a very widespread feature of liberal political systems, and almost all contemporary democracies have written constitutions. There are two exceptions:
Liberalism includes classical liberalism, neoliberalism, and modern liberalism, all of which includes some kind of egoistical individualism. The individual is the basic unit of society and the focus of liberalism.
Multiculturalism has been described as an ideological space, rather than an ideology, an area in which the nature of diversity and civic unity, or civic commonality, are discussed. It shares a number of features with liberalism, even though there are tensions between multiculturalism and several major ideologies.
Multiculturalism as a contemporary political position seems to have started in the United States, with the deepening realization among African-Americans that the end of the United States Civil War might have put an end to official slavery, but that it had certainly not put an end to severe racism and racial discrimination against African-Americans.
Multiculturalist policies are based on the recognition that particular cultural groups may have distinctive needs. If we adapt policy and practice to such needs, we can reduce unjustifiable discrimination. We can also show a recognition, even a celebration of complexity and diversity in modern societies. Liberalism requires that we tolerate diversity, but then we cannot accept cultures or subcultures in which individual rights are violated.
Some problems of liberalism are conceptual. Liberalism understandably claims that we must not impose any substantive ideology on anyone and we must accept a very wide range of ideologies and approaches to life. This implies, for example, not intervening when a system or an individual causes serious harm in the service of an ideology. Thus, liberal theorists are not always aware of the problems they face here.
For liberalism, rights are a fundamental concept. Yet they are riddled with problems. The right to freedom of expression for instance in many countries is far from being secured, which is a problem. The Case of Hadiya shows us how the right of the individual, a liberal principle, can and frequently does conflict with long-established cultural and religious practices.
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