Liberalism and the State

Liberalism and the State April 10, 2015

Steve Pincus argues that 1688 marked the “first modern revolution. The Glorious Revolution couldn’t have taken the form it did without the “series of ideological debates that informed and transformed conceptions of state, religion, and society” in the middle of the century (8). 

From these debates emerged a vision for a transformed Britain, and elements of this vision were brought to reality in the aftermath of 1688: “The creation of the Bank of England, war against France, and religious toleration were all explicit goals of many of the revolutionaries” (8).

In short, “The revolutionaries created a new kind of English state after 1689. They rejected the modern, bureaucratic absolutist state model developed by Louis XIV in France. But they did not reject the state. Instead the revolutionaries created a state that was intrusive in different ways. Their state sought to transform England from an agrarian into a manufacturing society, oversaw the massive military buildup that was necessary to fight a war against the greatest military power that Europe had ever seen, and sought to promote a religiously tolerant society. John Locke, often described as one of the earliest and most influential liberal thinkers, was one of these revolutionaries. If the Glorious Revolution was a critical moment in the development of modern liberalism, that liberalism was not antagonistic to the state. The liberalism spawned in 1688–89 was revolutionary and interventionist rather than moderate and antistatist” (8).

One more testimony that liberalism has not been corrupted by the interventionist state, but cohabited with the interventionist state from the outset.

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