American Cultural Shift and Liberalist Principles Research Paper

Table of Contents
  1. Introduction
  2. The Political Philosophy of John Locke
  3. America’s Change
  4. Racial Liberalism
  5. Economic Evolution
  6. National Identity
  7. Conclusion
  8. Bibliography
  9. Footnotes

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The method John Locke considered politics and folks’s rights has had an unlimited affect on the state of American political thought, particularly throughout its early life. The format of liberalist insurance policies stays pervasive within the United States’ tradition, forming its fundamental concepts of liberty, autonomy, and independence. However, some imagine that progressive philosophies problem these notions and switch America away from its dedication to democracy.1 This essay argues that the present political shift shouldn’t be a distinction to Locke’s liberalist insurance policies, however a reimagining of what one’s pure rights are and what the federal government can and can’t do to assist human rights to stay freely and attain their final alternatives in society.

First, the paper will talk about the concepts represented by Locke in his writings to exhibit the fundamental ideas used within the formation of the first American political paperwork. Then, it is going to handle inconsistencies between these notions and the state of the US traditionally, mentioning the divide between theoretical ideas of pure rights and precise issues of American communities. Third, the thought of progressivism and liberalism might be introduced to point out how the interpretations of liberty have affected numerous teams in America and what the nation might anticipate to see sooner or later.

The Political Philosophy of John Locke

First, to debate American political thought, one has to grasp the principle ideas within the writings of John Locke. While his physique of labor is intensive, one can try and simplify his concepts into two statements. When speaking in regards to the authorities, Locke envisioned it as a physique that was “limited in its powers,” current “only by the consent of the governed.”2 This is a stark distinction to earlier variations of the federal government, which have been dominated by monarchy. The latter is a framework during which solely sure persons are allowed to imagine the place of authority, based mostly not on residents’ settlement however the inherent proper of beginning or marriage into the royal household. Moreover, one other vital distinction between Locke’s democratic authorities and monarchy is the truth that his concept of the ruling construction is proscribed – the federal government is presumed to have an obligation earlier than its individuals to uphold the legal guidelines and norms that have been established by them. Thus, residents develop into the middle of all decision-making by not directly or immediately influencing the circulation of political evolution.

The second assertion outlines the inspiration for selecting democracy over different forms of authorities. Here, Locke’s thought is that “all men are born free.”3 This phrase implies that persons are born with sure unalienable rights that they and different people possess all through their life no matter their origin. Most of the rights are formulated as freedoms; for instance, all individuals have the liberty to pursue any non secular affiliation or make financial choices, work, and purchase property. Here, the idea of democracy is introduced, which is tied to how Locke perceived the federal government as an entity that was created with the specific function of defending these freedoms. It can be tied to basic Christian thought – “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”4 People are believed to be equal, “For God shows no partiality.”5

These two statements can be utilized to clarify most legal guidelines and beliefs that information the normal political philosophy. The Constitution, and particularly its Amendments, offers individuals with particular rights to manage the federal government and their very own lives, expressing their particular person beliefs with out infringing on others’ freedoms.6 It can be thought that this concept of liberal thought results in equality in individuals’s alternatives and their likelihood to succeed as derived from their particular person attempt. As Locke writes, persons are “creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature and the use of the same faculties, should also be equal one amongst another, without subordination or subjection.”7 This is the foundational perception of equality documented in US legislation, and it’s thought-about part of the nation’s perception system. However, wanting on the historical past of the US, one can’t ignore that this thought has many caveats which have allowed its rulers and residents to take advantage of sure communities and prohibit their rights.

America’s Change

The perception that the introduction of progressivism endangered American democracy and its liberalist insurance policies doesn’t align with Locke’s fundamental concepts. In flip, his foundational thought on the pure freedoms of males and their participation within the authorities might be thought-about in opposition to the historical past of inequality in America. First of all, one ought to speak in regards to the discrepancy between the Founding Fathers’ acceptance of Locke-based democracy and folks’s equality in pure freedoms with their continued assist for slavery. Slavery, in its nature, is a hierarchy that limits one group’s energy and freedoms and provides one other group unequal entry to authority over human lives. Thus, enslaved individuals delivered to the continent throughout and after the United States’ creation didn’t have the identical standing as American residents. This a part of historical past challenges the best of Locke’s beliefs. It exposes that folks’s acceptance of pure freedoms is proscribed by their understanding of who was deserving of such rights within the first place.8

In flip, progressivism that, on this occasion, has embraced liberty in a reimagined sense, offered enslaved individuals with a possibility to reclaim their pure freedoms and return their place as free individuals whereas additionally gaining a further standing as residents. Here, whereas the up to date authorities was challenged and its legal guidelines opposed, the elemental precept established by Locke was utilized in its fundamental kind. The identical might be mentioned about ladies gaining the precise to vote – the Suffrage motion was in opposition to the present authorities coverage.9 Still, it was the expression of individuals’s proper to mould the federal government to their concept of non-public freedom and reclamation of the pure proper to specific their potential to the fullest extent attainable.

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Thus, in every of those cases, individuals used progressivism with the intention to uphold Locke’s concepts of presidency and humanity, altering the boundaries of what “man” was. While the phrase “men” within the assertion “all men are born free” was supposed to incorporate all people, its that means actually excluded many teams of society, together with ladies, non-White individuals, and different minority teams. Progressivism expanded on the liberalist concept of unalienable freedom, offering an elevated variety of individuals the freedoms that have been alleged to be given to them by nature.10

Racial Liberalism

However, even such actions have solely contributed to part of the authorized insurance policies that the US has modified. According to Ranganathan, America is tormented by so-called “racial liberalism” – a motion which, whereas making a mythology of racial progress and liberal rules of particular person achievement, continues to disenfranchise individuals and deprive them of equal alternatives.11 As such, people who find themselves not included within the liberal ideology of individuals with pure freedoms are minimize off from the capitalist wealth, which additional implies that their life turns into depending on the selections of those that function the system. This, in flip, takes away individuals’s freedoms to supply labor, purchase and preserve property, and even shield themselves and their households. Thus, Ranganathan concludes that such use of “racial liberalism” is definitely a system of intolerant legacies that don’t align with Locke’s basic thought and proceed to propagate a slender understanding of equality for a restricted variety of individuals.12

A response to the Flint water contamination disaster defined within the paper by Ranganathan is individuals’s communal uproar towards the unfair therapy of a giant section of American residents. This theocratization of capitalism (a liberalist financial system that propagates the thought of non-public achievement and market relations) via the lens of racial liberalism demonstrates that persons are nonetheless being denied freedoms dictated by pure legislation. People are usually not underachieving by residing in Flint or different areas with poor infrastructure – their unalienable proper to restrict the federal government’s energy and determine what it ought to do to guard them is taken away.13 Thus, they aren’t actually free on this system to attain a greater final result for themselves and future generations.

Economic Evolution

Another must reinterpret liberalist insurance policies arises from the enlargement and development of individuals’s labor and useful resource use. When Locke was writing about males’s proper to property, individuals lived in a special world concerning inhabitants, useful resource use, financial system, and land entry.14 First, his concept that folks have been entitled to personal property that they may use for their very own wants didn’t account for the expansive progress of individuals’s numbers. Second, it didn’t embrace the rights of companies, which exploited the thought of the pure proper to property to accumulate monumental quantities of sources and wealth, which later shifted the stability and took away individuals’s freedom to supply labor on phrases that they wished.15

Here, the thought of progressivism went towards the liberal precept of the federal government being unable to determine how individuals gave their labor to companies. While initially, individuals have been free to make use of their alternatives with the intention to present for themselves, the evolving relationship between firms and people required the latter to surrender their autonomy and stability survival and private freedom to earn money on the industrialized company market.

National Identity

Finally, one has to handle the thought of the distinctive nationwide identification that America possesses and its connection to Locke’s concept of males’s equality earlier than the pure legislation and authorities. As many imagine, American values assist individuals’s individuality, permitting them to pursue any faith or have any ethnicity, hometown, or any particular abilities.16 Liberal democratic beliefs, as authorities observe, is the one attribute that unites American residents and results in the harmonious existence of the nation and its progress. However, the precise authorized necessities for citizenship all through historical past exhibit this perception to be unfaithful. One can recall the lengthy durations of racism towards enslaved Black individuals in addition to limitations placed on immigration rooted in racism, colorism, and basic disregard for different cultures and languages aside from these presumed to be acceptable. As the boundaries for what was deemed constructive for the US has continued to shift, the liberal precept of American citizenship as described by Locke grew to become nearer to its idealistic portrayal.

Nevertheless, America continues to propagate its citizenship as not influenced by ethnic, class, or non secular identification, whereas on the identical time introducing legal guidelines that immediately oppose this concept, and fundamental liberalist rules, by extension. As not too long ago as in 2019, many Muslims and individuals who have been in any capability associated to Islam have been persecuted legally within the United States.17 The freedom of faith mentioned by Locke as pure freedom of each human was challenged by the federal government and a few teams of people that didn’t deal with Muslims as equal residents with their proper to worship God as they selected to do. Here, the motion of progressivism as soon as once more doesn’t undermine the liberalism rules of the US however reinforces its understanding of liberty as the precise to specific oneself with out encroaching on others’ freedoms.

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The concepts expressed by Locke created a relationship between the federal government and the individual, during which the latter possesses pure freedoms and establishes which ones might be regulated and ought to be protected by the federal government. Here, the deal with one’s equal alternative for private achievement is upheld as a perfect society. However, America’s historical past exposes many inconsistencies in individuals’s use of those rules in shaping the legislation and governmental construction of the nation. Such points as racism and gender inequality are among the many main sources of competition between the federal government’s understanding of equality and folks’s means to entry their rights. Therefore, progressivism, a motion to vary the established order and spotlight the injustices and underlying buildings propagating inequality, shouldn’t be a contender that needs to uproot liberalist insurance policies. In distinction, it’s an extension of basic American beliefs and a device to ascertain a democracy that actually strikes in direction of making certain that every one individuals possess freedoms that permit them to stay their finest lives.


Collingwood, Loren, Nazita Lajevardi, and Kassra AR Oskooii. “A Change of Heart? Why Individual-Level Public Opinion Shifted Against Trump’s ‘Muslim Ban’.” Political Behavior 40, no. 4 (2018): 1035-1072.

Congleton, Roger D. “A Short History of Constitutional Liberalism in America.” Constitutional Political Economy 29, no. 2 (2018): 137-170.

Cooley, Alexander, and Daniel H. Nexon. “(No) Exit from liberalism?” New Perspectives 28, no. 3 (2020): 280-291.

Deneen, Patrick J. Why Liberalism Failed. London: Yale University Press, 2019.

Ikenberry, G. John. “The End of Liberal International Order?” International Affairs 94, no. 1 (2018): 7-23.

Jahn, Beate. “Liberal Internationalism: Historical Trajectory and Current Prospects.” International Affairs 94, no. 1 (2018): 43-61.

Pabst, Adrian. “Trump’s Triumph: The Failure of Clinton’s Progressive Politics and the Demise of Liberal World Order.” Telos 177 (2016): 192-197.

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Ranganathan, Malini. “Thinking with Flint: Racial Liberalism and the Roots of an American Water Tragedy.” Capitalism Nature Socialism 27, no. 3 (2016): 17-33.

Smith, Rogers M. “The ‘American Creed’ and American Identity: The Limits of Liberal Citizenship in the United States.” Western Political Quarterly 41, no. 2 (1988): 225-251.

Strauss, Leo, and Joseph Cropsey, eds. History of Political Philosophy. 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.


  1. Patrick J. Deneen, Why Liberalism Failed (London: Yale University Press, 2019), 18.
  2. Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey, eds., History of Political Philosophy, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), chap. John Locke.
  3. Strauss and Cropsey, chap. John Locke.
  4. Gal. 3:28, ESV.
  5. Rom. 2:11, ESV.
  6. Roger D. Congleton, “A Short History of Constitutional Liberalism in America,” Constitutional Political Economy 29, no. 2 (2018): 141.
  7. Strauss and Cropsey, chap. John Locke.
  8. Beate Jahn, “Liberal Internationalism: Historical Trajectory and Current Prospects,” International Affairs 94, no. 1 (2018): 47.
  9. Jahn, 48.
  10. Alexander Cooley and Daniel H. Nexon, “(No) Exit from liberalism?” New Perspectives 28, no. 3 (2020): 285.
  11. Malini Ranganathan, “Thinking with Flint: Racial Liberalism and the Roots of an American Water Tragedy,” Capitalism Nature Socialism 27, no. 3 (2016): 20.
  12. Ranganathan, 27.
  13. Ranganathan, 25.
  14. G. John Ikenberry, “The End of Liberal International Order?” International Affairs 94, no. 1 (2018): 11.
  15. Adrian Pabst, “Trump’s Triumph: The Failure of Clinton’s Progressive Politics and the Demise of Liberal World Order,” Telos 177 (2016): 194.
  16. Rogers M. Smith, “The ‘American Creed’ and American Identity: The Limits of Liberal Citizenship in the United States.” Western Political Quarterly 41, no. 2 (1988): 237.
  17. Loren Collingwood, Nazita Lajevardi, and Kassra AR Oskooii. “A Change of Heart? Why Individual-Level Public Opinion Shifted Against Trump’s ‘Muslim Ban’.” Political Behavior 40, no. 4 (2018): 1035.

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