Nineteenth Century Ideologies:

Conservatism, Liberalism, and Socialism


Conservatism: The Value of Tradition

Liberalism: The Value of the Individual

Alexis de Tocqueville and the Problem of Democracy

Liberal Economic Thought  
Adam Smith The Wealth of Nations (1776)

Thomas Malthus Essay on the Principle of Population (1798)

Radicalism and Democracy: The Expansion of Liberalism

Early Socialism: New Possibilities for Society


Study Guide


Conservatism: The Value of Tradition


Why did conservatives criticize the Enlightenment ideals (the innate goodness of man, the natural rights of the individual, equality, faith in progress) that spread throughout Europe after the French Revolution?

How could conservatives like Edmund Burke argue that the philosophe’s faith in reason was dangerous and destructive?

What is the conservative’s conception of the natural state of man?

Why did conservatives defend the authority of ancient institutions like the church, the monarchy, and the aristocracy?

What did Burke think of John Locke’s social contract theory of government?

How could Burke defend the English Constitution yet criticize the abstract principles at the core of the American and the French Constitutions?

Liberalism: The Value of the Individual

What social class completed its rise to prominence during the nineteenth century?

According to liberals, how would Enlightenment principles lead civilization to a new age of free institutions and responsible citizenship?

Why is education central to the liberal’s belief in social progress?

What individual rights did liberals support?

What form of government did liberals support?

What was the proper role of government in setting economic policy?

Why did liberals argue that the pursuit of individual self-interest would lead to a better society?

Alexis de Toqueville and the Problem of Democracy

Did the bourgeoisie believe that all members of society should have political rights?

What inherent dangers to society did de Toqueville observe during his travels through America in the 1830’s?

Why might citizens in a democracy be willing to sacrifice their personal liberty?

Why did de Toqueville fear a ‘tyranny of the majority’?

How might the pursuit of individual self-interest degenerate into hedonism (the doctrine that pleasure is the ultimate good)?

How could a democratic society protect itself form both a ‘tyranny of the majority’ and ‘individual hedonism’?

How have de Toqueville’s fears about democracy been born out by events in the twentieth century in both America and Europe?

Liberal Economic Thought

How did the industrial revolution spawn a host of social problems that reached crisis proportions in the late nineteenth century?

Why were governments slow to respond to social problems?

Adam Smith The Wealth of Nations (1776)

How did Adam Smith define the source of a nation’s wealth?

Why did Smith criticize government intervention in the economy?

According to Smith, how did reliance on ‘the invisible hand’ of market forces work to the benefit of all members of society?

What did Smith believe were the proper functions of laissez-faire government?

Why did liberals oppose humanitarian legislation to alleviate the misery of the poor?

Thomas Malthus Essay on the Principle of Population (1798)

Why was poverty natural and ineradicable according to Malthus?

Why would state programs, private philanthropy, even higher wages fail to solve the problems of poverty, according to Malthus?

How did liberals like Malthus make the argument that state regulation of the economy actually contributed to the problem of poverty?

Radicalism and Democracy: The Expansion of Liberalism

How did radical liberals believe that they could reform the government so that it would safeguard the interests of workers and common people?

Explain Jeremy Bentham’s principle of utility in his approach to reform.

How did his belief in active government clash with the ideas of classical liberals?

Early Socialism: New Possibilities for Society

Why did socialists believe that both the classical liberal’s belief in individual freedom and the radical liberal’s belief in reform would fail to have any impact on the problems of industrial society?

What enlightenment principles are at the foundation of socialism?

How did the Romantic idea of social progress influence socialist thought?

Why did socialists criticize liberal faith in individual liberty and equality?

How did the socialists plan to reorganize society?

Who would be the new elite in Saint-Simon’s socialist society?

Describe Fourier’s socialist utopia: the phalanstery.

What reforms did Owen encourage factory owners to make voluntarily?