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Classical Liberalism and New Ideologies

  • Identify the most significant ideological challenges to classical liberal principles and values that emerged during the 19th century.
  • Develop a time line that illustrates how classical liberalism evolved in response to challenges from alternative ideologies during the 19th century.

Outcomes References Related Resources

Suggested Activities

Students explore alternative ideologies and examine the evolution of classical liberalism by exploring the degree to which classical liberalism was influenced and changed by the development of new ideologies.

  1. Identify the most significant ideological challenges to classical liberal principles and values that emerged during the 19th century.

Explore dissatisfaction with liberalism
Remind students that although classical liberalism emerged as a response to conservatism, many people during the 19th century were dissatisfied with the results. Invite students to think of groups that would have distinct perspectives on the introduction of classical liberalism.

Ask students to brainstorm why these groups might have been dissatisfied. Possible responses include an aristocracy unhappy with limits being placed on their power and privilege, workers concerned about lack of government regulation in the workplace and women concerned about poor social conditions.

You may wish to refer to The Impacts of Liberalism in the 19th Century (Critical Challenge) for additional activities and information on this topic.

Determine most significant concerns
Explain to students that they will be determining which concerns may have been most significant to specific groups.

Organize the class into teams and provide each team with a list of perspectives to examine. This list should include groups that would have expressed concerns regarding the spread of classical liberalism. Possible examples include the following:

  • entrepreneurs
  • politicians
  • aristocracy
  • labour groups
  • feminists
  • human rights advocates
  • antipoverty activists
  • Aboriginal peoples.

To meet the diverse needs of learners, you may wish to provide a variety of resources such as videos, visuals and primary and secondary sources.

To assist students in making a judgement about the efficacy of the new ideologies and to structure this activity, you may want to provide each student with a graphic organizer such as Dissatisfaction with Classical Liberalism (Lesson Material).

Develop hypotheses on 18th century concerns
Ask teams to work collaboratively to write a hypothesis regarding each group’s concerns about the spread of liberalism during the 18th century. Students might consider this question: What underlying assumptions and conditions might have driven this group’s concerns?

Ask students to predict what various groups of people might do given their dissatisfaction with liberalism. They might also predict how people in power would have reacted to their concerns.

Research concerns of 18th century groups
After each team has developed a hypothesis anticipating each group’s possible concerns, ask teams to collect and record information about the group’s concerns regarding the spread of liberalism.

Determine historical significance of group concerns
Ask teams to select and record the three most significant concerns for their assigned group. The following criteria can be used to judge historical significance:

  • Prominence at the time
    • Was the event, idea or person noticed at the time as having importance?
    •  How long did this recognition last?
  • Consequences:the impacts of events, ideas and persons
    • Magnitude of the impact: How deeply felt or profound was the impact?
    • Scope of the impact: How widespread was the impact?
    • Lasting nature of the impact: How long-lasting were the effects?
  • Subsequent profile
    • Remembered: Has the event, idea or person been memorialized?
    • Revealing: Does it inform our understanding of history?

Invite teams to share their decisions regarding the significant concerns and to revisit their hypotheses.

Explore new ideologies
Inform students that new ideologies began to emerge as a result of dissatisfaction with liberalism. New ideologies were attempts to address the perceived weaknesses of classical liberalism and to propose new ways of organizing society. New ideologies include Marxism, socialism, welfare capitalism, and the return of classic conservatism (30-1) and Marxism and socialism (30-2).

Instruct students to examine each of the new ideologies and identify the features of the ideology that distinguish it from classical liberalism. Direct students to give particular attention to economic, political and social differences. You may wish to have students refer to authorized resources and other sources.

After students identify the distinguishing features, instruct them to indicate which of the previously identified groups would strongly support or strongly oppose the ideas of the new ideology. Remind students to include reasons for their selections. You may wish to use New Ideologies (Lesson Material) to structure this activity.

  2. Develop a time line that illustrates how classical liberalism evolved in response to challenges from alternative ideologies during the 19th century.

Create a time line of changes to classical liberalism
Inform students that classical liberalism changed over time in response to events, citizen responses and the emergence of new ideologies. Invite students to create a brief history of liberalism by using a time line to show the evolution and variations of the concept of liberalism.

Guide students in recording the principles (30-1) and values (30-2) of classical liberalism at the beginning of the time line. Students should then note the emergence of other ideologies on the time line as well as indicate how classical liberalism changed in response to new ideologies.

Alternatively, students might be provided with various pieces of evidence that reflect changes in liberal ideology; e.g., political speeches, headlines, history of political parties or profiles of relevant political leaders and how their ideas evolved. Students could infer the ways in which the ideology seems to have shifted and then check their understanding against a lecture or backgrounder sheet.

Students may want to add information to the time line regarding resistance movements and the changes to liberalism.

Make judgements about changes to classical liberalism
Invite students to make judgements regarding the significance of the changes to classical liberalism based on the information gathered in the preceding activities. Instruct students to rank the three most important changes to classical liberalism.

To guide the ranking process, suggest the use of criteria such as the following:

  • Depth of change: Did the changes alter the fundamental principles of liberalism or were changes superficial?
  • Duration of change: Did the changes have a long-lived or short-term impact?
  • Scope of change: Did the changes impact many people or remain in the realm of ideas only?

To encourage understanding of the dynamic nature of liberalism, ask students to share with their peers and to defend their judgement.

Last updated: January 30, 2009 | (Revision History)
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