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Liberal Democracy: Marxist and Conservatism’ Approaches Essay

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Updated: May 28th, 2020

In the modern society, a number of societies opt for liberal democracy as their preferred form of government whereby it bases its administrative systems on liberalism. This implies that the government has to grant individuals their rights, including the minorities. The system of governance is characterized by free, fair, competitive, and credible elections that must be held periodically among several distinctive political parties. Regarding the system of checks and balances, governmental power should be distributed among the three arms of government, with each branch playing its role as per the provision of the constitution (Heywood 2004, p. 26).

Law should always be given precedence in a liberal democracy while individual rights must be protected. In other words, a liberal democracy operates based on the constitution and constitutionalism implying that every governmental action has to be drawn from the country’s constitution. Several forms of liberal democracies exist in the current society, with countries such as France, Germany, United States, and Italy employing a constitutional republic.

Marxist Approach

Marx is one of the scholars who were critical of the liberal democracy since capitalist ideologies inspire it. Based on this, he argued that this type of democracy is class-based and it does not aim at fulfilling the interests of the poor. In many liberal democratic societies, Marx noted that the ruling class uses the poor to enrich themselves and the government facilitates the process of oppression through offering tight security to goods of bourgeoisies and suing those in violation of the law. In his view, the state is made up of the committee of the ruling class meaning that capitalists control all state machineries and their major objective is to suppress and dominate the poor in society. In this regard, liberal democracy is a bourgeois democracy implying that any politician elected or nominated to represent the rights of a certain group will simply end up serving as the puppet of the rich in society.

Marx summarized his view on liberal democracy by observing that representation of the interests of any class is proportional to its economic power meaning the most powerful class in any given society will definitely be represented well while the class that relies on the rich for survival will never have adequate representation in government (Dunleavy, P & O’Leary, B 1987). A class with economic influence has suitable means to bribe the government, transmit propaganda, blackmail both the government and the poor, and fund campaigns during elections. In this case, liberal democracy is steadily corrupted since people with money can easily buy their freedom while the poor are left to languish in abject poverty.

According to Marxists, liberal democracy is an impediment to individual fulfillment because the system simply serves the interests of the rich. In this case, multi-party democracy has always been distorted since it furthers the interests of the most powerful class, instead of catering for the interests of the majority. The owners of the means of production own the system and they apply it to serve their desires and wishes effectively. Marxism calls for the creation of a just society that does not favor only one class (Heywood 2007, p. 78). Classless society will one day be formed when the working classes rise up against the rich through a revolution to demand for their rights.

Mostly, the poor will be interested in being incorporated into the production system as major stakeholders instead of being involved in economic matters as underdogs. In a capitalist society, a worker has nothing to offer apart from his or her cheap labor. Liberalism allows the bourgeoisie to propose changes to the constitution or any other establishment, such as labor laws, which have a dramatic effect to the performance of the poor. Marx noted that the idea of holding elections after a specified period is cynical and a systematic way of cheating the working class to support the political party or an individual whose aim would be to protect the bourgeois’ wealth.

Through liberal democracy, Marxists suggest that the wishes and desires of the masses cannot be fulfilled since the system does not allow them to amass wealth or attain the highest political ambitions. The only role of the working class is to support one of the bourgeoisies in an election through voting. People are made to believe that voting is a constitutional right and each person has to participate, but the reality of the matter is that any laborer does not have a right since they simply survive at the mercy of the rich. In a recently publicized approach regarding the bailout of the Wall Street, Marxists would argue that parliaments would go to the extreme ends to support one of their own. While the majority might be suffering from various types of social problems, the government would simply bypass them and move on to bail the country’s top companies in the name of saving the economy.

To Marxists, this amounts to theft and wastage of public resources because the companies are privately owned and the profits they generate go to individual pockets. The US government, as well as British and French administrations decided to commit troops to Middle East claiming that they were trying to fight terrorism and restore democracy in the region. However, Marxists view this as the work of bourgeoisies who are interested in oil from the region. Consequently, public resources are wasted to realize the interests of the few rich in society.

To Marxists, liberal democracy does not result achieve the desired political ends because they claim that a better future is only achieved when workers organize themselves to form a revolution that would push the bourgeoisie out of power. Liberal democracy allows private ownership of property and market forces determine the prices of products. Therefore, the working class does not have the means to own the production system. The only hope for the poor is to form a revolution that will put in place a socialist government that cares for the interests of the majority.

Conservative Approach

Liberal democracy differs in a number of ways with conservatism since the latter believes that the government has an important role to play in the life of an individual since it should create an enabling environment for personal fulfillment. Therefore, the government has the main function of alleviating life through provision of the major services, such as security, healthcare, and infrastructure. Additionally, the government has to grant every person his or her civil right, such as freedom to expression, freedom of religion, and the right to life and ownership of property.

Based on this, the government has to exist to guarantee people their safety. On the other hand, conservatism does not believe in the community or society, but instead it insists on individualism meaning that a person has to take responsibility for his or her actions. The role of the government should be as minimal as possible and should simply be concerned with provision of freedom that would help an individual realize his or her potentials. In this regard, the approach only emphasizes on individual empowerment. On issues such as abortion, liberalism allows a woman to procure an abortion since a fetus is not considered a human being (Beetham 2005, p. 78). In fact, the state has to fund productive health programs, including abortion, something that conservatism highly opposes.

For conservatives, abortion is considered murder and taxpayer money should never be wasted on it. Liberal democracy advocates for affirmative action since it is the only way of ensuring that minorities and the vulnerable groups, including people living with disabilities, women, youths, and blacks are incorporated into the financial system fully, but not as underdogs. For conservatives, meritocracy has to be given chance implying that the most qualified individual has to be hired, irrespective of whether he or she is black, woman, man, or disabled.

The problems facing society as regards to discrimination cannot be resolved through affirmative action. Liberal democracy encourages the government to intervene in the market whenever it is felt that consumers are suffering. For instance, the state has to come up with measures to ensure that noncompliant organizations are subjected to law mainly because protection of the populace from business malpractices is one of its mandates. For conservatives, the government has no role in the economy apart from providing an enabling environment since the market has to be free and ought to operate based on competitive capitalism private ownership of property. If the government respects the market dynamics, many jobs would be created, economic growth would be intense, and people’s standards of living would go up as well (McLellan 1980, p. 7).

Basis of Comparison

When comparing the two perspectives, a few concepts are analyzed one of them being the production system whereby capitalism is discussed and the other is political institutions in which their effectiveness is analyzed. While Marxism supports socialism, conservatism tends to support liberalism because it suggests that things should not be disturbed, but instead the market should be left on its own. If the government intervenes to help the poor, the financial system will collapse. The only way that the government should come in to the economy is through provision of an enabling environment that realizes the goals and objectives of each person.

For instance, the government is simply concerned with development of infrastructure, maintenance of peace and order, and capacity building. For Marxists, the government has no role to play in the lives of the poor, apart from helping the rich subjugate and oppress them (Birch 1993, p. 112). Conservatism underscores the fact that political institutions, such as the legislature and the judicial system serve the interests of people because they make laws and offer judgment respectively. However, Marxists do not share this view because they view political institutions as instruments that are used to facilitate domination and continued oppression.

Personal Opinion

The radical views of Marxists are not applicable in the modern society because of the development of the proletariat, which means that a revolution is unlikely to resolve the issues facing humanity. Therefore, the Conservative approach ought to be applied to interpret the political environment.

List of References

Beetham, D 2005, Democracy: A Beginner’s Guide, One World, Oxford.

Birch, A 1993, The concepts and theories of modern democracy, Routledge, London.

Dunleavy, P & O’Leary, B 1987, Theories of Democratic State, Routledge, London.

Held, D 1996, Models of Democracy, Polity Press, Cambridge.

Heywood, A 2004, Political Theory: an Introduction, Palgrave, Basingstoke

Heywood, A 2007, Political Ideologies: an introduction, Palgrave, Basingstoke.

McLellan, D 1980, The thought of Karl Marx, Macmillan, London.

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