Difference Between Liberal and Marxist Understandings of Human Freedom

Liberalism and Marxism are comparative theoretical perspectives on human freedom that has sparked debates in education. However, differentiating between the two models is challenging. Liberalism involves the ideology, political construct, and philosophy indicating that a person’s freedoms form the legal base of the society and economic order. Liberalism aims to develop a culture of freedom of action, exchange of ideas, contracting powers of the state and the church, and the right to private development (Gilbert 2019). Basic principles of liberalism comprised information on natural rights, including life, property, and liberty (Faessel 2018). Civil rights, the market economy, government transparency and responsibilities, and equity and equality before the law were incorporated into liberalism. The basis was critical in differentiating it from Marxist understanding. Liberalism promotes human freedom through popular opinion, while Marxism limits it via anarchy.

Liberalist principles ensure that the government roles are reduced to the possible minimum. Modern liberalists prefer open societies because it promotes democracy and pluralism (Stevenson 2016). Liberalism becomes a precursor of human freedom since it protects minority and individual citizens’ rights. Governments’ regulations in the liberalist world are more tolerant of free markets for the sake of ascertaining equal opportunities for success, education, and reducing income inequalities (Aroosi 2018). Liberalists are convinced that the political systems have embraced welfare state components, such as unemployment benefits, shelter for the homeless, and universal healthcare. Liberalists argued that a government system purposes to benefit the people under it, while the political leadership of the nation should be dependent on the consent of the majority. This liberal view gives more power to the people, which increases their freedom (Fassbender 2019). Today’s political landscape corresponds to the beliefs of the liberals because it promotes democratic government.

Marxism emphasized the significance of social thought and political movements. Marxism has received different interpretations depending on how a person perceived Karl Marx’s theory. For example, socialism is an aspect of political Marxism representing left-anarchism but is not part of social democracy (Aroosi 2018). Marxism is believed to be a philosophy of surplus values, historical materialism, and the proletariat’s dictatorial governance. Thus, Marxism influenced scientific revolutions in sociology, economics, and political science, among other science. Through Marxist political values, class struggles and social processes are considered inevitable (Dean 2020). It also recognizes that the proletariats have a leading role that hinders community production and private property ownership characteristics of the capitalist system. Marxists focus on how to translate philosophy into reality by condemning contemplative consciousness (Gilbert 2019). Political systems have used Marxist ideals in justifying their plans and actions. For instance, the Soviet Union embraced Marxism to limit human freedoms through vulgar representation against the philosophy’s goals.

Liberalism has been recently listed as a leading ideology worldwide. Such consideration is enhanced by the liberal perspectives on individual liberty, freedom of expression, dignity, freedom of religion, free markets, rights to private property, and equality (Heywood 2013). Limitations on state power, the rule of law, self-determination, the people’s supremacy, and universal human rights are characteristic of liberal ideologies. Through liberal-democratic political fields, nations have demonstrated different social, economic, and cultural well-being, like Canada, the United States, and Spain. Such countries have endorsed liberal values to shape contemporary societal goals by reducing the gap between people’s ideas and reality (Stevenson 2016). Political liberalism has been evident in Western societies through their movements. The right-wing liberals emphasize classical liberalism, which can be expressed through their objection to the provisions of social liberalism (Zembylas and Keet 2019). The classical liberals work alongside the conservatives since they share cultural manifestations of liberalism as opposed to morality. Conservative liberalism was considered an ideological adversary, moderated after World War II, and abolished the dictatorship in western conservatism.

Liberalists are persuaded that no government should interfere with an individual’s life or business but instead protect their liberty and properties from others’ encroachment. Conservatives became active defenders of private ownership and privatization (Jenco et al. 2019). Such consideration shows the transformation of the conservatives that embraced liberal values. Libertarians often support cultural and economic liberalism while opposing social liberalism. Some liberals believe the government should demonstrate adequate strength to implement the rule of law, whereas others argue that public and private organizations should be involved in law enforcement (Stevenson 2016). The arguments are based on the essence of limiting state control while promoting popular opinions.

Significant variations have been identified in most public liberal movements. Some liberals tend to favor sexual freedom, police transfers, weapon and drug trade, and increased private security firms’ functionality (Heywood 2013). The economic liberals are inclined towards a single income tax rate or replacement if it per capita to privatize education, healthcare, and pension schemes and promote independence. Most liberal societies are compelled to abolish, disarm, and abandon nuclear technology and environmental protection since they infringe on human rights (Jenco et al. 2019). Recently, liberals have escalated debates on multiculturalism, which seem to the limited by the increasing technological revolution. Though some liberals are convinced that ethnic minorities share fundamental societal values, others think the majority’s functions should be limited to protecting the rights of ethnic communities (Herring 2020). Moreover, some liberals propose that the ethnic minority should be integrated into society to preserve its integrity.

Overall, Marxist and Liberalist ideas are not compatible with the modern forms of political governance since they were developed and implemented at critical historical times. Even though the principles promise some people to advance contemporary politics and economy, they have become morally outdated and invaluable for most countries. Liberalism supported pluralism and democratic governments, while Marxism promoted socialism. The inapplicability of liberalism and Marxism reflects the maturity of political movements and ways of life in the 21st century. In such regards, the ideas cannot be reconciled but can be used in developing a new valuable approach to the economy. Despite the differences between Marxism and liberalism in the interpretation of human freedom, they both aimed to better society.


Aroosi, Jamie. 2018. The Dialectical Self: Kierkegaard, Marx, and the Making of the Modern Subject. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Dean, Hartley. 2020. Understanding Human Need. New York: Oxford University Press.

Faessel, Victor. 2018. Part I Global Studies: The Emergence of a New Academic Field. In The Oxford Handbook of Global Studies. New York: Oxford University Press.

Fassbender, Bardo. 2019. The Limits of Human Rights. New York: Oxford University Press.

Gilbert, Pamela K. 2019. Victorian Skin: Surface, Self, History. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Herring, Jonathan. 2020. Criminal Law: Text, Cases, and Materials. New York: Oxford University Press.

Heywood, Andrew. 2013. Political Ideas and Ideologies. In Politics. (4th Ed.) UK: The Palgrave MacMillan

Jenco, Leigh K., Murad Idris, and Megan C. Thomas. 2019. Part III Global Concerns: Issues and Themes at the Core of Global Research and Teaching. In The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Political Theory. New York: Oxford University Press.

Stevenson, Nick. 2016. Human Rights and the Reinvention of Freedom. Oxfordshire: Taylor & Francis.

Zembylas, Michalinos, and André Keet. 2019. Critical Human Rights Education: Advancing Social-Justice-Oriented Educational Praxes. Basingstoke: Springer Nature.

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