Boris N. Chicherin on Western Liberalism and Its Shortcomings

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Abstract

This article examines the criticisms that Chicherin directed at the classical Western liberalism that emerged from the works of John Locke, Claude-Adrien Helvétius, Baron d’Holbach, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the criticisms that can also be directed at modern Western liberalism. Following the early nineteenth-century German philosophers (Fichte, Hegel), Chicherin proves the falsity of liberalism’s philosophical foundations and, above all, the fallacy of its individualism. The latter assumes that the individual is not just independent of society and the state but also primary in relation to them, as well as a limited understanding of freedom that is reducible to an absence of external restrictions on human activity. As Chicherin shows, the stability of a state built on these principles can be ensured only by manipulating the consciousness of its citizens such that they are satisfied with their rulers. The Russian version of liberalism created by Chicherin and his followers is based on an understanding of the individual’s dependence on society’s spiritual wholeness, as well as on an understanding of freedom as man’s spiritual inner quality manifested primarily in his ability to create high culture. Russian liberalism views the state as a value equal to and complementary to the value of individual freedom, defining it as a way of organizing the life of a people that arises naturally in history and is independent of the will of individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-27
JournalRussian Studies in Philosophy
Volume59
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021

Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy

Keywords

  • external and internal freedom
  • the individual and society
  • the state and culture
  • Western and Russian liberalism

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