The individual - Politics in Minutes (2016)

Politics in Minutes (2016)

The individual

During the Renaissance, science and humanist philosophy began to challenge the authority of religion and hereditary privilege. This notion continued into the Enlightenment, when rational thought continued to replace faith and adherence to convention. The first politically liberal thinkers focused their attention on individuals as citizens of their societies, rather than their governments and leaders. And these individuals, especially in the fledgling democracies being established at the time, were citizens, not subjects.

Liberalism grew from the premise that individuals should have the opportunity to live their lives as they wish, and that government should enable them to do so, with minimal interference with their individual liberties. The supremacy of individual rights over state authority became the fundamental principle of classical liberalism, summed up in the dictum of the British 19th-century liberal philosopher John Stuart Mill: ‘over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign’.