Evaluate the different interpretations of the role of the state

There are many different views about what the role of the state is and should be. All mainstream parties have concluded that there is some need for welfare provisions in a modern day liberal democracy. However with historical variations to each ideology it is sometime difficult to group an ideology as one. Also many variations agree with other ideological variations. The role of the state is a controversial issue with many differing ideas. Traditional conservatism stresses the importance of a strong state in order to maintain and uphold society. Authority and tradition are embedded in the state and act as the state to hold it together.

Although Burke is a strong advocator of this view it is clear that from such a role the state could become a totalitarian state, especially with Conservatives believing that being born into society simply means you must follow its rule. A criticism of this view would be found in classical liberal ideology, with theorists such as Locke and Hobbs that would argue that by having a strong state individual freedoms were being eroded away. Also by no having any welfare provisions they were upholding a strong state that was full on inequality and exploitation of the working class especially during industrialisation.

A one-nation approach then emerged that tried to solve some of the criticisms of traditional conservative ideology. Having a state as a welfare provider was a key principle to this variation. It is much he same as modern liberalism in the idea of protecting the working classes. However where as modern liberals wanted to liberate the working class from social evils to give them back their freedom, one-nation conservatives were more concerned with a social uprising by the lower orders (Disraeli) and therefore called for a more paternalistic approach to the state in order to protect the very make up of society.

Never the less this improvement of welfare can be criticised mainly by classical liberals who state that individual freedoms were being restricted once again because of the welfare provisions being placed on individuals. As a result the criticism of a 'nanny' state caused the New Right conservatives to emerge. They believed in have the state as night watchmen, with free markets. However they have an inconsistent set of ideals as there are too different strands of New Right conservatism. Neo-conservatives call for a strong but minimal state, two things that contradict each other, where as neo-liberals call for minimal state and free markets.

It is clear that this most recent form of conservative ideology is not coherent. Modern liberal ideology is one that has been subscribed to by both one-nation conservatives and social democrats, and is clearly a viable choice of role for the state. Green and Hohouse call for a need for a welfare state to free those who are exploited through industrialisation. It answers the criticism of Classical liberalism, that doesn't provide any safe guard against social inequality, by providing a welfare state.

It also avoids the possibility of unrest and revolution from the lower orders. Anarchists would argue that no state is required and put trust in the good nature of humans in running a society. I agree to some extent with Paine (classical liberal) that the state is a 'necessary evil' but I see the state as more of a safety net, there to protect when needed. Modern liberals believe that a welfare state answers the question of removing social inequalities, where as Marxists believe that removing the state initially is the answer.

By radically redistributing wealth among society and eventually dissolving the state, it aims to eradicate an unfair class system, as it sees itself. However in order to achieve this stateless state, a strong state is required in order to implement it! Another ideology that doesn't have a consistent set of ideas. I also believe that Marxism goes too far and encroaches too much on individual freedom. Never the less Gramsci would argue that because we are living in a liberal democracy we do not know what are actual needs are.

We have our felt needs such as the vote and welfare provision, but we lack freedom for class oppression. This line of argument is flawed however because there is in this case then no-one who has no been influenced by a liberal democracy to inform us of what our actual needs are. Marxist ideology does have some credit in that they are attempting to eradicate class oppression which I believe is a credible aim but on the other hand the ideology is incoherent and difficult to imagine people subscribing to.

Less radical forms of socialism are influenced by Marx but take a more practical approach to implementing his ideas. Social democrats see the capitalist economy as a part of the state but wish to humanise it to eradicate exploitation. Much as modern liberals attempted to do by implementing a welfare system. However a gradual change is required, and equality of opportunity is focused on; which is contrasting to democratic socialism who believes in a radical redistribution of wealth by taxation and nationalisation, with a focus on opportunity of outcome.

Classical liberals would criticise this because by imposing such a large state, individual freedoms are being ignored. However feminists may argue that a radical change to the state may allow them to adapt the state to promote more equality for women. Clearly the aim to eradicate social inequality is plausible but the amount of state intervention into the economy in order to achieve this aim is just too greater price to pay for total equality. In conclusion there is a clear consensus that a welfare state has its merits in a liberal democracy.

It is the modern liberal approach, that both one-nation conservatism and social democrats have been influenced by, that protects its citizens whilst still allowing them individual freedoms. Although there is a clear argument that by imposing a welfare state individual freedoms are eroded but this is a small price to pay in order to protect against rebellion and unrest. But as Hobhouse and Green would highlight, a welfare state s needed to protect the individual freedoms that are eroded away through free capitalist societies.

Although social democrats have a strength to their argument for a full remake of the economy and the framework of society I believe this goes too far. To remove the class system, would be to remove tradition and that is not necessary in order to protect individual freedoms, it could even go some way to eroding them further. A welfare state that doesn't seek to become a 'nanny' state such as one-nation conservatism, but one that puts protection of individual freedoms at the forefront of its ideas would be a desirable way to run a state.