There may be a pattern that occurs in all paradigm shifts. First comes a generalised call for change, usually in the name of freedom. After the impetus builds, and especially if some victories that add fuel to the fire are achieved, then there is a necessary splintering into a set of related but discrete issues. This is what happened after the yeasty days of the 1960s in Paris when workers and students joined hands in a call for liberation, and black activists in America demonstrated against a segregated society and for their civil rights. From then on, for the next 30 years or so, single issues were tackled one by one, as they related separately to political and democratic processes, civil rights, social concerns and living conditions. The same seems to have happened in eastern Europe when in 1989 the Russian style system of soviet imperialism collapsed, to be followed inevitably by calls within independent states for localised changes. It is this pattern, I have suggested, that makes the 1790s in Britain a watershed decade for the cause of natural rights. The revolutions in America and France in the 1780s galvanised an ebbing tradition of natural law which still existed amongst libertarian thinkers among whom were many imaginative writers. The call for change began as a demand for freedom but under the name of ‘rights of man’ or natural rights — the generalised stage when freedom as an issue dominated over specific instances.


Specific Instance Free Speech Social Concern Democratic Process English Government 
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© R. S. White 2005

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