Capitalism, Democracy and the Treaty of Waitangi are three ways through which we in Aotearoa ‘organise’ ourselves Essay

October 14, 2020 by Essay Writer


New Zealand “is an island country that is found in the south-western Pacific Ocean and comprises two main land masses and numerous other smaller islands” (Atkinson, 2003, p. 45). The country is democratic with capitalistic economic model and has a rich cultural tradition that is a blend of European and the Maori culture.

This paper seeks to use two social theories (the social liberalism theory and the consensus theory) to explain how the Aotearoa have organized themselves through capitalism, democracy and the treaty of Waitangi.

Social liberalism in the political and socio economic organization of the Aotearoa

The political and economic organisation of the Aotearoa can be described by Social liberalism theory. Social liberalism is a modern form of liberalism that differs from the classical liberalism by asserting that liberalism must encompass social justice (Welzel, 2005).

Social liberalism stipulates that the state has to ensure that its citizens have access to healthcare, education, source of livelihood and other needs. In social liberalism a community is as good as the freedom of its individual members. Neo-liberalism is a variant of social liberalism in which the state role in the provision of services is reduced (Hamer, 1988).

In the context of New Zealand, social liberalism is seen in the way the country is governed. Being a constitutional monarch, the country is under Queen Elizabeth II who is represented by the governor general (Rauzon, 2008).

The implementation of social liberal policies has been gradual but it stems back for the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi which saw a shift in the governance from local chiefs to the British government (Barak, 2006).

The terms of the treaty were to safe gourd the interests of the Moari and other indigenous groups against foreign invasion. The treaty gave the sovereignty of the New Zealand to Britain which was supposed to oversee the government and protection of the rights of the Maori people, especially to protect them from unfair land deals (Atkinson, 2003). All land transactions were thus held through the crown.

This led to the influx of immigrants from Britain who acquired land from the Maori through the crown. This would later lead to the great wars in which the Maori were dispossessed from much of their land. The treaty of Waitangi has been largely ignored until in the 1970s when it was revisited resulting in the current political structure.

Currently, Aotearoa is constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy (Salmond, 2007). The revisiting of the treaty has seen compensations, apologies and improvement in the social rights of the Maori. An electoral system that is based on proportional representation is adopted to ensure that minority groups are not left out of governance.

The New Zealand politics are based on modern liberalism that affirms to the adherence to the following principles: multiparty democracy, human rights, free and fair elections, social justice, free trade, environmental sustainability among others (Welzel, 2005).

The earliest liberal party of New Zealand is remembered for having advocated for equal rights for women making New Zealand the first nation in the world to have allowed women to vote.

More recently, in 1990, the New Zealand’s bill of rights which forms part of the Aotearoa uncodified constitution was published (Evans, 2007). The bill of rights stipulates the functions of the branches of government, democratic and civil rights, and non discrimination and the minority rights (Atkinson, 2003).

New Zealand’s economy uses a capitalistic model where by most of the economic activities are privately owned. The economy of New Zealand can be described as a social market economy in which the government does not bother to intervene in setting the prices of commodities.

In other words the prices of commodities are determined by the true supply and demand forces that are allowed to settle at equilibrium (Hamer, 1988).

However, in consistency with the requirements of social liberalism theory, the government of New Zealand oversees the provision of social security, unemployment benefits and the recognition and the implementation of labour rights through regional councils (Rauzon, 2008). The economy seems to be driven by the corporation of large business, labour unions and the government.

Consensus theory in the political and social organization of the Aotearoa

The second theory that can best describe some aspects of the socio- political organization of the Aotearoa is the consensus theory (Tormey, 2004). The consensus theory is a social theory that asserts that a particular political or economic system is a fair system, and that social change should take place in the social institutions provided by it (Scott, 2005).

Under this theory, the society is said to be in equilibrium if there is no strife. And that the prevailing situation is characterised by the different members of that society in regard to the norms, regulations and values.

The theory is more concerned with the preservation of social order at the societal level. In the consensus theory, the parties see the rules as being integrative in nature and those who fail to respect them are considered to be deviant (Fitzpatrick, 2004).

The consensus theory is in agreement with some aspects of socio political organization in the Aotearoa. The signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between the British and the Maori in 1840 was the first instance in which aspects of the consensus theory can be pinpointed (Salmond, 2007). Before the treaty was signed, the Maori were being faced with an imminent threat of being colonized and unfair trade practices.

The signing of the treaty ensured that they maintain their status quo through British protection and in return they were supposed to be governed by Britain and to agree to sell their land through justly means to the crown (Welzel, 2005). The treaty was implemented in the short term but in the years that followed it was ignored and most of the agreements were violated.

Land was sold through dubious means and this eventually culminated into the New Zealand Wars (Atkinson, 2003). The war left most of the Maori land confiscated.

Aspects of the consensus theory continue to play out in regard to the treaty where by the Maori accuse the Crown for violating the treaty, especially in regard to the rights aspects of the treaty. Thus there have been instances of compensation and apologies to preserve the social order that was established by the treaty.

The democratic leadership in New Zealand have been instrumental in the promotion of civil rights of the highly cosmopolitan population of the country (Welzel, 2005). For a long time the country was on the forefront in the provision of social services and offering equal opportunity to various groups through legislative action.

The equality and freedom that is enjoyed by the population is achieved by allowing the people to take part in the legislative processes. However, certain historical aspects of the country have made it difficult for a complete democratization process and this has resulted in some groups feeling alienated (Evans, 2007).

For instance, the Maori group which forms the biggest percentage of the indigenous people of New Zealand is given preferential treatment that is based on some historical agreements. The Maoris are favoured by the Treaty of Waitangi which often seems to elevate them above other groups (Salmond, 2007).

This is not to say that the Maoris are comfortable, no, they too are alienated by being depicted in the minority in a land that was predominantly theirs. The arrival of European settlers led them into loosing most of their traditional lands and adoption of foreign language (Rauzon, 2008).

The indigenous groups who are the minority may be faced with challenges such as lose of cultural identity or be subjected to institutionalized racism and sexism (Salmond, 2007). This not withstanding the political stability in New Zealand is ranked the fifth in the world, implying that the country’s democratic process has been able to build a workable consensus between different ethnic groups (Atkinson, 2003).

The free market capitalism that is practised in New Zealand is also seen to have some aspects of consensus theory. The consensus is established on the understanding that the government allows the market forces to set prices and thus its role is only limited to the protection of the rights of workers, proprietors and their properties (Hamer, 1988).


This paper sought to use two social theories (the social liberalism theory and the consensus theory) to explain how the Aotearoa have organized themselves through capitalism, democracy and the treaty of Waitangi.

The paper has been able to identify the application of various aspects of the two theories in the Socio –economic and political organization of the Aotearoa. The rise of democracy and the adoption of free capitalistic ideals can be traced back to the signing of the treaty of Waitangi.


Atkinson, N. (2003). Adventures in Democracy: A history of the Vote in New Zealand. Otago: Otago University Press.

Barak, A. (2006). The Judge in a Democracy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Evans, N. (2007). Up from down under: After a century of Sociolism, Australia and New Zealand arre Cutting Back Government and Freeing the Economies. National Review , 16:47-51.

Fitzpatrick, J. (2004). Food, warfare and the impact of atlantic capitalism in Aotearo/Neww Zealand. Sydney: ustralasian Political Studies Association Conference.

Hamer, D. (1988). The New Zealand Liberals: The Year of Power. Auckland: Auckland University Press.

Rauzon, M. (2008). Island restoration: Exploring the past, anticipating the future. Marine ornithology , 35:97-107.

Salmond, A. (2007). Two Worlds: First Meeting Between Maori and the Europeans. Auckland: Penguin Books.

Scott, J. (2005). Industrialism: A dictionary of Sociology. Oxford: Oxford University press.

Tormey, S. (2004). Anti-Capitalism. New York : One World Publications.

Welzel, I. R. (2005). Modernization, Cultural Change and Democracy: The human Development Sequence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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