The ‘Grand Projects’ Of Liberalism

Michael Freeden

in Ideologies and Political Theory

Published in print April 1998 | ISBN: 9780198294146
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599323 | DOI:
 The ‘Grand Projects’ Of Liberalism

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From the vantage point of the end of the twentieth century, the author has selected four case‐studies of clusters of thought claiming to be liberal, in order to perform the twofold task of assembling the units of liberalism into an identifiable structure, and of testing concrete instances against whatever dominant morphological configuration may emerge. First, there is what is misleadingly known as classical liberalism, an early‐ to mid‐nineteenth‐century creed associated in Britain with J. S. Mill; some of its tenets are examined while being careful not to fall into the trap of assigning lexical correctness to its conceptual definitions and merely secondary or derivative status to its successors. Second, there are versions of reformist (or new) liberalism, such as those associated with T. H. Green, the British new liberalism, and their German and French counterparts; here, an assessment is made of both the question of family continuity and the boundary problems these permutations have, particularly with socialism; the analysis of new liberalism is taken further in the next chapter. Third, there is a recent genre of philosophical liberalism, much in fashion in the American academic world but achieving success abroad through the prominence of American political philosophy; an inquiry is made into whether this school produces a possibly innovative but stipulative model and whether it is reconcilable with mainstream American liberal traditions; the ideological elements in this philosophical position are also examined; the analysis of philosophical liberalism is taken further in Ch. 6. Finally, there is a variant broadly known as libertarianism, with both nineteenth‐century and contemporary instances; an exploration is made of its claim to be representative of a (or the) legitimate strand of liberalism, and of the extent to which it is situated within or outside the accepted boundaries of liberalism; the analysis of libertarianism is taken further in Ch. 7.

Keywords: British new liberalism; classical liberalism; French liberalism; German liberalism; T. H. Green; ideology; liberalism; libertarianism; J. S. Mill; new liberalism; philosophical liberalism; reformist liberalism; USA

Chapter.  15642 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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