Chapter

The Liberal Dilemma: The Economic and the Social, and the Need for a European Contextualization of a Concept with Universal Pretensions

Bo Stråth

in Liberalism as Ideology

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199600670
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738203 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199600670.003.0006
The Liberal Dilemma: The Economic and the Social, and the Need for a European Contextualization of a Concept with Universal Pretensions

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There is not one liberalism but several, each of which has contributed to the modernity of Europe. The collection of arguments that we call liberalism reflects the deep historical diversity of Europe, a diversity that since the nineteenth century has had the demarcation between nation states as a point of departure. To argue that each specific national culture has had its own understanding and experience of liberalism is to underestimate the complexity, however, because in each national setting there have been various more or less contested versions. This chapter argues that there is a need to historicize and contextualize liberalism through the methodology of conceptual history, to particularize (‘provincialize’) what is claimed to be universal. The chapter focuses on the liberal conceptualization of the economic, and on the connection between market language and the social issue.

Keywords: European modernity; liberalism; nation states; conceptual history; provincialization; economics; social issue; market language

Chapter.  11190 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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