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Reordering the WorldEssays on Liberalism and Empire$
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Duncan Bell

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780691138787

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691138787.001.0001

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What is Liberalism?

What is Liberalism?

Chapter:
(p.62) Chapter 3 What is Liberalism?
Source:
Reordering the World
Author(s):

Duncan Bell

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691138787.003.0003

This chapter attempts to reframe the way in which the liberal tradition is understood. It opens with a critique of some existing interpretive protocols used to delimit political traditions. It then introduces a new way of conceptualizing liberalism, suggesting that it can be seen as the sum of the arguments that have been classified as liberal, and recognized as such by other self-proclaimed liberals, across time and space. The second half of the chapter analyzes the emergence and subsequent transformation of the category of liberalism in Anglo-American political thought between 1850 and 1950. It traces the evolution of the language of liberalism in nineteenth-century Britain, and explores how the scope of the liberal tradition was massively expanded during the middle decades of the century, chiefly in the United States, such that it came to be seen by many as the constitutive ideology of the West. It argues that this broad understanding of liberalism was produced by a conjunction of the ideological wars fought against “totalitarianism” and assorted developments in the social sciences.

Keywords:   liberalism, liberals, Anglo-American, political thought, political theory, nineteenth-century Britain

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