Liberalism : political doctrine and impact on social science
Title: Liberalism : political doctrine and impact on social science
Author: BELLAMY, Richard (Richard Paul)
Citation: James D. WRIGHT (ed.), International encyclopedia of the social & behavioral sciences. 2nd edition, Vol. 14, Oxford : Elsevier, 2015, pp. 26–31
A doctrine with roots in eighteenth century thought, liberalism emerged in the nineteenth century as the prevailing ideology of Western capitalist societies and democracies. Philosophically, liberalism consists of a commitment to the ideals of equality, liberty, individuality, and rationality. However, liberals have divided over their social and political implications. Some liberals have believed these values to be inscribed within the very fabric of modern societies, reflecting the innovative technologies, social differentiation and free movement of labor, goods, and capital characteristic of the commercial and industrial age and its aftermath. Others have thought the links between the two are fortuitous and contingent, and that these and other related social changes, such as the growth of bureaucracy, potentially threaten liberalism. Politically united against traditional and hierarchical societies, liberals have differed, therefore, over whether liberalism requires various kinds of political support, such as the state regulation of markets, or merely the absence of any interference by either the state or others to the spontaneous and autonomous social activities of individuals. Meanwhile, critics of liberalism have either blamed it for all contemporary social ills or regarded it as a transitory phase to be replaced by superior forms of social organisation. However, contemporary liberals seem increasingly critics themselves of the inequality and abuse of rights found in modern societies, although how far their proposals can be made a reality remains uncertain.
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