Liberalism remains the mainstream political philosophy of the modern western world, despite the relative decline of political parties describing themselves as ‘liberal’, both in Britain and elsewhere. Most other political ideologies are defined in relation to liberalism, and it is the necessary starting point for any study of political ideologies today. Liberalism has evolved over a long period and has varied considerably over time and space, which presents some problems for analysis. Although the term ‘liberalism’ was not employed until the early nine teenth century (Manning, 1976, 9; Gray, 1986, ix) its roots can be traced back much earlier (Arblaster, 1984, 11). It drew its intellec tual inspiration from the religious reformations of the sixteenth century, the seventeenth century scientific revolution, and the eighteenth century French or European Enlightenment. It was, however, industrialization from the eighteenth century onwards that transformed economic and social relations and created new class interests, with a commitment to a capitalist economy and a liberal political programme of reform.
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