The term liberalism can be used in a variety of ways and can attract people with extremely different views. The left and the right sometimes use the word liberal as a term of abuse. In both cases, liberals can be condemned for displaying weakness in their attempts to balance conflicting interests in society rather than side with capital (the right wing perspective) or with labour (the left’s preference). We should bear in mind, however, that there are different types of liberals. The classical liberals of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were arch defenders of capitalism and ardent critics of an interventionist state. It was not until the late nineteenth century that liberals began to engage with social problems in a way that allowed the state to increase its functions. The term social liberal will be used when referring to these pioneers of the modern welfare state. This chapter will have something to say about both these forms of liberalism. Given that we are primarily interested in welfare issues, greater attention will be given to the social liberals and to their sensitive handling of social issues. In a later chapter (Chapter 5), we will look at attempts to revive the spirit of classical liberalism and repackage it in the form of neo-liberalism. For now, the discussion of classical liberalism will draw upon the ideas of Adam Smith, Tom Paine, Herbert Spencer and the ever-changing John Stuart Mill. The ideas of T.H. Green, L.T. Hobhouse, John Maynard Keynes and John Rawls will be used to illustrate some of the key features of social liberalism. Material on these theorists will be supplemented by some examples of policies introduced by key liberal regimes including the 1906–1914 Liberal governments in Britain and the Democratic administrations of Roosevelt and Johnson in the United States.
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number