Michael Freeden argues that liberalism's collectivist and holistic aspirations, and its sense of change, its self-defined mission as an agent of developing civilization--and not only its deep appreciation of liberty--are central to understanding its arguments. He examines the profound political impact liberalism has made on welfare theory, on conceptions of poverty, on standards of legitimacy, and on democratic practices in the twentieth century. Through a combination of essays, historical case studies, and more theoretical chapters, Freeden investigates the transformations of liberal thought as well as the ideological boundaries they have traversed.
He employs the complex theory of ideological analysis that he developed in previous works to explore in considerable detail the experimental interfaces created between liberalism and neighboring ideologies on the left and the right. The nature of liberal thought allows us to gain a better perspective on the ways ideologies present themselves, Freeden argues, not necessarily as dogmatic and alienated structures, but as that which emanates from the continuous creativity that open societies display.
This clever and accessible book shows that the difference between tyrants and democrats is just a convenient fiction. Governments do not differ in kind but only in the number of essential supporters, or backs that need scratching. The size of this group determines almost everything about politics: what leaders can get away with, and the quality of life or misery under them. The picture the authors paint is not pretty. But it just may be the truth, which is a good starting point for anyone seeking to improve human governance.