Contending Liberalisms: Past and Present

Author/s (editor/s):

James L. Richardson

Publication year:


Publication type:

Working paper

Find this publication at:
IR Working Paper 1995/10 (PDF, 4.02MB)

James L. Richardson, 'Contending Liberalisms: Past and Present', IR Working Paper 1995/10, Canberra: Department of International Relations, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University, December 1995.

The claim that the ending of the Cold War signifies the triumph of Western liberalism - irrespective of whether this is celebrated or deplored - overlooks the extent to which the liberal tradition, as commonly understood, incorporated radical differences within it. These often shaped the major political cleavages of the time: between Whigs and radicals, Girondins and Jacobins, the liberalism of privilege versus the liberalism of egalitarian democracy. Similar tensions can be identified today: between the liberalisms of 'globalisation from above' and 'globalisation from below', the liberalism of international business and finance and that of radical social movements, the liberalism of privilege and that of human rights in the full sense. Not all these espouse the same liberal principles, but they can be seen as contending over which of the rival liberalisms should be accorded legitimacy in the post-Cold War world.

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