What Is Liberalism, What Does It Mean?

What Is Liberalism, What Does It Mean?

June 28, 2021 Off By Felso

Liberalism, in both economic philosophy and political philosophy, emphasizes the rights and freedoms of the individual in all relations between the state, society and the individual; It is an economic and political doctrine advocating that every individual’s freedom of conscience, belief and thought should be recognized.

In this context, he argues that the state’s intervention in the economy should be minimized, and that the more ideal thing is that the state should not interfere in the economic relations between individuals, classes and nations, and finds its concrete expression in the phrase “Let them do it, let them pass” (Laiseez faire laisez passer). The doctrine is called economic liberalism.

Restricting the authority of the state in every sense and in every field, advocating that those holding this authority should not interfere in any way with how the building blocks of society will direct the lives of individuals, emphasizing that the state should not play any decisive role in the regulation of social and cultural life, The doctrine that finds in the saying “good government is the least sovereign” is called political liberalism.


Undoubtedly, the debate between liberal and collectivist forms of thought comes first among the debates that characterize today’s political philosophy.

The most important factor in the prominence of this debate is that the ideological polarization of liberalism-Marxism, which dominated until the last quarter of the 20th century, came to an end with the loss of power in the field of practice of socialism at the end of the 1980s.

The end of the bipolar world understanding created by the liberalism-Marxism debate and the fact that Marxism was valued only as a part of the discussions in the theoretical field, in practice, led to the declaration of the unconditional superiority of liberalism.

Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history” thesis (Fukuyama 1992), which states that the whole world has now entered the orbit of liberalism at this stage, assumes that any critical view towards liberalism is no longer possible.

However, the return of political philosophy, which lost its value gradually during the liberalism-Marxism polarization and left its place to the discipline of international relations, which took on the task of planning real politics, after the decline of socialism, brings with it new focus of criticism that falsifies Fukuyama’s thesis.

Thus, the critical tradition created by political philosophy paves the way for new immanent and transcendent debates on liberalism.

The most shocking of the immanent critiques of liberalism comes from John Rawls, especially in his 1970 work A Theory of Justice.

John Rawls

Rawls criticizes liberalism, which has tended to ignore some problems consciously during the nearly century that has passed with ideological polarization, especially for its lack of justice.

Expressing the deficiencies of the utilitarian perspective that underlies classical liberalism, Rawls not only leads to the renewal of liberalism, but also opens the way for political philosophy to return by revealing the possibility of alternative ideas that reveal the themes that liberalism neglected.

It is possible to explain the transcendent criticisms of liberalism, to a large extent, with the “methodological helplessness” of social scientists at the beginning of the 20th century (Exponent 1999, p. 10).

The source of this desperation lies in the fact that liberalism-Marxism-oriented political explanation models, which prevailed from the end of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th century, adopted the distant attitude of modernity towards identities and ethnicity as a common point of view.

The moral flaws and failures of both Marxism and liberalism (…) result from their distinctively embodying the modern and modernizing ethos of the world’ (MacIntrye 2001, pp. 10-11). Both theories, which have a deep belief that the possibilities of modernity will eliminate all kinds of divisions, be it ethnic or religious, move from categories that transcend the social and historical, to non-Western judgments,

They produce by passing through the evaluation filter of the West (Tuncel 2010, p. 5). In this respect, loyalty centers such as religion or ethnicity, which the West struggles with in the nation-state process and considers as non-modern, do not have a value beyond pathological facts in terms of these theories (Üstel 1999, p. 10-11).

However, by the end of the 1980s, there were changes that forced social scientists to reconsider their political approaches based on the bipolar division of the world.

Ethnic or religious conflicts become visible, especially with the collapse of the socialist system that provides political stability in a significant part of Europe. These developments create change in two directions. The first of these arises with the need for a methodological renewal in the social sciences. Positivism, which dominates the previous paradigm, has no place in the understanding of science.