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Liberalism as IdeologyEssays in Honour of Michael Freeden$
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Ben Jackson and Marc Stears

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199600670

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199600670.001.0001

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A Cautious Embrace: Reflections on (Left) Liberalism and Utopia

A Cautious Embrace: Reflections on (Left) Liberalism and Utopia

(p.9) 1 A Cautious Embrace: Reflections on (Left) Liberalism and Utopia
Liberalism as Ideology

David Leopold

Oxford University Press

The writings of Michael Freeden contain a sustained engagement with the history of twentieth-century liberalism. John Atkinson Hobson (1858–1940) emerges from Freeden’s narrative as an early (and unsung) hero, whilst John Rawls (1921–2002) is portrayed as a late (and overpraised) villain. This chapter reassesses that stark contrast in the context of the discussion of utopia to be found in the writings of these two thinkers. There are undoubtedly some significant differences between Hobson and Rawls (not all of which redound to the advantage of the former), but they share a willingness to engage in ideal description provided it is suitably tempered by ‘realism’. This shared reaction might be said to exemplify the position of left liberals, who lack the outright hostility towards utopianism found in some other strands of liberalism (such as the ‘cold-war liberalism’ of Isaiah Berlin and others).

Keywords:   liberalism, left liberalism, J. A. Hobson, John Rawls, Isaiah Berlin, realism, utopianism

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