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philosophy or movement that has as its aim the development of individual freedom. Because the concepts of liberty or freedom change in different historical periods the specific programs of liberalism also change. The final aim of liberalism, however, remains fixed, as does its characteristic belief not only in essential human goodness but also in human rationality. Liberalism assumes that people, having a rational intellect, have the ability to recognize problems and solve them and thus can achieve systematic improvement in the human condition. Often opposed to liberalism is the doctrine of conservatismconservatism,
in politics, the desire to maintain, or conserve, the existing order. Conservatives value the wisdom of the past and are generally opposed to widespread reform. Modern political conservatism emerged in the 19th cent.
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, which, simply stated, supports the maintenance of the status quo. Liberalism, which seeks what it considers to be improvement or progress, necessarily desires to change the existing order.


Neither individualism nor the belief that freedom is a primary political good are immutable laws of history. Only in the Western world in the last several centuries have they assumed such importance as social factors that they could be blended into a political creed. Although Christianity had long taught the worth of the individual soul and the Renaissance had placed a value upon individualism in limited circles, it was not until the ReformationReformation,
religious revolution that took place in Western Europe in the 16th cent. It arose from objections to doctrines and practices in the medieval church (see Roman Catholic Church) and ultimately led to the freedom of dissent (see Protestantism).
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 that the importance of independent individual thought and action were expressed in the teachings of Protestantism. At the same time, centralizing monarchs were destroying feudalismfeudalism
, form of political and social organization typical of Western Europe from the dissolution of Charlemagne's empire to the rise of the absolute monarchies. The term feudalism is derived from the Latin feodum,
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 and alongside the nobility arose the bourgeoisiebourgeoisie
, originally the name for the inhabitants of walled towns in medieval France; as artisans and craftsmen, the bourgeoisie occupied a socioeconomic position between the peasants and the landlords in the countryside.
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, a new social class that demanded the right to function in society, especially commercially, without restriction. This process took several centuries, and it may be said that the first philosopher to offer a complete liberal doctrine of individual freedom was the Englishman John LockeLocke, John
, 1632–1704, English philosopher, founder of British empiricism. Locke summed up the Enlightenment in his belief in the middle class and its right to freedom of conscience and right to property, in his faith in science, and in his confidence in the goodness of
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 (1689). From this period on the doctrines of classical liberalism were evolved.

Classical Liberalism

Classical liberalism stressed not only human rationality but the importance of individual property rights, natural rights, the need for constitutional limitations on government, and, especially, freedom of the individual from any kind of external restraint. Classical liberalism drew upon the ideals of the EnlightenmentEnlightenment,
term applied to the mainstream of thought of 18th-century Europe and America. Background and Basic Tenets

The scientific and intellectual developments of the 17th cent.
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 and the doctrines of liberty supported in the American and French revolutions. The Enlightenment, also known as the Age of Reason, was characterized by a belief in the perfection of the natural order and a belief that natural laws should govern society. Logically it was reasoned that if the natural order produces perfection, then society should operate freely without interference from government. The writings of such men as Adam SmithSmith, Adam,
1723–90, Scottish economist, educated at Glasgow and Oxford. He became professor of moral philosophy at the Univ. of Glasgow in 1752, and while teaching there wrote his Theory of Moral Sentiments
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, David RicardoRicardo, David,
1772–1823, British economist, of Dutch-Jewish parentage. At the age of 20 he entered business as a stockbroker and was so skillful in the management of his affairs that within five years he had amassed a huge fortune.
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, Jeremy BenthamBentham, Jeremy,
1748–1832, English philosopher, jurist, political theorist, and founder of utilitarianism. Educated at Oxford, he was trained as a lawyer and was admitted to the bar, but he never practiced; he devoted himself to the scientific analysis of morals and
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, and John Stuart MillMill, John Stuart,
1806–73, British philosopher and economist. A precocious child, he was educated privately by his father, James Mill. In 1823, abandoning the study of law, he became a clerk in the British East India Company, where he rose to become head of the examiner's
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 mark the height of such thinking.

In Great Britain and the United States the classic liberal program, including the principles of representative government, the protection of civil liberties, and laissez-fairelaissez-faire
[Fr.,=leave alone], in economics and politics, doctrine that an economic system functions best when there is no interference by government. It is based on the belief that the natural economic order tends, when undisturbed by artificial stimulus or regulation, to
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 economics, had been more or less effected by the mid-19th cent. The growth of industrial society, however, soon produced great inequalities in wealth and power, which led many persons, especially workers, to question the liberal creed. It was in reaction to the failure of liberalism to provide a good life for everyone that workers' movements and MarxismMarxism,
economic and political philosophy named for Karl Marx. It is also known as scientific (as opposed to utopian) socialism. Marxism has had a profound impact on contemporary culture; modern communism is based on it, and most modern socialist theories derive from it (see
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 arose. Because liberalism is concerned with liberating the individual, however, its doctrines changed with the change in historical realities.

Liberalism since 1900

By 1900, L. T. HobhouseHobhouse, Leonard Trelawney,
1864–1929, English philosopher, sociologist, and journalist. He taught at Oxford and at the Univ. of London. Hobhouse sought to show with evidence from anthropology and comparative psychology that the evolution of the human mind was correlated
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 and T. H. GreenGreen, Thomas Hill,
1836–82, English idealist philosopher. Educated at Oxford, he was associated with the university all his life. He was professor of moral philosophy there from 1878 until his death.
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 began to look to the state to prevent oppression and to advance the welfare of all individuals. Liberal thought was soon stating that the government should be responsible for providing the minimum conditions necessary for decent individual existence. In the early 20th cent. in Great Britain and France and later in the United States, the welfare state came into existence, and social reform became an accepted governmental role.

In the United States minimum wage laws, progressive taxation, and social security programs were all instituted, many initially by the New DealNew Deal,
in U.S. history, term for the domestic reform program of the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt; it was first used by Roosevelt in his speech accepting the Democratic party nomination for President in 1932.
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, and today remain an integral part of modern democratic government. While such programs are also advocated by socialismsocialism,
general term for the political and economic theory that advocates a system of collective or government ownership and management of the means of production and distribution of goods.
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, liberalism does not support the socialist goal of complete equality imposed by state control, and because it is still dedicated to the primacy of the individual, liberalism also strongly opposes communismcommunism,
fundamentally, a system of social organization in which property (especially real property and the means of production) is held in common. Thus, the ejido system of the indigenous people of Mexico and the property-and-work system of the Inca were both communist,
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. Current liberal goals in the United States include integrationintegration,
in U.S. history, the goal of an organized movement to break down the barriers of discrimination and segregation separating African Americans from the rest of American society.
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 of the races, sexual equality, and the eradication of poverty.


The classic works of liberalism include J. Locke, Second Treatise on Government (1689), J. S. Mill, On Representative Government (1862), L. T. Hobhouse, Liberalism (1911), and J. Dewey, Liberalism and Social Action (1935). See also H. K. Girvetz, From Wealth to Welfare (1950); T. P. Neill, The Rise and Decline of Liberalism (1953); G. L. Cheery, Early English Liberalism (1962); K. R. Minogue, The Liberal Mind (1963); A. Arblaster, The Rise and Decline of Western Liberalism (1986); R. Eccleshall, British Liberalism (1986); N. P. Barry, On Classical Liberalism and Libertarianism (1987); J. Appleby, Liberalism and Republicanism in the Historical Imagination (1992); E. Alterman, Why We're Liberals (2008); E. Alterman and K. Mattson, The Cause: The Fight for American Liberalism from Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama (2012); A. Ryan, The Making of Modern Liberalism (2012); E. Fawcett, Liberalism: The Life of an Idea (2014).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


a political doctrine developed in Europe from the 17th-century onwards, involving the rejection of authoritarian forms of government, the defence of freedoms of speech, association and religion, and the assertion of the right to private property. This theory of liberalism was primarily developed in the writings of the British philosophers John Stuart MILL, LOCKE, HUME and BENTHAM, and has been an enormously influential tradition in the development of Western democracies. Underpinning its precepts is the great ENLIGHTENMENT metanarrative of RATIONALITY, since a society founded upon liberal principles is the one, so it was argued, that self-interested, rational individuals would choose (see SOCIAL CONTRACT THEORY). The notions of choice, individual freedom and hostility to an overmighty or interfering state, which are embedded within liberalism, are also indissolubly linked to the LAISSEZ-FAIRE economics of Adam SMITH.

Liberalism has had many critics, especially from writers influenced by MARX who have regarded liberal democracy as ‘the best political shell’ for CAPITALISM, and also the basis of the legitimation of the continued oppression and EXPLOITATION of the working class. It has also had many advocates and apologists – most recently, with the collapse of COMMUNISM, Francis Fukuyama (1992), who celebrates the ‘end of history’ as the triumph of liberal democracy and capitalism over its ideological and historical rivals. Fukuyama should perhaps be less sanguine, especially if the principles of liberalism are being progressively eroded by a drift towards an anti- or a-rational postmodern world (see POSTMODERNISM AND POSTMODERNITY).

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a bourgeois ideological and sociopolitical current whose adherents include the advocates of the bourgeois-parliamentary system, bourgeois freedoms, and free capitalist enterprise. Liberalism, a system of ideas, teaches that social harmony and human progress are attainable only through private ownership with guarantees of sufficient freedom to individuals in economics and in all other human activities. The underlying assumption is that the general welfare results spontaneously from the realization of personal goals by individuals. As capitalist relations developed, the content of liberalism underwent a complex evolution and engendered a wide variety of historical forms.

Liberalism originated during the struggle of the young, progressive bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisified gentry against ruling feudalism, the tyranny of absolutism, and the spiritual oppression of the Catholic Church. During this period liberalism advocated ideals shared by the entire antifeudal camp (faith in progress and in the triumph of reason, peace, freedom, and equality). The intellectual forefathers of liberalism were the members of the moderate wing of the Enlightenment ideologists (Locke, Montesquieu, Voltaire, and the Physiocrats, whose motto laissez faire, laissez passer became one of the most popular sayings of liberalism) and the creators of classical bourgeois political economy (A. Smith and D. Ricardo). During the French Revolution the powerful liberal bourgeoisie, represented by Mirabeau, Lafayette, the Feuillants, and the Girondins, assumed a leading role. However, it quickly exhausted its revolutionary potential and became an antidemocratic and, subsequently, a counterrevolutionary force.

Western European liberalism evolved into a specific sociopolitical current in the early 19th century. During the second decade of the 19th century the term “liberalism” (at first very loosely defined) began to be widely used. In France during the Restoration, B. Constant and F. Guizot were among the first to turn liberalism into a more or less developed political and historicophilosophical doctrine. From the ideological legacy of the Enlightenment they chose only those theses that met the everyday needs of the bourgeoisie as a ruling class. Profound faith in human reason gave way to admiration for limited bourgeois “common sense”; the idea of popular sovereignty yielded to demands for “personal freedom.” Although they recognized the historical legitimacy of bourgeois revolutions, French liberals refused to recognize the legitimacy of the revolutionary movement of the proletariat. Rejecting popular sovereignty, the most prominent representatives of liberalism emerged as supporters of constitutional monarchy.

During the 1830’s, with the increasing antagonism between the bourgeoisie and the working class after the Revolution of 1830 in France and the parliamentary Reform of 1832 in Great Britain, bourgeois liberal reforms became more and more antiproletarian. In carrying out these reforms the liberal bourgeoisie exploited the results of the struggle of the toiling masses by concluding compromises with the forces of the monarchist-clerical reaction. Increasingly, the slogans of liberalism became a means of masking capitalist exploitation. The antidemocratic trend in liberalism was revealed by the participation of the liberal bourgeoisie in the suppression of the Chartist Movement and the democratic and proletarian actions of the Revolutions of 1848–49, as well as by the alliance of the liberals with monarchist forces in support of the unification of both Italy and Germany “from above.”

During the first half of the 19th century liberalism reached its peak in Great Britain, the classic example of an industrial capitalist country, where liberal ideologists had from the very beginning elaborated the basic economic viewpoints of liberalism. Utilitarianism—a doctrine developed by J. Bentham and the “philosophical radicals” (F. Place and J. S. Mill, for example) gave the prosperous middle classes not only a carefully thought out program of bourgeois reforms aimed at creating ideal conditions for free enterprise but also an ethical foundation for the unlimited pursuit of profit under the pretext of the glorification of “personal freedom.” During the struggle against the Corn Laws in the 1840’s, R. Cobden and J. Bright, Manchester manufacturers and members of Parliament, endowed liberalism with its classic support of free trade. After the repeal of the Corn Laws (1846) and with the rise of Great Britain’s international commercial-industrial monopoly, liberalism became the prevailing bourgeois ideology. The Liberal Party, led first by Lord Palmerston and later by W. E. Gladstone, dominated British politics.

Liberalism ideologically and politically influenced a considerable portion of the petite bourgeoisie and skilled trade union workers. Having strengthened bourgeois parliamentarianism and free competition, liberalism historically exhausted itself as a major (or highly influential) bourgeois sociopolitical current. Its philosophy clearly contradicted the realities of capitalist society, for under imperialism “certain of its fundamental characteristics began to change into their opposites” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 27, p. 385).

During the last third of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, the “classical” liberalism of the period of industrial capitalism declined, and liberalism began to adapt to new conditions. Above all, it became a means of distracting the masses from revolutionary struggles by offering the working people insignificant concessions embellished with demagogic phraseology. Such tactics were typical of D. Lloyd George in Great Britain, G. Giolitti in Italy, and W. Wilson in the USA. Experienced leaders of liberalism in Great Britain, France, and a number of other countries presided over the preparations for World War I, war cabinets, the postwar repartition of the world, the anti-Soviet intervention, and the suppression of revolutionary movements, applying methods of social demagoguery and maneuvers developed over many decades. Certain concepts of the old “orthodox” liberalism (for example, the principle of the absolute nonintervention of the state in relations between labor and capital) were carefully reexamined. Thus, during the general crisis of capitalism, liberalism secured its role as a unique tool of the rule of the imperialist bourgeoisie. Certain aspects of liberalism’s application to social issues, particularly the worker issue, were adopted by right-wing socialists. As the political influence of the working class increased, liberalism passed from the political scene, transferring its functions to social reformism.

In the East, liberalism emerged during the second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th in China, Japan, India, and Turkey. Owing to the ties between the local bourgeoisie and the landlords, liberalism in these countries was profoundly antidemocratic and hostile to mass movements. The liberals generally called for the superficial modernization of the machinery of state and for the creation of modern armies, navies, and systems of communications.

After World War I and particularly after the Great October Socialist Revolution, which opened a new era in the history of mankind, the crisis of liberalism was sharply aggravated and deepened. Liberalism went through an agonizing reappraisal of its values. Above all, it suffered a crisis of confidence in the salutary quality and infallibility of bourgeois individualism, from the standpoint of the interests of the bourgeoisie itself. Liberalism gave rise to various concepts of a “third path” of social development, which supposedly ensures the intertwining of the interests of the individual and society and of “freedom” and “order” on the basis of private ownership. Thus, between World War I and World War II attempts were made to combine economic “regulation” with social legislation (pensions and unemployment compensation, for example) on the basis of J. M. Keynes’ theory. According to bourgeois ideologists, these attempts would ward off both fascism and communism. In bourgeois Czechoslovakia the supporters of T. Masaryk viewed the propagandizing of his liberal-nationalistic ideas as a means of impeding the growth of the revolutionary self-consciousness of the working class. Although liberal anticommunism, as a rule, resulted either in capitulation to fascism or in a policy of appeasement, liberal concepts of the period between the world wars were sometimes considered “overly left-wing” and “procommunist” by the monopolistic bourgeoisie. After World War II (1939–45) neoliberalism, as well as Keynesian liberalism, came into practice in the Federal Republic of Germany, Great Britain, France, the USA, and Italy. In order to ensure the “free play” of economic forces (in the form of indirect influence on the wage-price mechanism, for example), the neoliberals permitted state intervention in the economy. At the same time, they favored limitations on state intervention, asserting that, given sufficient scope for competition, a “social market economy” would evolve and somehow guarantee universal prosperity.


Lenin, V. I. “Liberalizm i demokratiia.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 21.
Lenin, V. I. “Dve utopii.” Ibid, vol. 22.
Lenin, V. I. “O liberal’nom i marksistskom poniatii klassovoi bor’by.” Ibid., vol. 23.
Samuel, H. Liberalizm. Moscow, 1905. (Translated from English.)
Was ist liberal? Munich, 1910.
Ruggiero, G. de. Storia del liberalismo europeo [2nd ed.]. Milan, 1966.
Saunders, J. The Age of Revolution: The Rise and Decline of Liberalism in Europe Since 1815. New York, 1949.
The Liberal Tradition From Fox to Keynes. London, 1956.
Schneider, G. Betrug mit der Freiheit: Eine Studieüber den Neoliberalismus. Berlin, 1972.
Russia. In Russia liberalism emerged as an ideology during the crisis of the feudal serfholding system (late 18th century and first half of the 19th), evolved into a sociopolitical current during the revolutionary situation of 1859–61 and the Peasant Reform of 1861, and was organized into political parties on the eve of and during the Russian Revolution of 1905–07. Although it played a significant role in the social movement of the mid-19th to early-20th centuries, Russian liberalism was never a decisive force in the political struggle. Opposing the autocracy and striving for power, it operated generally by legal means and constantly vacillated between the government and the revolutionary movement. Weaker, less decisive, and more cowardly than Western European liberalism, Russian liberalism was more moderate in its political demands, more tolerant of absolutism, and more inclined to make compromises with it. The oppositional activity of Russian liberalism increased during revolutionary upsurges in the country but declined sharply when the government made insignificant concessions. When the forces of reaction attacked, liberalism’s friendly neutrality toward revolutionaries gave way to attempts to justify the government’s repressive measures. The relatively progressive character of Russian liberalism gradually declined after 1861, and after 1905 liberalism became a counterrevolutionary force.
The social base of Russian liberalism was not homogeneous: it included the bourgeoisie, the pomeshchiki (landlords), and the intelligentsia. As a rule, the standard-bearer of bourgeois-liberal ideology in 19th-century Russia was the dvorianstvo (nobility and gentry), the most educated estate, whose social forum was the gentry assemblies (and after 1864, the zemstvos [district and provincial assemblies]). Russian liberalism owed its unique quality and its place in the social movement to the socioeconomic and political conditions of Russia’s development. Compared with the countries of Western Europe, Russia abolished serfdom late. Capitalism developed there late but rapidly. However, the autocratic-estate system and the remnants of serfdom were preserved. Politically, the Russian bourgeoisie was flaccid, and the more progressive revolutionary ideologies (revolutionary-democratic and later, social democratic ones) had a significant influence on Russian society. Finally, Russia had a well-developed revolutionary movement (the raznochintsy [intellectuals of no definite class] and the proletariat).
At first, the ideas of liberalism, which began to spread among the Russian dvorianstvo in the second half of the 18th century under the influence of the French Enlightenment, were a loosely defined form of freethinking (Voltairianism). The pressing tasks of bourgeois reforms were expressed in critiques of serfdom and of the autocracy by early Russian Enlighteners (S. E. Desnitskii, N. I. Novikov, and A. P. Kunitsyn, for example), as well as in constitutional and economic projects of the late 19th and early 20th centuries (for example, those written by N. I. Panin and D. I. Fonvizin, M. M. Speranskii, and N. S. Mordvinov). In the Decembrist movement liberal ideas were developed within the general trend of gentry revolutionary concepts by N. I. Turgenev, N. M. Murav’ev, and M. F. Orlov, for example.
The shaping of the ideology of Russian liberalism began in the late 1830’s with disputes between the Westernizers and the Slavophiles over the country’s future development. During the period of social upsurge after tsarism’s defeat in the Crimean War (1853–56), Russian liberalism called for the abolition of serfdom and the granting of certain bourgeois freedoms (freedom of conscience, public opinion, and press, the publicizing of government actions and legal proceedings, the abolition of estate privileges, and the creation of representative institutions). “Accusatory literature,” which criticized officials and specific administrative shortcomings but which did not deal with the foundations of the system of autocracy, acquired considerable influence in liberal journals (Morskoi sbornik, Russkii vestnik, and Otechestvennye zapiski, for example).
Although they disagreed on the conditions for the liberation of the serfs, the adherents of various shades of gentry liberalism were united in efforts to preserve the landlord system of property ownership. Among the conservative gentry liberals were A. I. Koshelev, Iu. F. Samarin, and other Slavophiles, as well as B. N. Chicherin. The moderates included K. D. Kavelin and M. N. Katkov. A. M. Unkovskii and A. I. Evropeus were among the radical liberals. Among the gentry liberals was V. A. Kokorev, a representative of the powerful commercial bourgeoisie and a supporter of free trade. More radical positions were occupied by the bourgeois liberals I. V. Vernadskii and I. K. Babst. Allied with liberal bureaucrats such as N. A. Miliutin, A. V. Golovnin, and V. A. Artsimovich, who rallied around Grand Prince Konstantin Nikolaevich, the liberals fought the most outspoken advocates of serfdom in the press and in government organs. However, this struggle “was a struggle waged within the ruling classes, a struggle waged for the most part within the ranks of the landowner class, a struggle waged exclusively over the extent and the forms of the proposed concessions” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 20, p. 174).
Under the revolutionary conditions of 1859–61 the liberals broke away from the journals Sovremennik and Kolokol Liberalism welcomed the Peasant Reform of 1861 but did not support the program of Velikoruss (literally, “Great Russian,” the title of underground pamphlets issued in St. Petersburg in 1861), which called on the “educated classes” to join with the people for an attack on the autocracy. The consolidation of revolutionary forces in the Zemlia i Volia (Land and Freedom) group and in the Polish Uprising of 1863–64 sharpened the demarcation between liberalism and the revolutionary democrats and contributed to the evolution of Russian liberalism into an independent current.
During the reform period Russian liberalism consisted of a conglomeration of diverse social groups, currents, and ideas that were not united by any overall program. Liberals were distinguished not by a particular program but by their tactics (for example, their preference for legal rather than revolutionary methods of struggle). Under the influence of Russian Populism, all supporters of political struggle were included among the liberals in the 1860’s and 1870’s (before the founding of the People’s Will group). Vestnik Evropy, Golos, and Russkie vedomosti were the most influential liberal journals. In politics the basic aspiration of liberalism was the creation of a constitutional monarchy.
In the early 1860’s “the most solidified and best educated class, and the one most accustomed to political power—the nobility—displayed a very definite desire to restrict the power of the autocracy by means of representative institutions” (ibid., 5th ed., vol. 5, p. 26). The most decisive actions were taken early in 1862 by the Tver’ dvorianstvo, who were supported by the dvorianstvo in several other provinces. After the creation of the zemstvos the constitutional aspirations of the dvorianstvo were expressed in the zemstvo movement. As Lenin pointed out, at the end of the 1870’s ”zemstvo liberalism in itself had made decided political progress” (ibid., p. 39).
Under the revolutionary conditions of 1879–80 liberalism demanded the convening of a representative body that would have deliberative functions and would be subordinate to the tsar, the expansion of the rights of the zemstvos, and the liberalization of public life. Lenin emphasized that the liberals “wanted to ’liberate’ Russia ’from above,’ taking care not to destroy either the monarchy of the tsars or the property rights and the rule of the landowners, prevailing upon them only to make ’concessions’ to the spirit of the times. The liberals were and still are the ideologists of the bourgeoisie, which can reconcile itself to serfdom but is afraid of revolution, is afraid of the mass movement which would be capable of overthrowing the monarchy and abolishing the rule of the landowners. That is why the liberals confine themselves to ’a struggle for reforms’ and ’struggles for rights,’ that is to say, a struggle for a division of power between the feudal landowners and the bourgeoisie” (ibid., vol. 20, p. 175).
The basic economic program of liberalism prior to 1904 included support for communal property ownership, a struggle against the land hunger of the peasantry (mainly through resettlement and small land credits), the reduction of redemption payments, the introduction of an income tax, and protests against government protection of big industry and commerce. The issues of the allotment of land to the peasantry (including means of compulsory redemption of part of the pomeshchik’s property) and an eight-hour workday were raised only in early 1905.
In the atmosphere of the revolutionary upsurge of the early 20th century the program and tactics of liberalism became more radical. The illegal journal Osvobozhdenie was first published outside Russia in 1902. The following year the illegal Union of Liberation and the Union of Zemstvo Constitutionalists were organized in Russia. In an attempt to unite opposition forces, liberals participated in an illegal conference with representatives of the revolutionary parties in Paris in 1904.
In November 1904 the All-Zemstvo Congress called for the establishment of a legislative assembly and of universal, direct, equal suffrage by secret ballot. The liberals organized a banquet campaign in the autumn of 1904 and began to form semilegal political unions of the intelligentsia organized by professions (for example, a union of engineers and technicians, a teachers’ union, and a lawyers’ union).
During the Revolution of 1905–07 the liberals were politically very active, attempting to maneuver between tsarism and the revolutionary populace, to shift revolutionary goals toward constitutionalism, and to bargain for reforms advantageous to the bourgeoisie. Prior to October 1905 “the liberals sometimes maintained a benevolent neutrality toward the revolutionary struggle of the masses” (ibid., vol. 16, p. 121). This benevolent neutrality was expressed in the appeal to the people by the July zemstvo-municipal congress, in the liberals’ approval of the October All-Russian Political Strike of 1905, and in their support for the revolutionary demand for the convocation of a constituent assembly. The Union of Unions, which united professional organizations of the intelligentsia, was the most left-wing and the most active liberal organization. Nonetheless, the revolution “exposed the liberals very quickly and showed them in their true counterrevolutionary colors” (ibid., vol. 16, p. 122). Satisfied with the “freedoms” promised in the Manifesto of Oct. 17, 1905, the liberals cut short their struggle.
In October 1905 the Union of Liberation and the Union of Zemstvo Constitutionalists united to form the Constitutional Democratic Party (the Cadets), and in November the party’s right wing broke away and formed the Union of October 17th (the Octobrists). A party of peaceful renewal (the mirnoobnovlentsy), which occupied an intermediate position, was formed in July 1906 from the extreme factions of the Cadet and Octobrist parties. From 1906 to 1907 there were a number of small, shortlived liberal parties that vacillated between the Octobrists and the Cadets, including the Democratic Reforms Party, the Labor Order Party, and the Progressive Economic Party. In addition, there were a number of pro-Cadet left-wing parties, including the Bez zaglaviia group, the Party of Freethinkers, and the Radical Party. Condemning the December Armed Uprisings, the liberals tried to counteract revolutionary methods of struggle with peaceful parliamentary methods of “organic work” in the State Duma.
In the period between the revolutions (1907–17) liberalism was an opposition force in the State Duma, where its propaganda of constitutional illusions facilitated Stolypin’s pursuit of Bonapartist policies. The collection Vekhi, which was, according to Lenin, “the encyclopedia of liberal renegacy,” was issued by the liberals. During this period the liberals shifted to a nationalist position, thus providing an ideological foundation for the imperialist plans of the Russian bourgeoisie, who were attempting to reach a compromise with the autocracy by means of the creation of a “Great Russia.” In 1912 the “Progressive” Party, a national-liberal party of the powerful Russian bourgeoisie, was established. The oppositional activity of the liberals became somewhat stronger during the revolutionary upsurge of 1912–14, as was demonstrated in the attempt by A. I. Konovalov, the leader of the Progressives, to establish contacts with left-wing parties, including the Bolsheviks.
The outbreak of World War I caused the liberals to conclude a “civil peace” with tsarism. To assist the government in organizing the rear, the All-Russian Zemstvo Union for Aid to Sick and Wounded Soldiers and the All-Russian Union of Cities were created. The military defeat of 1915 and the impending revolutionary outbreak stirred the liberal opposition to renewed political activity. The bourgeoisie attempted to take charge of supplying the army by means of military-industrial committees. In August 1915 the “progressive bloc,” which united all liberals, was formed in the Fourth State Duma.
After the February Revolution of 1917 the leaders of Russian liberalism joined the Provisional Government. The victory of the Great October Revolution of 1917 hurled the bourgeoisie into the counterrevolutionary camp. When the Civil War of 1918–20 was over, the leaders of liberalism were no longer in Russia.
The basic features of Russian liberalism were also characteristic of liberalism in the national regions of Russia, where the scope and development of liberalism depended to a large extent on the level of socioeconomic progress. Liberal-nationalistic parties and currents developed among the local bourgeoisie in the late 19th century and the early 20th (for example, the Ukrainian Democratic Party, the National-Democratic Party in Poland, Jadidism, and Musavatism). The national bourgeoisie attempted to win concessions from tsarism and to use nationalistic demagoguery to distract the workers from the sociopolitical struggle, thereby causing splits in their alliance with the Russian proletariat. After the October Revolution liberal-nationalistic parties joined the counterrevolutionary front.
The struggle against liberalism was one of the basic tasks of the Bolshevik Party. Differing estimations of the role of Russian liberalism were among the reasons for the breakdown of the RSDLP into the Bolshevik and Menshevik parties. Lenin provided a scientific analysis of liberalism and the evolution of its ideology, program, and tactics, concluding that it was impossible for the liberal bourgeoisie to gain hegemony through a bourgeois democratic revolution in Russia. The Bolsheviks viewed the struggle against the liberals as a necessary condition for the revolutionary and democratic education of the masses.


Lenin, V. I. “Goniteli zemstva i Annibaly liberalizma.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 5.
Lenin, V. I. “Dve taktiki sotsial-demokratii v demokraticheskoi revoliutsii.” Ibid., vol. 11.
Lenin, V. I. “Opyt klassifikatsii russkikh politicheskikh partii.” Ibid., vol. 14.
Lenin, V. I. “Politicheskie partii v Rossii.” Ibid., vol. 21.
Lenin, V. I. “O liberal’nom i marksistskom poniatii klassovoi bor’by.” Ibid., vol. 23.
Sladkevich, N. G. Ocherki istorii obshchestvennoi mysli Rossii v kontse 50-nachale 60-kh gg. XIX v. (Bor’ba obshchestvennykh techenii v gody pervoi revoliutsionnoi situatsii). Leningrad, 1962.
Diakin, V. S. Russkaia burzhyazia i tsarism v gody pervoi mirovoi voiny (1914–1917). Leningrad, 1967.
Chermenskii, E. D. Burzhuazia i tsarizm v pervoi russkoi revoliutsii, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1970.
Shatsillo, K. F. “Russkii liberalizm na rubezhe dvukh vekov.” V. I. Lenin o sotsial’noi strukture i politicheskom stroe kapitalisticheskoi Rossii. Moscow, 1970.
Tiutiukin, S. V. “Oppozitsiia ego velichestva (Partiia kadetov v 1905–1907 gg.).” V. I. Lenin o sotsial’noi strukture i politicheskom stroe kapitalisticheskoi Rossii. Moscow, 1970.
Lenin i istoriia klassov i politicheskikh partii v Rossii. Moscow, 1970.
Kitaev, V. A. Ot frondy k okhranitel’stvu: Iz istorii russkoi liberal’noi mysli 50–60-kh gg. XIX v. Moscow, 1972.
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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
to discover the existence, analyze the nature, and trace the development of individual specific theoretical elements of liberalism (individualism, natural law, economic theories); but their existence did not make for liberalism as a political or social program.
Berest's position within this historical debate is clear even from the title of her book, The Emergence of Russian Liberalism. The liberalism that, according to her, emerged in the first decades of the 19th century was an intellectual and cultural one that cultivated a set of values and philosophical ideas.
Kunitsyn's commitment to individual autonomy, civil rights, and the rule of law; his unqualified acceptance of private property, the free market, and the principle of laissez-faire; and his recognition that Russian liberalism depended ultimately on the growth of civil society--all make him a direct predecessor of Russia's later, more influential liberal thinkers, in particular of Boris Chicherin (as Berest might have indicated).
It is true that in "Strains in and around liberal theory" Flathman does have a position to defend, that of "wilful or virtuosity liberalism," which he describes as "a radically individualized version of ...
In combination with the book's stress on the historicity of liberalism, this fearful and pessimistic attitude to the future and unwillingness to offer political principles or prescriptions adds up to a striking example of what John Gray describes in Post-Liberalism: Studies in Political Thought (1993).
The one point Gray makes that is of some importance is not so much that liberalism cannot be given any secure foundation but rather that what he calls the "liberal form of life" is not to be privileged.
In this regard, what Berlin's thought offers us is not a fundamentally different - let alone a better - version of liberalism. (Indeed, Berlin never set out to provide one.) At best, it offers a reminder of the virtues of moderation, and a warning against the optimism of fanatics.
He is author of Hayek and Modern Liberalism (Oxford University Press).
In addressing the liberalism of Karl Popper, to focus on one, Ryan finds that Popper's philosophy of science not only supports his liberalism but is in fact an expression of it.
One does not have to subscribe to Ryan's brand of liberalism or agree with all of his textual interpretations to appreciate the insight provided in nearly every essay assembled for this volume.--Jude P.
To put things in order, Insole distinguishes two types of liberalism: early modern liberalism and late modern liberalism.
Insole opposes the positions held by representatives of the so-called isolationist theology (Hauerwas, Yoder), whose views lead to pacifism and separatism, as well as those espoused by the proponents of so-called radical orthodoxy (Milbank, Pickstock) who yearn after a true society and more participatory communities, claiming that liberalism is founded on ontological nihilism and violence (129).