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Handbook on the Economics of Reciprocity and Social Enterprise

Handbook on the Economics of Reciprocity and Social Enterprise

Elgar original reference

Edited by Luigino Bruni and Stefano Zamagni

The recent era of economic turbulence has generated a growing enthusiasm for an increase in new and original economic insights based around the concepts of reciprocity and social enterprise. This stimulating and thought-provoking Handbook not only encourages and supports this growth, but also emphasises and expands upon new topics and issues within the economics discourse.

Chapter 21: Liberalism

Adrian Pabst

Subjects: economics and finance, behavioural and experimental economics, economic psychology, public sector economics, politics and public policy, social entrepreneurship, social policy and sociology, economics of social policy


Until the global economic crisis struck in 2008, liberalism was the dominant ideology of our time and undoubtedly the most influential political philosophy of the last 300 years or so. Its origins, evolution and meaning are deeply contested by liberal and non-liberal thinkers alike. Many contemporary historians and political philosophers claim that liberal thought first emerged in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century and evolved into a distinct philosophical tradition during the Age of Enlightenment (e.g. Mesnard 1969; Kelly 2005, Paul et al 2007). Thus, key liberal figures such as John Locke (1632–1704), Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) and Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) opposed what they viewed as the unholy alliance between the Church, absolutist monarchs and the feudal capitalism of the landed gentry. They defended alternative ideas such as freedom of religion, tolerance, constitutional rule, individual property and free trade. These antecedents were important, but – so the dominant narrative goes – liberalism’s evolution as an ideology and political movement only took off following the impact of the American and the French Revolution. Thereafter the liberal tradition was instrumental in the ‘three waves of democratization’ (Huntington 1991). The first wave saw liberal governments triumph in much of Europe and the Americas in the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries.

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