BOOK REVIEW – Tirso Virgos
“The Lost History of Liberalism” by Helena Rosenblatt, 2018
Liberal policies, liberal democracies, and even liberal dispositions are different ideas in different countries, but they share a series of common principles that define every strand of liberalism. At the thin core of liberal ideology, we always find the idea of protection of individual freedom from interference as well as a focus on the idea of the rights of each citizen. Regardless of the commitment to equality of opportunities, the value of autonomy, or limits of the state in matters of perfectionism or redistribution, all liberals share these principles.
However, in her great book The Lost History of Liberalism, Helena Rosenblatt argues that what she calls ‘the turn to rights’, which is mainly focused on avoiding interference in the private sphere, in liberal ideology has been a recent invention and has been based on the Anglo-Saxon liberal tradition. Meanwhile, historical liberalism, which emphasized civic virtue and morals and has its roots in Germany and France, has been nearly forgotten. Thus, the association of liberalism with the United Kingdom and, especially, the United States is false and obscures a very important part of the liberal tradition that could be used to reconceptualise the term and propose political alternatives in today’s world.