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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 September 2023

Benjamin Kohlmann*
Regensburg University, Germany


This short keyword essay begins by turning to the socially progressive “New Liberalism” of the decades around 1900 in order to think about the eclipse of certain traditions of liberal thought from the Cold War onward (this part of the essay takes its cue from Sam Moyn's recent Carlyle lectures on Cold War liberalism). The piece then considers how the (literary, political, social) legacies of this reconstituted liberalism might speak to our own current (“neoliberal” rather than “New Liberal”) moment when, in Bonnie Honig's words, “efficiency is no longer one value among others. . . . It has become rationality itself, and it is the standard by which everything is assessed.”

Keywords Redux
Copyright © The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press

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I am grateful to the German Research Foundation for funding my research.

1. Samuel Moyn, Liberalism against Itself: Cold War Political Thought and the Making of Our Times (New Haven: Yale University Press, forthcoming), 1 [typescript]. All subsequent references to this edition are noted parenthetically in the text. I am grateful to Sam Moyn for sharing this material with me.

2. Honig, Bonnie, Public Things: Democracy in Disrepair (New York: Fordham University Press, 2017), 14Google Scholar.

3. Anderson, Amanda, Bleak Liberalism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Hadley, Elaine, Living Liberalism: Practical Citizenship in Mid-Victorian Britain (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For trenchant critiques of Victorian liberalism's perfectionism, see Daniel Malachuk's Perfection, the State, and Victorian Liberalism (London: Palgrave, 2005).

4. Green, Thomas Hill, “Lecture on Liberal Legislation and Freedom of Contract,” in Lectures on the Principles of Political Obligation and Other Writings, edited by Harris, Paul and Morrow, John (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 199Google Scholar.

5. See Backhouse, Roger and Nishizawa, Tamotsu, eds., No Wealth but Life: Welfare Economics and the Welfare State in Britain, 1880 –1945 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Mander, W. J., British Idealism: A History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

6. Green, “Lecture,” 200.

7. Ritchie, David George, The Principles of State Interference (London: Swan Sonnenschein, 1891), 156Google Scholar.

8. Berlin's 1958 lecture “Two Concepts of Liberty” gave the terms “negative” and “positive” freedom their current polemical edge. Quentin Skinner notes that Berlin's text takes aim specifically at Green. See Skinner, “A Third Concept of Liberty,” Proceedings of the British Academy 117 (2002): 237– 68.