don't want to give the wrong impression about the
nature of 20th-century liberalism. All of the
important political 'isms' come in many different
varieties. That is true of conservatism, socialism,
feminism, liberalism, communism -- all of them. There
is not necessarily any core of concepts or principles
that all of the varieties share.
Just for the sake of full
disclosure, I'm echoing Ludwig Wittgenstein here.
Wittgenstein pointed out that there is nothing in
common to all of the activities that
we call 'games.' Instead, there are lots of
overlapping features and similarities. He called them
"family resemblances." The old idea of a definition --
something we are taught in grade school -- that
specifies the common and exclusive elements of things
that share a name is a myth. There is no set of common
and exclusive elements shared by all games or houses
or palaces or whatever. The same thing is true of the
different varieties of liberalism. Liberalism is
a family resemblance concept.
In my description of liberalism I
have tried to identify features that many of the
varieties share, but that's all I can do. I can't give
you the concepts and principles that all varieties of
liberalism have in common.
If we were to look back at the
history of modern welfare state liberalism we could
identify a series of influential thinkers -- T.H.
Green, L.T. Hobhouse, and John Maynard Keynes in Great
Britain; Herbert Croly, John Dewey, and John Rawls in
the United States -- we would find all sorts of
similarities and overlapping ideas. But that's it.
I hate to say it, but the world of
political ideas is complicated.