Liberalism: The Life of an Idea

Edmund Fawcett

My review 2015-11-21

The idea of this book is to present the various strands of liberal thought and political action since the term "liberal" was invented around 1815, in four countries: France, Germany, UK and USA. It gives a very good overview of the interplay of historical processes and ideological thought. For those liberal thinkers which I have deeper knowledge of, Fawcett is accurate and gives a fair summary of the main ideas.

The main problem I have is with style. His writing is sometimes rather staccato, one sentence following another without obvious connection. It makes it hard to follow the argument being made. In other places, the writing is much more fluent.

The final chapter offers some interesting thoughts on the future of liberalism and the challenges now that the era of "the end of history" (Fukuyama) of 1989-2008 (or whichever dates you wish to use) is over. I may write a comment about this elsewhere.