Difference between Liberalism and Neoliberalism

The word “liberal” has strong connotations in modern political discussions. Many people self-identify as liberal in their political views, but avoid such a label. All this confusion is due in part to the fact that the historical roots of Liberalism have produced a rich and diverse system of philosophical branches. In fact, many of these branches of Liberalism stand out as being opposed to each other on many political and economic issues. The word “liberal” does not adequately reflect the definition of this philosophical concept.  Difference between Liberalism and Neoliberalism

LIBERALISM  Difference between Liberalism and Neoliberalism

Liberalism was the product of enlightened thought. John Locke is considered the father of liberal political thought, based on his prolific writing on the natural rights of individuals, the separation of state and religion, the social contract, and other philosophical concepts – many of which were incorporated into democratic revolutions. that took place decades after his death. Which made Liberalism a movement that empowered the role of the individual and challenged absolute monarchies.

However, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Liberalism went from being an individualistic philosophy to one that is more common in human nature. Drawing inspiration from John Stuart Mill’s utilitarian concept of providing “the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people,” Liberalism sought to defend the “common good”; that is, a political and economic system that maximizes social progress for the group as a whole and not to benefit a portion of individuals. Franklin D. Roosevelt best embodies this value with the “New Deal” in the 1930s. This body of legislation produced a large-scale government infrastructure; It was characterized by public works projects, social safety nets, welfare and financial institution reforms.

Today, the modern interpretation of Liberalism is associated with left-wing causes. Drawing inspiration from the New Deal, liberal economic thinking strongly empowers public institutions as means of supporting people who are adversely affected by the external effects – such as poverty and pollution – of free market capitalism. On issues of political rights, Liberalism strives to ensure the civil liberties of minority groups; from the civil rights movement for African Americans in the 1960s to the current fight for marriage equality for the gay community.


During the last decades, a new form of Liberalism – or rather a reinterpretation of the original concept – emerged in the form of Neoliberalism. Not content with the powerlessness of modern Liberalism in favor of the state, neoliberal philosophers return to the fundamental principles offered by Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations.” Considered one of the axes for Free Market Capitalism, Smith describes the need for human economic activity to be driven by the “invisible hand” of the market, rather than some governmental institution.

To quote Smith: ‘If all people try as hard as they can to use their capital in support of the national industry, they can also run that industry for which their product can be of great value. Each individual would necessarily work to make the annual income of society as great as they can. ‘

That is, in the eyes of Neoliberalism; Allowing individuals to be free to trade in unrestricted markets would produce a greater amount of wealth and the conditions necessary for an affluent society.

Neoliberalism – which is also known as “classical liberalism”; since it borrows some philosophical principles  from the 18th century – it is mainly due to a school of economic thought. He  highlighted the importance of the deregulation of markets and the privatization of public institutions. The transition from this philosophy of economics to a political movement has gained momentum in recent years with the rise of Liberalism in the United States. Although modern liberals can be equated with what is considered ‘modern conservatism’ (albeit These ideas are liberal in some economic policies, they are in total disagreement with the policies that relate to the role of the State in the private life of citizens); To be more specific,  the rights of citizens to marry freely cannot be subject to government surveillance and the freedom to purchase and produce  prohibited substances such as marijuana. For this current,  the individual is the true arbiter of a free society; both in economic and political terms.

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