Edwin van de HaarDegrees of Freedom: Liberal Political Philosophy and Ideology

Transaction Publishers, 2015

by Christian Peterson on October 6, 2015

Edwin van de Haar

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"What exactly is liberalism?" The independent scholar Edwin van de Haar tackles this important question in his new book Degrees of Freedom: Liberal Political Philosophy and Ideology (Transaction Publishers, 2015). Setting the record straight, van de Haar explains how the history of liberalism should be viewed as an ongoing struggle for individual freedom. The importance that liberals place on freedom helps explain why they tend to create dynamic political/economic orders that change the status quo in ways not predetermined by centralized plans or ideological blueprints. To help readers better understand the diversity and boundaries of liberalism, van de Haar divides liberal thought into three main variants–Classical, Social, and Libertarianism. Unlike previous works on liberalism, he devotes considerable attention to how each of these variants tends to conceive of international affairs and defines the optimal global order. He also explains how liberal thought differs from conservatism and the mistakes authors almost always make when they use the term "neoliberal" to critique global capitalism.

While readers may not agree with all of van de Haar's arguments, they will benefit from grappling with Degrees of Freedom. Employing cogent prose and an easy-to-follow framework, he explains why liberal thought remains an important and relevant subject for all citizens of the world. Taking on some of liberalism's fiercest critics, van de Haar also reminds readers that liberal thought can still serve as a blueprint for creating societies consistent with the goals of freedom, justice, equality, and personal fulfilment.

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