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It's finally here.

LECTURE 1 on LIBERALISM: Why the idea of "Classical Liberalism" is a myth and not supported by any rigorous historical survey, and why John Locke's status as the "father of Liberalism" should be reevaluated.
The standard account identifies John Locke as the "father of Liberalism." This would've come as a surprise to 19th century Liberals, who almost unanimously considered Locke's political theories *primitive* and *obsolete*. To start, let's look at Locke's home country of England.
John Stuart Mill, one of the few 19th century Liberals regularly assigned as part of the curriculum, joins the chorus in dismissing Locke's doctrines as well as "social contract theories" and "inalienable rights" as outdated. Fitzjames Stephen disparages Locke in similar fashion.
In Herbert Spencer's four major works, Locke is mentioned only once, where his theory of property is rejected as "unsatisfactory."

The Hegelian Liberal T. H. Green also dismissed the state of nature, pre-political rights, and contractarianism and regarded Locke as incoherent.
In the historical scholarship of Leslie Stephen, John Richard Green, Lord Acton, Frederic William Maitland, and Henry Maine - all big names in their day - we find the same pattern: John Locke's political theories are derided as obsolete, poor, incoherent, and redundant.
Locke's central place in the "Liberal" narrative was the result of an ideological consensus (spanning figures as divergent as Louis Hartz and Leo Strauss) that was forged during the 1930s-50s, when Liberalism was perceived as in crisis, and then consolidated during the Cold War.
The next generation of theorists (Rawls, Nozick, et al) were in turn shaped by this consensus, which explains much of the silliness found in their own doctrines, and the revival of bad anthropology and dubious abstractions that almost every Liberal prior to WW2 would've rejected.
Another result of this consensus was an entirely distorted, rigid, and ahistorical definition of Liberalism, as well as many false dichotomies (e.g. "liberalism" vs "civic republicanism", "liberalism" vs "communitarianism") that have only recently started to be dismantled.
The Hegelian Liberal R. G. Collingwood, in his preface to Guido De Ruggiero's History of European Liberalism, is a bit closer to the historical reality when he writes that "the aim of Liberalism is to assist the individual to discipline himself and achieve his own moral progress"
Alex Gourevitch, in a recent demolition of Mark Lilla's usual inanities, correctly states that "You can get liberal views from any number of metaphysical standpoints and anthropological theses" and draws attention to the French sociological Liberal and Hegelian Liberal traditions
Unlike Gourevitch, I would put Durkheim in the "Liberal Socialist" tradition, but he's correct that Durkheim built on a rich tradition of sociological, often neo-Kantian, Liberalism represented by thinkers such as Charles Bernard Renouvier and Alfred Fouillée.
The sociological approach was also adopted by the French Doctrinaires such as Guizot and Royer-Collard as well as the "communal Liberalism" of Prosper de Barante, all of which influenced the work of Alexis de Tocqueville, whose Liberalism is not so atypical once put in context.
The historical mode of the Doctrinaires paralleled that of the contemporary Whigs centered around the Edinburgh Review such as James Mackintosh, Henry Hallam, and Henry Brougham (all of whom were critical of Bentham's utilitarianism), who influenced the Italian Liberals in exile.
As should be evident, Liberalism was from the start a constellation of different factions which overlapped in some ways yet clashed in others (the same is true of the Radical/Socialist tradition but that's for another day). Nor can Liberalism simply be reduced to class interests.
I say "from the start" because more recent scholarship has correctly located the origins of Liberalism in the wake of the French Revolution, as the heir of the Gironde. There is no "Liberal" party or movement prior to the 19th century, only proto-Liberals and proto-Radicals.
With this timeline, Locke is demoted and figures like Benjamin Constant and Germaine de Staël are elevated.

de Staël is known not just for her Liberalism, but also as one of the chief purveyors of Romanticism and German philosophy. These are not unrelated developments.
And as has been mentioned in excerpts above, Benjamin Constant retained the old "civic republican" concern with the public good, and denounced selfish egotism and the negative effects of commercial society in a manner similar to Adam Ferguson, Adam Smith, and Wilhelm von Humboldt
Talk of "the public good" as above individual self-interest is much more common among 19th century Liberalism than is often supposed.

And this brings us to economics. Indeed, even on economics, Liberals were never united and certainly did not all rally behind "laissez-faire":
Frederic Bastiat, who was a genuine advocate of laissez-faire and remains a favorite among "classical liberals", was treated as a fringe figure even among his fellow Liberals who laughed at his "so-called Liberal" ideas.
Alexis de Tocqueville, another favorite of "classical liberals" (Hayek originally wanted to name Mont-Pelerin the "Acton-Tocqueville Society"), was in favor of government aid to the poor and wanted to restructure the tax system to burden the poor as lightly as possible.
Hayek's other favorite, Lord Acton, likewise had a changing valuation of Socialism later in life, and even conceded that a "latent Socialism" existed within his friend William Gladstone's philosophy.

And Harriet Martineau, a populariser of political economy, sounded a grim note.
The Edinburgh and Westminster Reviews accepted govt intervention, poor relief, etc. John McCulloch wrote "Freedom is not the end of government: the advancement of public prosperity and happiness is its end, and freedom is only valuable insofar as it contributes to bring it about"
Francis Lieber, a Prussian Liberal who relocated to America where he exerted lots of influence, saw a strong state as "essential to the full development of man's faculties." German Liberalism was much more influential abroad than is usually acknowledged.
Unsurprisingly, laissez-faire was rare among German Liberals. Robert von Mohl believed that limitations on freedom were acceptable if they were "for the higher purpose of the entire community."

Another Liberal, Karl von Rotteck, decried the "ugly aristocracy of money."
And among early critics of laissez-faire and classical economics in general, the Liberals J. C. L. Simonde de Sismondi (a friend of de Stael and a member of her Coppet group) and Lorenz von Stein deserve special mention.
The Hegelian Liberal Benedetto Croce, probably the most renowned Italian intellectual at the start of the 20th century, famously drew a distinction between Liberalism and Capitalism and laissez-faire in particular, which was seized upon by many of his pupils.
Even among attendees at the first Mont Pelerin Society (a much more ideologically diverse crowd than the society would later become), we find dissenters. And what's interesting is nature of the complaints coming from the dissenters.
Bertrand de Jouvenel confesses that he feels alienated from Mont Pelerin because of the group's "Manichaeism" in which "the state can do no good and private enterprise can do no wrong" and its opposition to "everything done in our time, in the name of a mythical 19th century."
After leaving Mont Pelerin, Bertrand de Jouvenel would support the Socialist candidate François Mitterrand.

His fellow Liberal Raymond Aron criticized the "ultra-liberal Austrian school" for their "obsession with private property" which took the form of an "inverted Marxism."
I mention all this because at the same time that the "Lockean narrative" of Liberalism was being consolidated, the main thinkers of Mont Pelerin, particularly those associated with the Austrian/Chicago School of economics, were crafting what would become "neoliberalism."
As luck would have it, the exalted status of Locke as the "father of Liberalism", and Locke's own emphasis on property as a "natural right" dovetailed nicely with the aims of the neoliberal ideologues and their claim to represent the "true" legacy of "Classical Liberalism."
But, as you will learn if you take the time to read all the passages posted above, Liberals during the 19th century did NOT think private property was a "natural right" and most of them rejected "natural rights" altogether. Likewise their economic views were far from monolithic.
I have already given people more than enough material to absorb and contemplate, and I have not even covered everything I intended. At the very least, I hope there's enough to make readers reconsider what they think they know about "Liberalism" and its history.
Too often people who have been taught the Lockean narrative (or just read about it on Wikipedia), even Socialists/Leftists who oppose "Classical Liberalism", uncritically accept its historical claims, and judge all Liberals by that standard.
As a result, historians and scholars sometimes struggle to classify thinkers such as Sismondi, who criticized laissez-faire at an early date, and mistakenly think of him as an early Socialist because they fail to recognize the multivalence of the Liberal tradition.
This is even more true for literary figures such as Charles Dickens and Matthew Arnold (spoiler alert: they're both Liberals) because, for example, they criticized utilitarianism, and literary critics mistakenly assume all Liberals at the time were proponents of utilitarianism.
This is only the first lecture, and I have not even cut the surface of the full depth of the Liberal tradition. Once again, my goal for now is to make people reconsider what they think they know and perhaps inspire some of them to engage more thoroughly with this tradition.
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