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Vox Dei: James Wilson, founder of the Economist

What the Economist doesn’t tell you

The publication has a sublime—even smug—self-confidence in its elite liberal worldview. So how is it coping with our populist moment?

By Adam Tooze   May 2020

What is liberalism? It means and has meant many different things. We speak of market liberalism, social liberalism and cultural liberalism. Anti-clerical atheists have been liberals, as have reformist archbishops. In the US today, the “L-word” refers to anyone to the left of the Republican Party. John Maynard Keynes, Friedrich Hayek, John Rawls and Margaret Thatcher are all reasonably identified as liberals. This polysemy has given liberalism great sway and it has also made it a convenient straw man. Conservatives, social democrats, Marxists and postcolonial thinkers have all defined themselves against liberalism. It has time and again been declared dead. But liberalism has an odd way of coming back. Before neo-liberalism there were “new liberals” like Leonard Hobhouse and John A Hobson. Indeed, as honest critics must acknowledge, so pervasive is liberalism’s influence that it is not obvious that we know how to think beyond its confines. How many…

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