American Liberalism: The Career of a Concept


By Jonathan Bell, published 9th September 2012

Jonathan Bell: Senior Lecturer and Head of the Department of History at the University of Reading.

What historians have come to term ‘liberalism' in an American context has taken on numerous meanings that provide a lens through which to examine broad trends in US history across the twentieth century. From the political struggles to establish a welfare state and labour rights in the New Deal of the 1930s to the civil rights revolution of the 1960s, liberals have attempted to wrestle with deep seated inequalities in American society. By the 1980s, the term "liberal" had in many quarters become a term of abuse, and prompts us to examine just why the United States finds it so hard to talk the language of equality compared to many other industrialised nations.


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