Language and Liberalism

The inversion of the meaning of liberalism over the last 150 years has to be counted among the world’s most remarkable ideological facts. The coinage of the term ‘classical liberalism’ in recent times, as an utterly marginalized linguistic act of dissent, attests to the comprehensiveness and radicality of the change that has occurred. It has surely been essential to the momentum of the historical tide that it has usurped the most elementary cultural tools required for its articulation. What has taken place cannot even be discussed without obscure struggle in a drifting, semiotic fog.

Daniel B. Klein of the Adam Smith Institute has formulated a lucid response to this ideological event, in a website entirely devoted to the re-ordering of the language of liberalism during the crucial period from 1880-1940. Combining ngrams, historical quotations, and reflections (from the author), it depicts with unprecedented clarity the process through which the Old Liberalism lost its tongue.

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