Neo-Liberal Ideology: History, Concepts and Policies

By Rachel S. Turner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
Introduction: Reinventing liberal ideology

In one of liberalism's darkest hours in the immediate years after the Second World War, a new ideological movement met at Mont Pelerin in Switzerland to expose the dangers they felt were inherent in collectivism and to create an international forum for the rebirth of liberalism. Liberalism had since its conception regarded itself as the ideological force sustaining Western civilisation. However, in a vast programme of ideological readjustment stretching back as far as the late nineteenth century, liberalism in Western societies began to change its form, contours and emphasis. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the ideological dominance of classical liberal values - free trade and limited government - had given way to a procollectivist liberal creed embracing the principles of community, rational planning and institutional design.1 In a statement of its aims, the Mont Pelerin Society (MPS) described its view of the prevailing crisis:

Over large stretches of the earth's surface the essential conditions of human dignity
and freedom have already disappeared. In others they are under constant menace
from the development of current tendencies of policy. The position of the individ-
ual and the voluntary groups are progressively undermined by the extension of arbi-
trary power … The group believes that these developments have been fostered by
the growth of a view of history which denies all absolute moral standards and by
the growth of theories which question the desirability of the rule of law. It holds
further that they have been fostered by the decline of belief in private property and
the competitive market; for without the diffused power and initiative associated
with these institutions it is difficult to imagine a society in which freedom may be
effectively preserved.2

The MPS sought to secure the conditions for liberalism's survival. The society's principal aim was to influence the direction of post-war liberal

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