Kenneth Minogue offers a brilliant and provocative exploration of liberalism in the Western world today: its roots and its influences, its present state, and its prospects in the new century. The Liberal Mind limns the taxonomy of a way of thinking that constitutes the very consciousness of most people in most Western countries.
While few—especially in America—embrace the description of liberal, still, Minogue argues, most Americans and most Europeans behave as liberals. At least they are the heirs of what Minogue describes as "the triumph of an enlarged, flexible, and pragmatic version of liberalism."
But what, precisely, is liberalism? Or, more accurately, can liberalism be defined precisely? Minogue attempts to answer both questions. "The Liberal Mind attempts to uncover the philosophy of liberalism and lay bare its implications. What is Man? How does he think and feel? What is the place of Reason in human affairs? How should men live? What is politics, and what is it for? These are the questions which liberalism both asks and answers. The answers supply a technique of living, which is a utilitarian moral guide: yet the great advantage claimed for this code is that it is scientific. Because of this claim, liberalism is forced into a series of moral and political evasions, both doctrines and emotional habits of thought. These are dissected in The Liberal Mind."
The past two centuries have been characterized, in the West at least, by "the fury of old ideological battles . . . such as: A planned economy, or free enterprise? Individual thrift, or social services? Free trade, or protection?" These battles have largely been completed—and, many would say, have been won by the champions of, respectively, free enterprise, individual thrift, and free trade.
By examining the larger implications of the concept of liberalism, Minogue offers fresh perspective on the political currents that continue to shape governments and policy in the Western world.
Kenneth Minogue is Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the University of London.