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The term 'liberalism' in this page is 'liberalism' as a whole as used in an international context, not 'liberalism' in the United States. For American liberalism, see Modern liberalism or Social liberalism.
In a global context:
Ideological roots
Political parties
Adjacent ideologies
Liberalism is an ideology based on free trade, individual freedom and equality. Liberalism has had a profound effect on both left and right sides of the West, and opposition to liberalism (in traditional contexts, not in American contexts) is usually classified as far-right or far-left. Liberalism is accepted as the ideology that shaped almost everything in modern politics.

Liberalism can be used in different contexts in different countries. Liberalism is also generally regarded as one of the three major political ideologies along with conservatism(right-wing) and socialism(left-wing).[1] Therefore, in many countries, simply liberalism is used in a similar sense to centrism. (In general, the vocabulary of "liberalism" used by Americans can be very different from that of "liberalism" in almost every other country.)

Political scientists say that all politicians in the United States are liberals, In an academic sense.[2] Some political scientists even believe that in American politics, center-left social liberals have been called "liberals" and center-right conservative liberals have been called "conservatives" (to be precise, fiscal conservatives).[3] Of course, this was before the emergence of Trumpism, a far-right conservative-populist and illiberal-democratic movement.

Three major liberalisms[edit]

Since the 20th century, liberalism has largely become mainstream thought in three forms. In general, in the European political context, classical liberalism is classified as center-right, conservative liberalism as center to center-right, and social liberalism as center to center-left. European-style social liberalism is used in a different sense than the United States, as it actively embraces economic liberalism.[4]

Classical liberalism[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Classical Liberalism

Classical liberalism is a branch of liberalism that advocates civil liberties based on the rule of law, and after the 20st century, it is used in a similar sense to economic liberalism. Classical liberalism is generally classified as right-wing liberalism in modern times.

Related Ideologies[edit]

Ideas derived from classical liberalism are as follows.

  • Radicalism : RadicalismWikipedia in the classical sense means liberals who were historically considered left-wing to far-left until the 19th century, as the name suggests. It is deeply related to civil nationalism, social liberalism, and utopian socialismWikipedia. Social liberalism and utopian socialism, in particular, is not considered far left in modern times, and nationalism is often considered far-right.
  • Economic liberalism
    • Laissez-faire : Laissez-faire is a concept derived from classical liberalism, which many classical liberals still support.
    • Neoliberalism
  • National liberalism : It is an ideology that combines civic nationalism and classical liberalism. However, unlike ordinary civic nationalism, it is closer to the center-right than the center-left.

Representative people and parties[edit]

Conservative liberalism (= European style liberalism)[edit]

It is literally liberalism that values the conservative side of liberalism. Conservative liberalism is generally classified as 'center to center-right', but some are hard-line right-wing. Right-wing conservative liberalism generally inherits the classical liberal philosophy, but centrist conservative liberals partially accept elements of social liberalism.(In this case, it is simply referred to as liberalism in Europe/Australia.) European/Australian liberalism is more like conservative liberalism than social liberalism in modern times.

The following are ideologies derived from Conservative liberalism.

Related Ideologies[edit]

  • Liberal conservatism: This is a centre-right ideology that combines classical liberalism and conservatism. It pursues a moderate form of liberalism based on a conservative philosophy. It is one of the representative conservative political ideologies. The philosophical origin of liberal conservatism is Edmund Burke. In a global context, 'liberal conservatism' is used in a similar sense to what is called moderate conservatism in the United States.
  • American Neoconservatism: Some scholars see American neoconservatism as an idea based on conservative liberalism. The values of private property rights, independent individuals, small governments, and the spread of liberal democracy around the world pursued by neoconservatives in the U.S. clearly have elements to be seen as liberalism in academic sense, albeit right-wing.[6]

Representative people and parties[edit]

Social liberalism (= U.S. style liberalism)[edit]

This is an ideology that focuses more on social justice than on general liberalism. It is an ideology that is simply referred to as liberalism in the United States. The idea of radicalism, a kind of left-wing classical liberalism, can be seen as a moderated form. Social liberals see the market as a power and support a balance of power between the government and the market.

Social liberalism in Europe and Asia means 'center to center-left', but 'center-left to left-wing' social democrats such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are also called "liberal" or "social liberal" in the United States. This is only an American exceptional term, and they are not described as "liberal" outside the United States because they are negative about free trade.

In the United States, left-wing democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is called "Ultra-liberal"(=radical left).[8] In most countries other than the United States, Emmanuel Macron is called "Ultra-liberal"(=radical centrist). In the United States, 'liberal' means 'leftist', but in most countries other than the United States, 'liberal' means 'centrist', so Americans need to understand world politics considering that the concept of 'liberal' is an American exceptional concept and does not exist in other countries.

Representative people and parties[edit]

See also[edit]

Icon fun.svg For those of you in the mood, RationalWiki has a fun article about Liberalism.


  1. Of course, the socialists and radicalists he refers to are social democrats and classical radicalism, respectively. (Radicalism was considered left-wing in the 19th century, but it is evaluated as a proto version of social liberalism in the present era.)
  2. However, there are many criticisms that he is more of a right-wing populist than conservative liberal.
  3. However, some say that FDR is more left than social liberalism because it has damaged the free market. Even in France, which is famous for its welfare state, New Deal partyWikipedia is classified as a 'left-wing' party. The New Deal party is left-leaning over the 'center-left' Socialist PartyWikipedia.


  2. Adams, Ian (2001). Political Ideology Today. Manchester University Press. p. 32.
  3. Slomp, Hans (2011). Europe, a Political Profile: An American Companion to European Politics. ABC-CLIO.
  4. Liberal Parties in Europe: The liberal party family ideology
  5. Fujii, George (2013). "Liberalism". Encyclopedia of the Cold War. Routledge.
  6. Peter Lawler, Liberal Conservatism, Not Conservative Liberalism, The Intercollegiate Review, Fall 2003/Spring 2004