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date: 30 November 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter on Isaiah Berlin’s Four Essays on Liberty centers on the most famous piece in it, “Two Concepts of Liberty.” As a matter of genre, it is an essay in conceptual analysis. Because liberty is a historically inflected concept, it is also an essay in the history of ideas. The chapter argues that Berlin was a “Cold War liberal” only in the limited sense that he campaigned against all doctrines that licensed the sacrifice of real individuals on the altar of impersonal entities such as the proletariat or the nation, and Soviet Communism was a salient case both because of the Cold War and Berlin’s own Russian origins. Individuals have an inviolability that governments of any stripe must not infringe. That is the core of negative liberty. Positively, Berlin’s faith was that unimpeded, individuals with adequate resources would spontaneously lead varied and vivid existences.

Keywords: Isaiah Berlin, liberty, Cold War liberalism, liberalism, negative liberty

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