Wednesday, December 14, 2005

BBC NEWS | Politics | Kennedy 'not worried by Cameron'

Here's something that I've noticed recently. BBC Radio 4 has started adopting the American term "liberal" to mean "left-wing". I don't use it, but life on the internet means my vocabulary has picked up a number of Americanisms. Maybe the two dialects are going to merge.

But, given that the "Liberal Democrats" are functionally to the left of Labour now in the UK. And if a generation is growing up familiar with the word "liberal" to mean left. It seems plausible that leftish youngsters are going to get the idea that the lib-dems are the liberal (in the American sense) party. And may join it accordingly.

Could the lib-dems really become the "liberal" party in the UK? They kind of own the namespace. And, if so, what would that mean?

1 comment:

John Powers said...

This isn't really to your point--but I just hate what the rightists have done to the word liberal here in the U.S.

I found Caetano Veloso"s book "Tropical Truth" so interesting, first as a history of the 60's from a Brazilian perspective. And second his views about culture more broadly. Veloso:

"It is indeed obvious that liberalism will be the next domino to fall, if the self-procalimed lovers of such western achievements--the conservatives of rich Western countries--fatally devalue this foundation as they celebrate the bankruptcy of socialism, bekoning submission with an explicit return to "faith"--and an implicit return to racist values--none of which liberal thinking would tolerate."

Shorter version: Samuel Huntington be damned.

The trouble is there's trouble with classic liberalism as a philosophical construct, at least IMHO. Not to say I don't value the acheivement of the liberal tradition, or the importance of individual liberty. Rather I think the that community is more than the sum of the members who compose it. That there is a more "ecological" understanding that needs to be taken into account.

On one hand I wish to defend the liberal tradition and on the other look forward to an expanded understanding of it. So the casual use of liberal to mean left wing seems unfortunate because it further alienates the meaning of the word liberal from "liberal" as in the liberal tradition.