The opposite of “liberal”

The opposite of “liberal” is not “conservative”. It’s “authoritarian”.

Likewise, the opposite of “conservative” is “radical”.

Continued opposition of the terms “liberal” and “conservative” in the public discourse is likely a carryover from 19th century British politics, where the major parties were the Liberal and Conservative parties, but what we call political “liberalism” and “conservatism” in the common parlance today are both rooted in classic liberalism. “Liberal” comes from the Latin liber, which means “free”, which is the term that came to distinguish modern philosophers such as Locke, Rousseau, and Jefferson.

In that sense, anarchism can potentially be seen as a “liberal” philosophy.

Think on that before you denounce someone as too “liberal” or “conservative”.



3 Responses

  1. Thanx. Sometimes it’s necessary a “political ideologies” for dummies-like post.

  2. Hi, I just have a slight correction. The opposite of ‘conservative’ is ‘progressive.’ ‘Radical’ is a step further than ‘progressive’ and its opposite is ‘reactionary.’ Nevertheless, it’s an important point you’re making that ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ are not polar opposites as many believe. ‘Liberalism’ refers to individualism, and thus its opposite is ‘collectivism.’

  3. @Michael, great observation on the opposite of conservative being progressive. Liberalism surely is individualistic but it is not a synonym for individualism. I agree with Jason that the correct opposite of liberalism is authoritarianism.

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