My name is Marc Mulholland. I am a Fellow (lecturer and tutor) in the History Faculty of Oxford University. My College is St Catherine's. I come from Ireland.

This is a blog relating to my book published in 2012 by Oxford University Press, Bourgeois Liberty and the Politics of Fear: From Absolutism to Neo-Conservativism.
Now on sale here and here. If you want 20 per cent off the price, I can arrange that! Send me a message or leave a comment, and I'll tell you how.

The thesis my book is examining was rather pithily summarised by Leon Trotsky in 1939: "Wherever the proletariat appeared as an independent force, the bourgeoisie shifted to the camp of the counter-revolution. The bolder the struggle of the masses, the quicker the reactionary transformation of liberalism." [Context is here]

However, my book isn't a defence of Trotskyism, or indeed any particular ideology. It's a study of an idea that took shape in Left, Right, and Centre variations.

This blog has tid-bits not included in the book, and other thoughts that occur.

You can see book details at the
OUP website.

Monday, 3 September 2012

British Liberty

It's notable that Edmund Burke never (I think) spoke of "liberty,". He always  always thought in the plural - "liberties."

It this an Anglo-Saxon thing? In his very fine volume, Ideologies and Political Theory: A Conceptual Approach (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), Michael Freeden writes:
to the extent that Marxist socialism traversed the Channel it was ... rapidly assimilated into local cultural preferences. It reflected the general appeal of liberty as a personal political value cutting across British ideological loyalties. In particular, British socialists were not prone to dwell on liberty as a macro-phenomenon relating to the emancipatory casting-off of class shackles, but tended to 'privatize' it by attaching it to individual benefits. (457)
Elsewhere, however, he writes of the continental "socialist conception of liberty in which liberty was associated not with human fulfilment but with a notion of individual action and choice facilitated by material means - a capitalist view transported into socialist organization." (475). The authors he quotes in support of this are Émile Vandervelde, Alexandre Millerand and Jean Jaurès. They were all more or less on the right of the movement, and perhaps influenced by the British model?


  1. Marc, A very interesting post, though when it comes to Burke himself you can find plenty of examples of him discussing 'liberty' in the abstract. In the Speech to Electors of Bristol, and in Reflections. What is maybe distinctive is the counterposition of 'regulated liberty' or 'ordered liberty' to the emancipatory and 'terroristic' abstract right. Just a hypothesis, would require closer textual analysis.

  2. Alex is right. He uses the word "liberty" throughout Reflections (and in other writings). Never in a consistent way, however, and not always in simple opposition to the liberty of the French Revolution. My favorite quote, by the way, from Burke on liberty is this one: "liberty, when men act in bodies, is power."

  3. You're both quite right, I see. He's not too keen on "liberty in the abstract".