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Liberalism is one of the dominant political doctrines of the modern era. This entry describes its defining values, specifically individual freedoms, market freedom, secular governance, equality of citizens, and multicultural tolerance. Following anthropological insights, liberalism is discussed as a political doctrine, a model of governance, a type of subjectivity, and a set of norms and values. The entry discusses the emergence of liberal thought as well as anthropological research on this political formation. Though less widely known than political science writings on liberalism, anthropological research has contributed to knowledge of liberalism in a number of ways. Anthropology has explored the everyday lives and experiences of people in liberal states, revealing the informal content of liberal governance and its unintended effects. It has contributed to the critique of the liberal subject posited by liberal theory, and it has also explored the limitations of liberal tolerance and multiculturalism.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe International Encyclopedia of Anthropology
EditorsHilary Callan, Simon Coleman
Place of PublicationHoboken, NJ
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9781118924396
StatePublished - 2018


  • citizenship
  • democracy
  • governance
  • individualism
  • rights
  • social contract


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