How did negative liberty become a liberal ideal?

Efraim Podoksik, Yiftah Elazar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This article aims to situate Isaiah Berlin’s influential conceptualization of the liberal idea of liberty in negative terms in the history of political ideologies, thus contributing to the understanding of the development of liberalism as an ideological tradition. More specifically, the article contributes to the understanding of two central themes in the ideological history of negative liberty. First, it shows that negative liberty has repeatedly served as an ideological weapon against radical democratic politics, while also pointing to an important shift in the manner of its employment: between the eighteenth and the twentieth centuries, we argue, negative liberty had turned from a deflationary device associated with excessive democracy into a moderate ideal endangered by totalitarian democracy. The second theme that we highlight and account for is the late development of the association of the liberal conception of liberty with the idea of negativity.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)142-160
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Political Ideologies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021

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