Beyond the Cold War: Isaiah Berlin for the Twenty-First Century

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Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts of Liberty” is clearly set within a Cold War context. However, its framework of ideas is also applicable to a range of twenty-first century social and political issues. First, Berlin’s “inversion thesis” concerning liberty captures a salient pattern of thought in radical Islamism. Second, his understanding of the power of belonging and recognition bears significantly on the rise of authoritarian nationalism and populism. Third, his value pluralism implies a critique of global neoliberalism and support for egalitarian liberalism or social democracy. Thus, Berlin’s framework provides us with a set of useful tools for understanding and responding to some of the most urgent political problems that trouble us now. But this framework has limitations and needs to be supplemented by thinking that goes beyond Berlin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)434-457
Number of pages24
JournalCritical Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Isaiah Berlin
  • laissez faire
  • liberalism
  • liberty
  • nationalism
  • neoliberalism
  • pluralism
  • populism
  • radical Islamism
  • recognition
  • redistribution
  • value pluralism


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