What are the causes that make a "free society", in its rare historical manifestations, so not very free? Why are accounts of politics that we usually find in liberal thought so unsatisfactory? Why has liberalism almost always met with great difficulty in thinking realistically about politics? According to the author, these questions are closely related. In fact, if the obstacles to a more complete achievement of a liberal society are of an eminently political nature, the fact that liberalism is rarely capable of thinking about politics is an integral part of the problem. Politics, in other words, is less pliable than liberal thought has always assumed. This text, the author confesses, springs from "the desire to better understand a relationship - between political power and individual freedom - that less reckless social scientists rarely dare to address directly".
Angelo Panebianco teaches Political Science
at the University of Bologna.