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  You are in: Home > Philosopy > The Bounds of Liberalism  

The Bounds of Liberalism
The Fragility of Freedom

Neville Brown

Neville Brown has authored twelve books or major reports, including The Future of Air Power (1986). With the award-winning Future Global Challenge (1977), he began to give economic, social and ecological factors salience in the quest for a peaceable world. This thrust has continued with New Strategy Through Space (1990) through to Global Instability and Strategic Crisis (2004). His History and Climate Change, a Eurocentric Perspective (2001) reviews the last two millennia. In 1990, Professor Brown was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. His latest book is The Geography of Human Conflict (SAP).


The Bounds of Liberalism: The Fragility of Freedom is the third contribution to an informal trilogy which seeks to reconnoitre the salient issues involved in building a durable world peace. The first was the well-received Engaging the Cosmos: Astronomy, Philosophy and Faith (2006) and the second the highly commended The Geography of Human Conflict: Approaches to Survival (2009). The core issue of the present work is how far the West may need to modify or extend the liberal philosophy informing its responses to the multiple world crisis it is now attempting to deal with. It provides a review of the strengths and weaknesses of Social Liberalism that, broadly speaking, occupies the ground between moderate Right and moderate Left. The work is informed by the conviction that the world, half a century hence, will be either considerably better than now (freer, more peaceable, more enriching …) or else a good deal worse.

Those concerned to effect the former outcome should promote the spread among emergent states of well-founded democracy. But they must also look stringently at how well democratic institutions may function in the mass societies of the West. History indicates that pell-mell cultural change, constant ecological impoverishment, and endless leap forwards in applied science may not augur well for stability and peace. The author’s accepted expertise in History, International Security, Planetary Development and Applied Geophysics means he can address a variety of issues such as: climate change and resource depletion; community decay, data saturation, the future of universities, democratic devolution, leaders and led, and medical philosophy; and biowarfare, the management of Near Space, international political economy, and a planetary ethos.

It is contended that we are not approaching the “end of History” in any meaningful sense. Instead we are passing through, at accelerated pace, an evolutionary transition as impacting as that between the Old and New Stone Ages. Our perspectives on the immediate future may be honed by free-ranging speculation about what mankind can anticipate over the next few centuries.


The Author

Approaches to Analysis
1 Evolutionary Legacies
1 Our Deeper Past
2 A Northerly Inclination

2 Whence Social Liberalism?
1 Through the Enlightenment
2 Left versus Right

3 Testing Experience
1 Planetary Liberalism
2 Distracted by War

4 The Communist Crash
1 From Marx to Fromm
2 The Cold War

5 Whither Social Liberalism?
1 Pathways to Prescription
2 Rational or Reasonable

Accommodating Science
6 Digital Deluge

7 Biology Rampant

8 The Ultimate Challenges
1 Defended Peace
2 To Here from Eternity

Parametric Change
9 Global Outreach
1 Planetary Horizons
2 Democracy Assertive
3 Currency Management

10 Elusive Fulfilment
1 Shallow Satisfaction
2 Anomie

11 Urgent Concerns

Holistic Response
12 Sovereign Governance

13 Scientific Liberalism

14 A Liberal Reconnaissance
1 Bodies Politic
2 Planetary Patriotism

15 Two Tough Centuries?

Appendix A Controlled Nuclear Fusion
Appendix Acute Natural Hazards
Appendix The High Seas


“In this remarkable exploration of how liberal democracy may, or may not, have the capacity to respond creatively to the manifold stresses of world culture, economics and politics in the pursuit of a durable peace, Professor Brown delivers profound insights into the contemporary human condition, its origins and possible futures. That he is able to address such ambition says much, not only for the robust platform established in the earlier two books of this outstanding trilogy, but also for his command of an impressive library of philosophical, economic and scientific sources organised within an historical narrative ranging from the Neolithic to the frontiers of space. The result is an interdisciplinary tour de force built on an evidential base of much depth and richness, comprehensive in scope yet at times almost anecdotal in the specificity of the exemplars employed. Drawing effortlessly (or so it would seem) on a lifetime’s reflection on the relationship between the roots of world problems, such as climate change, war, scientific hubris, and technological determinism, and the political means available to address them, he offers no neat solution but rather a considered and clearly deeply felt consideration of the possible ways forward.

Although the lynchpin of this reflection is social liberalism it is not an uncritical one: his historical awareness is too acute for such an easy approach to be acceptable. Rather, there is a continuous probing and testing of both the nature of the pressures to which polities across the world are subject and the governmental solutions which, since the dawn of human political history, have been proffered. Throughout this unique book there is emphasis on linkage: science, philosophy and history are presented as integral to political understandings, not as separate contributors. Equally characteristic is its intellectual restlessness and refusal to accept uncritically common conceptual assumptions be these with regard to parliamentary democracy or happiness and fulfilment. Finally, there is the spiritual and the point of it all which, as Professor Brown elegantly argues, is after all a sine qua non of political reflection.” Brian Salter, Professor of Politics, Department of Political Economy, King’s College London

“In The Bounds of Liberalism Neville Brown offers an intricate and sophisticated analysis of the possibilities of, and constraints on, social liberalism. The scholarship displays enormous erudition and breadth of reading and is exceptional in its command of disciplines and fields of endeavour that are seldom in contact with each other. The author explores individual and social behaviour since the advent of early Man; anticipates the impact of future technological developments; examines developments in international relations and warfare; and investigates key moments and players in science, history and philosophy, on which to hang social change and epistemological shifts. The outcome is the anchoring of liberal humanism in a rich, imaginative and highly readable set of interlocking perspectives.” Michael Freeden, University of Nottingham; Emeritus, University of Oxford


Publication Details

Hardback ISBN:
Paperback ISBN:
Page Extent / Format:
360 pp. / 246 x 171 mm
Release Date:
December 2013
  Illustrated:   No
Hardback Price:
£65.00 / $94.95
Paperback Price:
£25.00 / $39.95

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