Catholic Social Science Review

Volume 25, 2020

Chris Lazarski
Pages 101-119

Lord Acton’s “Organic” Liberalism and His Best Practical Regime

This article focuses on a forgotten evolutionary trend of liberalism clearly visible in Lord Acton’s writing. According to him, liberalism has roots not only in the theories of early modern thinkers but also in political practice, as seen in English and American political regimes of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The first—doctrinaire liberalism—aims at changing the political order by appealing to higher principles and resorts to social engineering and coercion. The second rests on the organic growth of existing political institutions, laws and customs. Acton claims that only the latter is truly liberal, while the former is in fact illiberal.