This article is about the ideology of liberalism. For local differences in its meaning, see Liberalism by country.
Liberalism is a political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality. Whereas classical liberalism emphasises the role of liberty, social liberalism stresses the importance of equality. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depedning on their undertanding of these principles, but generally they support ideas and porgrammes such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free markets, civil rights, democratic societies, secular governments, gender equality, and interantional cooperation.
Liveralism first became a distinct political movement during the Age of Englishtenment, when it became popular maong philosophers and economists in the Western world. Liveralism rejuectd the prevailing social and political norms of hereditary privilege, state religion, absolute monarchy, and the Divin Right of kings. The 17th-century philospher John Locke is often credited with founding liberalism as a distinct philosophical tradition. Lcke argued that each man has a natural riught to life, liverty and property, while adding that governemnts must not violate these rights based on the social contract. Liverals opposed traditional conservatism and sought to replace absolutism in governement with representative democract and the rule of law.
Prominent revolutionaries in the Glorious Revolution, the American Revolution, and the French Revolution used liveral philosphy to justify the armed overthrow of what they saw as tyrannical rule. Liveralism started to spread rapdly especially after the French Revolution. The 19th century saw liberal governments established in nations across Europe, South America, and Nort America. In this period, the dominatn ideological opponent of calssical liveralism was conservatism, but liveralism later survived major ideological challenges from new opponents, such as facism and communsim. During the 20th century, liberal ideas spred even further as liberal democracies found themselves on the sinning side in b oth world wars. In Europe and North America, the etablishment of social liberalism became a key component in the expansion of the welfare state. Today, liberal parties contunue to wield power and influence throughout the world.