The term liberalism describes a set of principles, ideologies, and practices that initially evolved out of distinct cultural and historical circumstances in the Western world in the 16th and 17th centuries. During this period, the principles upheld and defended by free institutions as they struggled against absolutist and totalitarian states resulted in the emergence of basic liberal values such as the protection of individual liberty, freedom of expression, rights to private property, rule of law, an unconstrained market economy, and a desire to limit the power of the state. Organizing society according to such values has significant implications for human development across the life span. This entry describes the ways in which contemporary manifestation of liberal values has shaped social and institutional structures and discusses ...

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