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ABSTRACT. In the second half of the nineteenth century, a group of philosophers, sociologists, economists and journalists, systematically adapted classical liberal arguments to make them relevant to the appalling social conditions generated by the development of capitalism. Their writings contained distinctive models of society, of human nature, and of change, that are relevant to sociologists studying politics and education in the twenty-first century. My aim in this paper will be to work through the arguments of the “new liberals” accepting those that meet the tests of a critical interrogation as being relevant to twenty-first century global capitalism, adapting or rejecting them as is appropriate. Although some of their arguments will be found wanting, I argue that their original ideas in defense of social democracy can be restated in terms of developments in science and philosophy over a century since they wrote. Developments in post-quantum complexity theory, within both the physical and social sciences, will enable us to re-ground social democratic arguments and state them in a more plausible way for the twenty-first century. pp. 115–129

Keywords: social democracy; Hobson; welfare liberalism; Keynes; complexity theory; postmodernism; sociology of education

MARK OLSSEN
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University of Surrey

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