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Journal Article

Grammars of liberalism


Samanani,  Farhan       
Socio-Cultural Diversity, MPI for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Max Planck Society;

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Taras Fedirko, T. F., Samanani, F., & Williamson, H. F. (2021). Grammars of liberalism. Social Anthropology, 29(2), 373-386. doi:10.1111/1469-8676.13061.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0009-2DE2-6
Liberalism has been fundamental to the making of the modern world, at times shaping basic assumptions as to
the nature of the political, and in other cases existing as a delimited political project in contention with others.
Across its long history, liberal projects have taken a diverse range of forms, which resist easy reduction to a
single logic or history. This diversity, however, has often escaped anthropological attention. In this introduc-
tion to our special section on Grammars of Liberalism, we briey trace this historical diversity, interrogate
anthropological approaches to conceptualising liberalism and offer a broad framework for studying liberalism
that remains attentive to both continuity and difference. First, we argue for attention to how the political
claims made by liberal projects unfold at the levels of values, their interrelations (morphology) and the under-
lying rules governing the expression and combination of values, and their intelligibility as liberal (grammar).
Second, we argue for empirical attention to how values are expressed and liberal projects assembled across
different social forms. We argue that this approach enables anthropology to grasp the diversity of liberal
political projects and subject positions while still allowing scholars to approach liberalism critically and to
interrogate its underlying logics.