“It’s a set of principles that involve a commitment to individual freedom and democracy.”
Okay…so how are we defining each of those terms?
By what metric does individual freedom and democracy necessitate a market economy?
By what metric does individual freedom and democracy necessitate a class structure built around access to capital – with a dominant class controlling society’s productive gears and a subordinate class having nothing to sell but their labor?
By what metric does individual freedom and democracy necessitate enclosures to resources and intellectual property?
This isn’t nitpicking – it’s just noticing that there is a social context through which we understand those political ideals of freedom and democracy.
This is why Marxists call liberals “idealists” – not because they have lofty ideas that supposedly defy reality, but because they fail to recognize the way in which material conditions give rise to ideologies (and how those ideologies are usually tailored to reproduce those material conditions). Liberalism defines individual liberty and democracy in a very particular, very historical way – a way which reproduces the material conditions of capitalism. These ideas don’t just form in a vacuum, in our “detached, rational minds”, and then just externalize to create social systems – it’s the opposite. Not all ideologies exist to reinforce the status quo (socialism, for example, wouldn’t exist as an ideology if this was the case), but they’re still almost always direct responses to the material relations of the status quo, whether in support or in opposition.
For this reason, if you were to ask a socialist what individual freedom and democracy means, you would receive different answers from liberals. We tend to believe that individual freedom shouldn’t come with the proviso that you generate labor that is profitable to someone else much more powerful than you (as under capitalism) – we believe that resources should be collectivized, automation should be fully utilized, and otherwise necessary labor should be divvied up so that the *individual* isn’t burdened by economic necessity and grueling workloads and class domination, giving them the ability to pursue what they’re passionate about. According to liberals (and the core ideologies surrounding capitalism), this isn’t individual freedom – and it’s not considered individual freedom *because* it doesn’t reproduce the conditions and mindsets necessary to keep the present system afloat.
What about democracy? Socialists believe that democracy means nothing if it doesn’t include your workplace, living spaces, and communities. This goes way beyond basic political democracy, even as socialism necessitates that as well – this is about recognizing that democracy is hollow and powerless as long as it only includes voting for one of two elite-selected suits every two-to-four years; it’s hollow and powerless as long as a small class of people control society’s productive gears *autocratically* for their own profit and structure the political game in their favor (which is, again, a major part of the system reproducing itself through ideology and social practice).
Liberals of all stripes absolutely must understand that their supposedly “detached” reference points for individual freedom and democracy are intensely ideological and dependent on particular material conditions – the material conditions of capitalism, the material conditions that benefit the few at the expense of the many. Those with power in this system will propagate whatever ideology they need to reproduce their power – this usually takes the form of liberalism, though it will often congeal into fascism when the system starts to wobble on shaky legs and the people start demanding a new system (fascism is the ruling class’s response to the demands for a new system from below; it’s a more overt and violent method of maintaining capital accumulation when the people demand an end to the concentration of resources by elites, and in the end fascism absorbs both nationalists and liberals whilst suppressing opposition from the left-wing that threatens ruling class material interests). It’s not about “principles” or “a commitment to high ideals” (for liberal politicians and the rich, anyway) – it’s about sustaining capitalism by obscuring the material conditions with fancy-sounding rhetoric and ideological justification.In other words, Orwellian doublespeak (a term ironically/not so ironically used by liberals to oppose justice movements and reinforce the status quo).