Summary: Liberty is presented, in a 1300-word lenght entry, as the centre of western political thinking and a distinction between trade freedom and freedom of the will is stressed, before giving a quiet wide historical overwiev of the philosophical and political use of the concept.
Trade freedom can appear as the only politically relevant aspect of the term, being ruled by social behaviours and political institutions. However the concept of freedom of the will is fundamental both because all political systems assume it as one of their basic conditions and because of the dangers deriving from regimes' attempts to limit it.
The first political use of the term goes back to the ancient Greece and Rome, where only people free from work and manual activities could spend time in understanding the polis and setting rules. From the sophists, through Socrates and Plato till the stoics and the epicureans, further reflections on the moral basis of freedom were developed. In the 17th and 18th centuries Locke, Hobbes, Rousseau and then Hegel gave the most notable contributions to the matter of freedom in modern societies.
After mentioning the central points of these authors' thought, the entry deals with the difference between the democratic conception of freedom (as participation freedom) and the liberal one (as individual activity and development), their conflict and nevertheless mutual support and, in the end, with their combination in the socialdemocratic perspective.