Difference Between Radical and Liberal

Radical vs Liberal

Radical desires immediate change while a liberal is ready to move forward to embrace change.


Radical and liberal are tags or labels that are most commonly used in the political arena though people prefer to be labeled as liberals or radicals, to let others know about their views and opinions on different social and economic topics. Though there may have been clear cut differences between radicals and liberals long time ago, today, these labels are devoid of any ideology as there are too many similarities and overlapping between the policies of the so called liberal and radical governments. This article attempts to find out the differences between radicals and liberals.

If political spectrum can be taken to be a continuum from left to right, radicals can be deemed to be lying at the far left of this continuum while liberals are also on the left but closer to the centre. The people and the parties lying at the centre are labeled as moderates while those having right leanings are labeled conservatives and finally reactionaries. If the political spectrum is conceived of as a circle, then the radicals occupy the upper left quadrant and the radicals would be given the upper right quadrant. If you travel far on this spectrum towards either right or left, you are exposed to extreme political ideas.


Liberal is an individual or a party that has a soft and practical approach that is also called a flexible approach. Though lying left to the moderates on the political continuum, a liberal is ready to move forward and embrace change. Liberals favor reforms initiated by government, and they want intervention in the economy by the government. They do not support big role for military and hold the government responsible for protection of the environment.


A Radical is an individual and a party standing on the extreme left of the political spectrum. They are also called leftists or left wingers. A radical is often impatient and is in favor of a radical change or reform. A radical party has political leanings towards socialism or Marxism and does not favor private property or private entrepreneurship.

What is the difference between Radical and Liberal?

In present times, it is hard to identify a true liberal or a radical. Both lie on the left side of the political spectrum though radicals lie on the far left while liberals lie closer to the centre that is occupied by the moderates. Radical desires immediate change while a liberal is ready to move forward to embrace change.

  • Miguel

    While Liberals and their slightly-more-radical counterparts: Social Democrats fight for much of what leftists and radicals also fight for, the main difference lies in their end goals. Leftists such as anarchists, communists and socialists (including Democratic Socialists) want the ABOLITION of capitalism, the ABOLITION of private property, the ABOLITION of the wage system and the eventual ABOLITION of of the state as necessary steps to creating a truly egalitarian society. They believe in short-term reforms as a means, NOT an end, and believe that capitalism CANNOT be reformed. Not many articles (mostly written by liberals) that talk about radicals like to acknowledge this, or merely waive it off as just abolition of property. Liberals and Social Democrats, even “progressives” on the other hand, are pro-capitalist. That is the main difference. They want to keep the dominant system, however they believe that capitalism can be reformed and regulated through a strong government and unions. They want to KEEP private property, which is essential to capitalism, to KEEP the wage system, and to KEEP capitalism. Most liberals also fall into the trap that “Democratic Socialism” means heavy regulation, pro-market capitalism….it does NOT. What they are speaking about is Social Democracy (notice how socialism isn’t even in the term). Those are the main differences. I’m a Democratic Socialist with the Socialist Party btw.

  • Daryl K. Sauerwald

    A radical can be anyone of any place on the political spectrum,who leans towards more extreme actions to get the desired results. These definitions are a bunch of crap. They also make the all to common mistake of not recognizing the difference between the european and American views of right and left,which clouds the true meaning of left or right as it applies to the U.S. Who every put this up here, is cutting corners and lacks ethical detachment from the subject.