the true core of liberalism, the inner citadel for whose protection all the liberal battles are waged [is] autonomy … Autonomy is what the basic political principles of liberalism are intended to foster and protect. 
Professor Joseph Raz explains that,
One common strand in liberal thought regards the promotion and protection of personal autonomy as the core of the liberal concern. 
Similarly, Professor Bruce Ackerman writes of liberalism that,
The core of this tradition is an insistence that the forms of social life be rooted in the self-conscious value affirmations of autonomous individuals. 
And Professor Kok-Chor Tan defines liberalism as,
an individualistic political morality...concerned primarily with protecting and promoting the autonomy of individuals. 
But this then raises another question. What do liberals understand by the idea of individual autonomy?
According to liberal autonomy theory, a fully human life is one that is self-determined. What matters therefore is that individuals have a life and a self which are variously described as self-created, self-defined, self-authored, self-chosen or self-directed.
Here, for instance, is how Professor Raz defines liberal autonomy:
A person is autonomous if he can become the author of his own life.
From a chapter description of the same work we get the following definition:
Autonomy is an ideal of self-creation, or self-authorship 
Professor Alan Ryan defines liberal autonomy in a similar way,
The essence [of liberalism] is that individuals are self-creating... 
As a final example, Professor Wayne Sumner connects the "traditional liberal value of autonomy" to the,
liberal conception of the person as self-determining and self-making 
Let’s say that you are a liberal who believes in this. What then becomes your political aim?
Your aim will be to remove impediments to individual autonomy. Whatever defines us in important ways that we do not choose for ourselves will be thought of negatively as something limiting and oppressive that we must be liberated from.
Liberals therefore have a strong motivation to launch campaigns to “reform” society. Over time the influence of liberalism on Western societies has been radical, arguably more radical than anything that has gone before.
This transforming effect on society has been presented to the general public by liberals in the most positive terms, as a progress toward freedom, equality and justice. When put this way, liberalism can seem difficult to challenge, even by those who sense that something is wrong with the direction of modern Western societies.
But if we go back to liberal autonomy theory, and look in detail at what it logically requires, then a more obviously negative picture emerges, one that is very much open to criticism.
What, after all, are the impediments to autonomy which liberalism seeks to abolish? They are those aspects of our own self and existence which we do not get to self-determine. And there is a lot that we don’t get to self-determine, including what we inherit as part of a tradition and what is given to us as part of an inborn human nature.
What is most significant to us as individuals has often survived over time as aspects of a tradition or of human nature. Therefore, liberalism has often found itself having to make what matters most not matter.
In this way liberalism has diminished our lives rather than liberated them.
But what exactly does liberalism not allow to matter? This is what now needs to be looked at more closely.
Next chapter: Sex distinctions
 John Kekes, Against Liberalism (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997), 14-15.
 Joseph Raz, The Morality of Freedom (Oxford: Clarendon, 1986), 203, quoted in Kekes, 217.
 Bruce Ackerman, Social Justice and the Liberal State (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980), 196, quoted in Kekes, 217.
 Kok-Chor Tan, Toleration, Diversity, and Global Justice (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000), p.2 (location 62)
 Raz, 204.
 Oxford Scholarship Online, The Morality of Freedom, 14 Autonomy and Pluralism, Abstract, http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/oso/public/content/philosophy/9780198248071/acprof-9780198248071-chapter-14.html (August 2010)
 Alan Ryan, “Liberalism” in Goodin and Pettit, A Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy (Oxford: Blackwell), quoted in Kekes, 217.
 Wayne Sumner, Welfare, Happiness, and Ethics (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 218-219, quoted in Kok-Chor Tan, Toleration, Diversity, and Global Justice (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000), 49.