Freedom: Political

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Political liberty or freedom is an essentially contested concept, as Berlin emphasized. He distinguished positive liberty (the ‘liberty of the ancients,’ exercised in political participation, as well as in Kantian moral autonomy) from negative liberty (the ‘liberty of the moderns,’ the ‘right to be let alone’ in one’s private life). That distinction has been refined, criticized, rejected, and resurrected in the subsequent debate. In the light of it, five rival approaches are distinguished within the English language literature. These are (1) welfare liberalism (Rawls and Dworkin), (2) libertarianism (Nozick), (3) freedom, economics, and power (the neo-Marxism of Cohen, the post-Marxism of van Parijs, and the neo-Aristotelianism of Sen), (4) freedom as attaining autonomy through community (Raz), and (5) civic republicanism, i.e., freedom as involving political activity (the instrumental version of Skinner; the constitutive version of Pettit).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences
EditorsJames D. Wright
Number of pages6
ISBN (Print)9780080970875
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Freedom
  • Liberalism
  • Negative liberty
  • Positive liberty
  • Post-Marxism
  • Republicanism

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