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Unformatted text preview: 28 Rights, Equality, Liberty and Justice UNIT 19 LIBERTY Structure 19.0 Objectives 19.1 Introduction 19.2 The Meaning of Liberty 19.3 J.S.Mill’s Notion of Liberty 19.4 Isaiah Berlin and the Two Concepts of Liberty 19.5 Marxist Critique and the Idea of Freedom 19.6 Other Contemporary Ideas on Liberty 19.7 Let Us Sum Up 19.8 Keywords 19.9 Some Useful References 19.10 Answers to Check Your Progress Exercises 19.0 OBJECTIVES Liberty is considered a core concept and a fundamental democratic value in modern political and social theory. The notion of liberty emerged in the context of the formation of modern civil society and political authority. While the concept is intimately associated with liberal thought, liberals have looked at the notion in different ways. Marxists are critical of liberal notions of liberty and would refashion the concept on entirely different assumptions of individual and society. In this unit, we shall look at different perspectives on liberty, and try to understand the meanings, justifications and limits of the notion. The unit has been divided into different sections, each dealing with a specific aspect of the notion. There are a set of questions at the end of the unit for self-assessment, and a list of readings to help enhance your understanding. 19.1 INTRODUCTION The idea of liberty as a core principle of liberal thought, is most commonly understood as ‘absence of restraints’. The notion of liberty emerged in the context of the establishment of new socio-economic and political relationships in modern Europe. At the basis of the notion was the idea of a rational individual, capable of taking reasoned decisions. The rational individual, it was thought, was capable of self-determination; in other words, capable of taking decisions which concerned his or her self. In order to develop his capacities, the individual required freedom from all kinds of social, political and economic constraints. Thus, the idea of liberty as absence of restraints, or a sphere of autonomy of the individual, developed. At the same time, however, the fact that within a social organization the individual is not alone and exists in relation with other individuals, required that an equal claim of other individuals to their spheres of autonomy should be recognized. In order that the respective claims of all individuals to autonomy can be realized with minimum conflict, it was imperative that a system of restraints and regulation was worked out and adhered to by everyone. The theories of social contract put forward by philosophers like Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau put forth the idea of liberty as absence of constraints. At the same time, they also proposed the framework within which individual freedom was to unfold. Thus, the idea of political community was based on a simultaneous recognition of the capacities and autonomy of individuals and the imperatives that all should be subjected to a common set of constraints on their liberty. 29 Justice Thus, it must be understood that liberty, which in common understanding means...
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This note was uploaded on 03/13/2012 for the course IR 101 taught by Professor Harfancoofers during the Spring '12 term at Sunway University College.
- Spring '12