Positive and negative freedom 1


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Positive and negative freedom 1

  1. 1. Positive and negative freedom
  2. 2. Isaiah Berlin In his influential analysis of freedom he distinguished between 2 rival concepts – positive freedom and negative freedom This is often portrayed as the distinction between being ‘free to do something’ and being ‘free from something’
  3. 3. Negative freedom Classical liberals believed in negative freedom ie. non interference – the absence of external constraints upon the individual This conception of freedom is negative in that it leaves the individual ‘at liberty’ to act as he/she wishes, whatever the consequences Hobbes defined freedom as the ‘silence of the laws’
  4. 4. Negative freedom Poverty, disadvantage and disease may be regarded as misfortunes, but from this viewpoint they cannot be said to limit freedom Ideological implications – those who employ freedom in this negative sense are therefore inclined to support the minimal state and sympathise with laissez faire capitalism
  5. 5. Negative freedom This classical liberal tradition of freedom reflected in the ideas of the New Right/Thatcherism From this approach freedom is expanded by rolling back the state, encouraging individuals to take greater responsibility for their own lives and circumstances Freedom of choice in the market place
  6. 6. Evaluation Promotes a ‘survival of the fittest system’ which may undermine equality of opportunity and social justice Council house sales, tax cuts and reduction of state benefits will broaden the realm of liberty Critics – this conception of freedom may simply legitimise greed and grant the weak nothing more than the ‘freedom to starve’
  7. 7. Positive freedom Flaws of negative freedom led modern liberals to redefine freedom, in order to remain true to core liberal principles and values Concerned with the opportunities available to individuals to realise their true potential Freedom ultimately means being free from the social evils that can blight human existence as identified in the Beveridge Report – want, disease............................
  8. 8. Positive freedom It recognises social disadvantage (not just law and physical restraint) as an enemy of freedom Positive freedom suggest that liberty can be expanded by welfarism and economic intervention Comes close to identifying freedom with equality of opportunity
  9. 9. Evaluation Critics – classical liberals and New Right – this principle is linked to the growth of the ‘nanny state’- it allows our interests to be defined for us and so robs us of responsibility for our own lives Positive freedom links closely to socialists and Marx – self fulfilment, human potential