Concept of Freedom in Political Theory

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Why is the concept of freedom so contested in political theory? (Word maximum: 1,500) Freedom is an important concept in Western politics, strongly entwined as it is with ideas of liberalism. Yet, as suggested by the question, the concept is one which is hotly debated. Indeed, political agents attempt to control the political agenda through promotion of their particular definition. This essay will look at the ways freedom has been defined by different theorists over the years. It will also look at how freedom is linked with and explained through different theo-ries and ideologies. It will then go on to look at how these different theories and ideologies may shape the conceptions of freedom we find in our daily lives. Different…show more content…
This approach may be considered stifling of both innovation and effort, since anything above the average will not be rewarded. By contrast, if equality of opportunity is achieved, then some will accumulate more wealth and power than others, giving them effectively more freedom. John Rawls (1971, cited in Middleton, 2005) introduced two principles of justice, the first of which was that ‘each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive liberty compatible with a similar liberty for others’. Rawls attempted to address the question of inequality through the second of his principles: the ‘difference principle’. In this he said that it was acceptable for some to be better off than others as long as by doing so the poorest people also benefitted in some way. In other words, inequality was acceptable if some of the extra benefit were redistributed to those most in need. This approach is an example of positive freedom. However, Isaiah Berlin (1969, cited in Smith, 2005), known as a chief architect of theories of positive and negative freedom, saw dangers in this approach too. He argued that it was wrong to ascribe to individuals a set of common needs and desires. Moreover, he considered that the surrender of individual freedom for collective self-rule could result in individual rights being violated. He concluded that a measure of both
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