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Voting and Liberty

Contemporary Implications of the Skinnerian Re-thinking of Political Liberty

Kari Palonen

In this paper, the author takes up the opposition between liberty and dependence proposed by Quentin Skinner and applies it to the analysis of the debates involving voting rights and regulations. The goal here is to examine the rhetoric supporting different positions in favor and against the extension of suffrage, the exclusion of certain groups, etc. The author points out that dependence can be detected even in democratic societies that lack traditional hierarchies. A similar effort is made to think how commitment, deliberation, and contestation can take place in the context of today's representative democracy in ways that enhance freedom instead of endangering it.

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Geoff Kennedy

This article examines the development of popular discourses of liberty as independence emerging from the struggles between peasants and landlords over the course of the late medieval and early modern periods. This discourse, relating to the aspirations of the dependent peasantry for free status, free tenure, and free labor, articulated a conception of independence that overlapped with the emerging republican discourse of the seventeenth century. However, whereas republicanism focuses almost exclusively on the arbitrary powers of the monarchical state, the popular tradition emphasizes freedom from the arbitrary powers of landlordism. After a brief introduction to the republican conception of liberty and a discussion of the dependent peasantry in England, the work of Gerrard Winstanley is presented as an innovative synthesis of popular and republican discourses of freedom as independence from the arbitrary powers of exploitation.

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Against Liberty

Adorno, Levinas and the Pathologies of Freedom

Eric S. Nelson

Adorno and Levinas argue from distinct yet intersecting perspectives that there are pathological forms of freedom, formed by systems of power and economic exchange, which legitimate the neglect, exploitation and domination of others. In this paper, I examine how the works of Adorno and Levinas assist in diagnosing the aporias of liberty in contemporary capitalist societies by providing critical models and strategies for confronting present discourses and systems of freedom that perpetuate unfreedom such as those ideologically expressed in possessive individualist and libertarian conceptions of freedom.

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Daryl Glaser

This article suggests ways of demarcating a liberal-egalitarian family of conceptions within political philosophy. It seeks to accommodate diverse conceptions while nevertheless demarcating liberal egalitarianism in a way that is coherent, distinctive and attractive. Liberal egalitarianism (the article argues) is about the simultaneous strong defence of individual liberty and substantive equality. But because there are real tensions and sometimes contradictions between certain liberties and substantive equalities, liberal egalitarianism is also necessarily a set of theories about how to address these. Liberal egalitarians differ in their accounts of equality and in their proposals for addressing liberty-equality tensions. Even so, I argue, any attractive and distinctively liberal-egalitarian resolution of these tensions must require a strong but morally individualist account of substantive equality, protection of political and civil liberties from trade-offs with equality or welfare, weak protection of property rights and respect for a proceduralist-democratic minimum.

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Applying Begriffsgeschichte to Dutch History

Some Remarks on the Practice and Future of a Project

Karin Tilmans and Wyger Velema

This article is a progress report on the Dutch national conceptual history project. The project places emphasis on interdisciplinarity, the resort to the widest possible range of sources, and the prospect of international comparison. The initiative, started by a group of Dutch scholars in the 1990s, has so far focused on the concepts of liberty, fatherland, and citizenship, all of which have had a prominent role in a specifically Dutch political discourse.

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Boris Maslov

Pindaric odes written around the time of the French Revolution have a penchant for abstractions. Apostrophized Liberty, Fortune, Virtue, and Joy, which replaced the monarch as the ode’s addressee, attest to the numinous prehistory of distinctively modern concepts that Reinhart Koselleck termed “collective singulars.” In particular, eighteenth-century Pindarics put forward representations of Liberty prevailing over an unenlightened past, which conform to the schema of victorious encounter established in Pindar’s epinician odes. The article dwells closely on two ostensibly pro-revolutionary and highly influential texts in the Pindaric mold, Alexander Radishchev’s Liberty and Friedrich Schiller’s To Joy, which share a concept of freedom that diverges from both the republican and the liberal interpretations.

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Christopher J. Allsobrook

In two recent books – Freedom Is Power: Liberty through Political Representation ( FIP ) and Are South Africans Free? – Lawrence Hamilton has developed and elaborated what he calls a ‘radically new’ conception of freedom. He argues that this

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David Bilchitz

These modern constitutions that have been adopted largely in the Global South enshrine a set of divergent values and rights that embrace both political philosophical concerns relating to liberty as well as distributive equality. This article seeks to grapple with the approach to distributive justice that can best give expression to the multiple normative commitments of these constitutions as well as key institutional features thereof. I argue for these societies to adopt what I term a two-tier theory of distributive justice: these theories require a set pattern or threshold to be achieved in a certain domain but also allow for a tolerable variation in resource distribution in another domain. I seek to show how two of the foremost egalitarian liberal theories of distributive justice – that of Ronald Dworkin and John Rawls – exemplify this structure as well as the resources they have to address the problems thereof. I then argue that a two-tier structure of a theory of distributive justice can help explain and reconcile key features of these modern constitutions. In particular, I shall seek to show the manner in which such theories conform to understandings of the role of a constitution, and the importance of preserving space for democratic decision-making. At the same time, two-tier theories assist in delineating the appropriate role constitutional courts should play in addressing the distribution of economic resources in society. These theories also have important implications for the role of the state and markets. Such a structure, I shall conclude, gives effect to a particular conception of equality as well as liberty and so manages to reconcile these two normative values.

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Kenneth Margerison

The French monarchy's determination to suspend the trading rights of the Compagnie des Indes in 1769 stimulated a lively public debate over the establishment of commercial liberty in the Indies trade. Since mid-century, Vincent de Gournay and his disciples had advocated increased liberty in French commerce, and the Compagnie des Indes' privileged trading monopoly offered a tempting target for these reformers. Working on behalf of the ministry, the abbé Morellet undertook the task of convincing public opinion of the benefits that liberty of commerce in the Indies trade would bring to France. However, the company's principal banker Jacques Necker and physiocrat Pierre-Samuel Dupont raised serious doubts concerning both the feasibility and the value of such reform. These critiques challenged any expectation that commercial liberty would increase French strength in the Indies trade or contest British political hegemony in India after the Seven Years' War.

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Liberty P. Sproat

Since the early 1920s, following the Bolshevik Revolution, Clara Zetkin, the renowned German socialist, politician, and fighter for women's rights, argued that only communism provided complete emancipation for women because it brought equality both in theory and in practice. Zetkin used her periodical Die Kommunistische Fraueninternationale (The communist women's international) (1921-1925) to convince women of the virtues of joining Soviet Russia (later the Soviet Union) in worldwide revolution rather than succumbing to the empty promises of feminist movements in capitalist nations. From reports of International Women's Day celebrations to statistical reviews of the institutions established to aid working women, Die Kommunistische Fraueninternationale used the example of Soviet Russia to illustrate what life for women entailed in a country that had experienced a successful communist revolution. The Soviet model portrayed in Die Kommunistische Fraueninternationale was optimistic and illustrated what Zetkin anticipated her female readers dreamed for themselves. The periodical, thus, became a tool of communist propaganda to convince women that supporting international communism was the most effective path for obtaining equal economic and social rights with men.