Treacherous Liberties: Isaiah Berlin's Theory of Positive and Negative Freedom in Contemporary Political Culture
2011 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)Alternative title
Förrädiska friheter : Isaiah Berlin's teori om positiv och negativ frihet i samtida politisk kultur (Swedish)
Contemporary attitudes in affluent Western societies are characterised by a growing emphasis on individual freedom. What, then, does this commitment to liberty entail for our openness to diversity; and ultimately for liberal democracy? Previous research on popular attitudes, for example by Ronald Inglehart, tends to assume that valuing freedom entails an encouragement of a plurality of life-styles. This thesis, by contrast, argues that there are several ideals of freedom in public opinion; ideals that may have opposing consequences for our permissiveness towards ways of life that differ from our own.
The introductory essay in this book suggests that Isaiah Berlin’s theory of positive and negative freedom provides a fruitful analytical framework, which helps theorise and empirically nuance our picture of popular ideals of freedom. Essay I goes on to present a novel, psychological, interpretation of Berlin’s Two Concepts of Liberty. This essay also suggests that Berlin was critical not only of enlightened ideals of positive liberty, but also of romantic ones, which might be even more widespread today. Essay II then applies Berlin’s framework to contemporary survey data. Through confirmatory factor and regression analyses, this essay demonstrates that Berlin’s negative-positive distinction does in fact hold also in popular opinion; and that the two dimensions have rather different effects on moral and legal permissiveness. Essay III, finally, revisits a recent example of disrespect in the name of liberty: the Danish cartoon controversy. This essay develops the concept of ‘romantic liberalism’, thereby deepening our knowledge of romantic ideals of positive liberty, and their particularly disrespectful tendencies.
Drawing on Isaiah Berlin, and his critique of positive liberty, the essays in this thesis together suggest that it is crucial for liberal democracy to recognise the existence of treacherous liberties: ideals that lead their supporters to ridicule, condemn, or even prohibit ways of life that differ from their own – all in the name of liberty.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis , 2011. , 130 p.
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Social Sciences, ISSN 1652-9030 ; 73
freedom, liberty, values, autonomy, authenticity, tolerance, liberalism, permissiveness, Romanticism, Enlightenment, diversity, Inglehart, political culture, civicness, factor analysis
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
Research subject Political Science
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-158848ISBN: 978-91-554-8165-0 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-158848DiVA: diva2:442975
2011-11-04, Brusewitzsalen, Statsvetenskapliga institutionen, Gamla Torget 6, Uppsala, 13:15 (English)
Miller, David, professor
Bennich-Björkman, Li, professorTralau, Johan, docentLindgren, Karl-Oskar, filosofie doktor
ProjectsThe Impact of Religion
List of papers