As noted earlier, criticism from the left considered Berlin a theoretician whose definition of liberty entailed a minimum-State policy. In Berlin's argument, intervention can serve as an instrument to assure freedom of choice. The bloodstained story of economic individualism and unrestrained capitalist competition does not, I should have thought, today need stressing. Nevertheless, in view of astonishing opinions which some of my critics have imputed to me, I should, perhaps, have been wise to underline certain parts of my argument.
I should have made even clearer that the evils of unrestricted laissez-faire , and of the social and legal systems that permitted and encouraged it, led to brutal violations of 'negative' liberty — of basic human rights always a 'negative' notion: a wall against oppressors including that of free expression or association, without which there may exist justice and fraternity and even happiness of a kind, but not democracy.
The case for intervention, by the state or other effective agencies, to secure conditions for both positive, and at least a minimum degree of negative, liberty for individuals is overwhelmingly strong. Berlin emphasises that liberty does not mean a laissez-faire model with no agencies capable of assuring certain rights, as barriers to prevent oppressors from blocking the exercise of liberty, whether intentionally or otherwise. The concept of liberty, as both negative liberty and positive liberty, requires some degree of intervention, without which liberty will wither and die.
Even while recognising that, in most passages, Berlin uses the term liberty [ 9 ] to refer indifferently to rights and to freedom of participation in public affairs, it can be seen from the passage above that he conceives the idea that law, in the sense of obligation, intervention, should be used to assure liberty, in both the positive sense freedom and the negative sense rights. The idea of influencing citizens with the sanction of law has no relation to the approach of "obliging citizens to be free" an idea attributed to Rousseau , but is intended simply to protect the sphere within which they can made their choices freely.
In the passage cited above, the intervention that Berlin describes as necessary to exercising liberty embodies the notion of protection, but not action endowed with substantive content to force individuals to act "freely". Discussing T. Green's essay, Berlin writes that in that context — in the late 19 th century — the relation between employers and employees, which was notably free from intervention, gave workers only formal negative liberty, with no possibility of enjoying it in practice, because they were subject to their employers' will.
In that situation, negative liberty is a "hollow gain", because the workers' will is subject to another's arbitrary will BERLIN, b, p. Berlin argued that mixing "social Darwinism" with a lack of interference resulted in a loss of liberty for the socially disadvantaged [ 10 ].
Berlin's argument neither stipulates that liberty and social equality are in permanent conflict, nor that these two values must be compatible [ 11 ]. In certain circumstances, intervention designed to reinforce social equality can be an instrument for assuring liberty. However, it is not difficult to find a number of experiments in western political theory where the two terms are in opposing camps.
Whether or not they are compatible will depend on what citizens understand to be the values governing the good life; in that respect, different outlooks inform different conceptions of justice, which may occasionally enter into conflict with liberty [ 12 ]. Berlin's argument does not consider it feasible to lay down a normative rule on the relations between liberty and equality, because his value pluralism entails the possibility of conflict emerging among the diverse notions of good, and thus precludes the possibility of harmony among them.
Liberty that may require intervention is an issue that logically raises the concern expressed by neo-republican theory that its thinking differentiate itself from the approach advocated by liberalism. This distinction is present in both past and present western political thinking [ 13 ]. Neo-republican thought characterises liberal political theory as follows:. But liberalism has been associated over the two hundred years of its development, and in most of its influential varieties, with the negative conception of freedom as the absence of interference, and with the assumption that there is nothing inherently oppressive about some people having power over others, provided they do not exercise that power and are not likely to exercise it.
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Viroli [ 14 ] notes that the liberalism of Constant and Berlin makes no mention of liberty as the absence of personal dependence, because their concern is only with situations where arbitrary interference occurs VIROLI, p. Neo-republicanism holds that the law makes citizens free not because it expresses their will, but because it is a universal, abstract command that protects citizens from the arbitrary acts of others.
Republicanism was seen to run counter to populism inspired in Rousseau, because it argues that the people are not the master, with the State merely serving the will of the people; in Pettit's terms, the people is the trustor, and the State, the trustee, of that will PETTIT, a , p. The key points of that relationship were held to be: the requirements of universality and common interest must be above the will of the majority; power must be dispersed throughout society and not concentrated in a single body; and, lastly, the exercise of power must be subject to constitutional controls PETTIT, a , Ch.
Later, in this book Republicanism a , Pettit distinguished among currents of thinking that address the concept of liberty. Instead of dividing them into two as previously done, he proposed differentiating three approaches: non-limitation , non-domination and non-interference. Pettit distinguished Berlin's argument from the Hobbesian utilitarian approach. Berlin's argument, however, he saw as favouring a strategy of adaptation, of accommodation by agents confronted by the will, whether manifest or not, of a stronger agent.
Why did Berlin's argument not give emphasis to the issue of non-domination and interference? According to Pettit, this was because, in Berlin's argument, the only alternative would be to reinforce the positive dimension of liberty. With this tripartite division, Pettit seems to have managed to assimilate the criticisms levelled at him for the narrowness of his characterisation of liberalism and of Berlin's argument CROWDER, , Ch.
As observed earlier, Berlin's concept of liberty embodies a rejection of oppression; it acknowledges that oppression can occur intentionally or otherwise, it just has to be perceived by the citizen; and, lastly, it requires intervention whenever this is necessary for liberty to be exercised in either its negative or positive dimension. In the same regard, there is no refusal of the idea of positive liberty as an integral part of the concept of liberty; subjects' autonomy is a central value for them to enjoy freedom of choice, and is fundamental in the concept developed by Berlin.
The criticisms that neo-republican theory levelled at Berlin's argument can thus be considered refutable.
If the concept of liberty is compatible with the idea of intervention, then it is important to investigate the relationship between liberty and end purposes in Berlin and in the neo-republicans. Berlin's argument distinguishes between the concept of liberty and the idea of ends. Here it will be shown how his argument effects that separation and then the same process will be traced in the neo-republican argument.
In order to analyse that distinction, it must first be understood how Berlin criticised the notion that there are ultimate purposes justifying freedom of action. In that connection, his criticism of the notion of historical inevitability will be examined. Berlin's essay, Two concepts of liberty , revisited ideas already present in Benjamin Constant's text, The Liberty of Ancients Compared with that of Moderns , while at the same time deviating from them in one important aspect, the role of History.
To Constant, the liberty of the moderns rested not on some hypothetical state of nature, but on History. That was where conflicts were staged, ancient institutions were supplanted by new ones, grounded in other principles in step with the march of History. Constant regarded one of the Jacobins' mistakes as having been to endeavour to impose institutions that disregarded individual liberty.
That movement rested on the will of political actors, but not on the march of History, a mismatch that resulted in institutions at odds with the spirit of their time. To Constant, as to the doctrinarians, History plays the role of an authority that legitimates the principles underpinning the liberty of the moderns MANENT, , p , p. Berlin refused to ground the concept of liberty in History for two main reasons. The first was that metaphysical or scientistic views see History as accomplishing a theological or rational principle which at once explains events and offers a rationale for actions suited to realising that idea.
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In touching on the theme of historical inevitability BERLIN, c , Berlin criticises theories that approach human phenomena on a perspective intended to discover forces working inexorably on political actors. On such an approach, scientists should properly occupy themselves with identifying the driving force that conditions actors, to whom one can attribute mistakes, "their ignorance" or "their rationality", always in terms of supposed laws.
Such a procedure would reduce the scope of liberty, because the more this principle is revealed, whether by scientific methods or not, the less possibility there is of agents' choosing.
The laws of History point to a meaning whose value agents cannot choose or judge; the role of knowledge is then to keep actors from taking directions at odds with the principle; never to point towards other possibilities or different values BERLIN, c , pp. Analysing Berlin's argument on liberty involves highlighting his examination of the Counter-Enlightenment and the Romantic Will.
According to those principles, Berlin stresses, to defy the universal laws was an act of liberty, even though such an action might be irrational.
Sir Isaiah Berlin
Each culture expresses its own view and is at liberty to do so, and the values expressed in each culture's way of life are incommensurable BERLIN, a [ 16 ] and One of the aspects Berlin highlights most emphatically when he analyses these phenomena is the right of such movements to have the use of freedom of choice, as opposed to schools of thought which assert that human behaviour is determined by purportedly universal laws. As regards the second reason, Berlin sees History and politics as fields of conflict among diverse values.
Politics is unavoidable to the extent that various conflicting purposes are struggling to be achieved, and none can claim primacy over the others; their values are incommensurable BERLIN, b , p. A conception of History or Reason with a single principle at its core would consider conflicts to be the result of false consciousness or ignorance, leaving individuals no choice of alternative. When Berlin analyses this conception of History, he is addressing the problem of liberty as well. The existence of inexorable processes reduces "the area of liberty"; in other words, it curbs freedom of choice.
The more we know, the farther the area of human freedom, and consequently of responsibility, is narrowed.
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For the omniscient being, who sees why nothing can be otherwise than as it is, the notions of responsibility or guilt, of right and wrong, are empty; they are a mere measure of ignorance, of adolescent illusion, and the perception of this is the first sign of moral and intellectual maturity. Given Berlin's criticism of this conception of History, now his concept of liberty can be examined in greater depth. If History is no longer the authority underpinning the liberty of the moderns as compared with the ancients, other values have to be constructed.
To Berlin, the need to draw a distinction between positive and negative liberty arises not from their formal aspects, but from the conflicts between these two models.
The IDEA of freedom :
More specifically, the differentiation arises when positive liberty entails the existence of a standard against which reasons for action are considered legitimate. In other words, individuals are then considered free only when acting in accordance with a standard, which may be reason, history, religion or various other ends.
Not all actions would be considered autonomous. With these values, Berlin argues, the theoreticians of positive liberty justify interventions designed to ensure that individuals conform to such a standard BERLIN, a , p. Berlin's analysis of the role of knowledge shows that his concept of liberty is more complex than a simple reading of negative liberty as the absence of intervention might suggest:.
Knowledge will only render us freer if in fact there is freedom of choice — if on the basis of our knowledge we can behave differently from the way in which we would have behaved without it — can, not must or do — if, that is to say, we can and do behave differently on the basis of our new knowledge, but need not. Where there is no antecedent freedom — and no possibility of it — it cannot be increased.
Our new knowledge will increase our rationality, our grasp of truth will deepen our understanding, add to our power, inner harmony, wisdom, effectiveness, but not, necessarily, to our liberty. If we are free to choose, then an increase in our knowledge may tell us what are the limits of this freedom and what expands or contracts it. It can be seen that knowledge cannot determine the content of free action. Knowledge can be a means to reveal options, but should not fix the only model of free action.
To Berlin, the individual is always limited by belonging to a specific community and language, to national customs and habits, and his thinking is extremely critical of the principles of the enlightenment, with their abstract, rational concept of the individual BERLIN, a.
None of these limitations, however, invalidates the idea of defining the concept of liberty in terms of freedom of choice. In Berlin's argument, it is contradictory to define liberty as something beyond freedom of choice, because if a purpose is fixed for free action, then we are only free when acting in accordance with that purpose; that is, we are not free.