Notes of Ch 2 Freedom| Class 11th Political Science

The ideals of Freedom

• Nelson Mandela of south africa spent 28 years in jail to fight for independence movement. and aung san suu kyi of Myanmar also spent years under house arrest to fight for independence.

What is Freedom?

• ‘What is freedom’ is absence of constraints (restrictions).

• Freedom is said to exist when external constraints on the individual are absent. In terms of this definition an individual could be considered free if he/she is not subject to external controls or coercion and is able to make independent decisions and act in an autonomous way.

• Freedom is also about expanding the ability of people to freely express themselves and develop their potential.

• Aspects of freedom
→ The absence of external constraints
→ The existence of conditions in which people can develop their talents.

• A free society would be one which enables all its members to develop their potential with the minimum of social constraints.

• No individual living in society can hope to enjoy total absence of any kind of constraints or restrictions.
→ It becomes necessary then to determine which social constraints are justified and which are not, which are acceptable and which should be removed.

• To be free means to reduce or minimise social constraints that limit our ability to make choices freely.

• There is another aspect of freedom, It allows the full development of the individual’s creativity, sensibilities and capabilities: be it in sports, science, art, music or exploration.
→ A free society is one that enables one to pursue one’s interests with a minimum of constraints.

The Sources of Constraints

• Restrictions on the freedom of individuals may come from domination and external controls.

• Such restrictions may be imposed by force or they may be imposed by a government through laws which embody the power of the rulers over the people and which may have the backing of force.

• If the government is a democratic one, the members of a state could retain some control over their rulers.
→ That is why democratic government is considered to be an important means of protecting the freedom of people.

• But constraints on freedom can also result from social inequality of the kind implicit in the caste system, or which result from extreme economic inequality in a society.

Why do we need Constraints

• We need some constraints or else society would descend into chaos.

• Differences may exist between people regarding their ideas and opinions, they may have conflicting ambitions, they may compete to control scarce resources.

• People around us ready to fight for all kinds of reasons ranging from the serious to the trivial.

• Therefore every society needs some mechanisms to control violence and settle disputes.

•  Ideally, in a free society we should be able to hold our views, develop our own rules of living, and pursue our choices.

• Creation of such a society requires that we be willing to respect differences of views, opinions and beliefs.

• Sometimes, an individual can think that a strong commitment to our beliefs requires that we must
oppose all those who differ from or reject our views. We see their views or ways of living as unacceptable or even undesirable.

• Under such circumstances we need some legal and political restraints to ensure that differences may be discussed and debated without one group forcibly imposing its views on the other.

Harm Principle

• John Stuart Mill in his essay On Liberty called political theory the ‘harm principle’.

• Mill introduces here an important distinction. He distinguishes between ‘self-regarding’ actions, i.e., those actions that have consequences only for the individual actor and nobody else, and ‘other regarding’ actions, i.e., those actions that also have consequences for others.

• He argues that with respect to actions or choices that affect only one’s self, self-regarding actions, the state (or any other external authority) has no business to interfere.

• In contrast, with respect to actions that have consequences for others, actions which may cause harm to them, there is some case for external interference.

• In this case it is the state which can constrain a person from acting in a way that causes harm to someone else.

• Freedom is at the core of human society, is so crucial for a dignified human life, it should only be constrained in special circumstances.

• For minor harm, Mill recommends only social disapproval and not the force of law.

• People should be ready to tolerate different ways of life, different points of view, and the different interests, so long as they do not cause harm to others.

• But such tolerance need not be extended to views and actions which may put people in danger or foment hatred against them.

• In the constitutional discussions in India, the term used for such justifiable constraints is ‘reasonable restrictions’.

• The restrictions may be there but they must be reasonable, i.e., capable of being defended by reason, not excessive, not out of proportion to the action being restricted, since then it would impinge on the general condition of freedom in society.

Negative and Positive Liberty

• In political theory, there are two types of liberty:
→ Negative Liberty
→ Positive Liberty

Negative Liberty
• ‘Negative liberty’ seeks to define and defend an area in which the individual would be inviolable, in which he or she could ‘do, be or become’ whatever he or she wished to ‘do, be or become’.

• This is an area in which no external authority can interfere. It is a minimum area that is sacred and in which whatever the individual does, is not to be interfered with.

• The negative liberty tradition argues for an inviolable area of non-interference in which the
individual can express himself or herself. If the area is too small then human dignity gets compromised.

• It is concerned with explaining the idea of ‘freedom from’.

Positive Liberty

• Positive liberty recognises that one can be free only in society (not outside it) and hence tries to make that society such that it enables the development of the individual whereas negative liberty is only concerned with the inviolable area of non-interference and not with the conditions in society, outside this area, as such.

•  Positive Liberty is concerned with looking at the conditions and nature of the relationship between the individual and society and of improving these conditions such that there are fewer constraints to the development of the individual personality.

• The individual to develop his or her capability must get the benefit of enabling positive conditions in material, political and social domains.

• The arguments of positive liberty are concerned with explaining the idea of ‘freedom to’.

• Generally they both go together and support each other, but it can happen that tyrants justify their rule by invoking arguments of positive liberty.

Freedom of Expression

• Freedom of expression is a fundamental value and for that society must be willing to bear some inconvenience to protect it from people who want to restrict it.

• Constraints of different kind thus exist and we are subject to them in different situations.

• While reflecting on such situations we need to realise that when constraints are backed by organised social — religious or cultural — authority or by the might of the state, they restrict our freedom in ways that are difficult to fight against.

• So, freedom embodies our capacity and our ability to make choices.

• We have also to accept responsibility for our actions and their consequences.

• It is for this reason that most advocates of liberty and freedom maintain that children must be placed in the care of parents.
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