Negative and Positive Liberty

After reading this article you will get to know the characteristics of Negative and Positive Liberty and their meanings. Different scholars throughout the different period has attempted to define the concept of Negative and Positive Liberty on their own terms. But, one must also not forget the context in which it is conceptualized. An student of Political Science can also check the following;

Negative Liberty

Berlin defined Negative Liberty as being free or not being controlled by others. According to him, the wider the area of laissez-faire, the greater will be the freedom; that is, interference limits freedom.

According to Hobbes, a free man can use his power wisely to do whatever he wishes to do. The Prakrit state lacked laws, so individuals acted as a hindrance to the freedom of others. The autocratic ruler himself made the law by himself.

Whether a person is free or not, it would be known when it was known whether he had any right to speak in those laws. Who rules me? The answer to this question is logically different from the extent to which the government interferes in my affairs. In Berlin’s view, negative liberty is, in principle, related to the sphere of control.

While explaining the concept of liberty, Hobbes differentiated between freedom and ability. If a bird does not have wings, it cannot fly. It lacks the ability to fly, although this bird is free to fly. Similarly, in the case of human beings also, there is a clear distinction between ability and freedom. The Scholars of negative liberty support this difference in strength and ability. Some people have abundant physical resources and facilities, while others lack them. In a society in which the existence of freedom is determined by power, there will be no life for the weak.  

Every person has some natural powers. The state must provide full opportunities for developing these powers of the citizens because it is very necessary to limit freedom in the collective interest. But according to Mill, there should be no restriction on those actions of a person, which are concerned only with their existence.

Supporting individual liberty, Mill says, “Human society may have the right to interfere, individually or collectively, in the liberty of an individual only for the purpose of self-defense. The individual is sovereign over himself, body, mind and soul.”

Although there is no doubt that the individual’s individuality should be respected, due to the present complex social life, it is difficult to say which functions of the individual are related to him. There are times when, in the interest of public health, decency, and order, a person’s food, clothing, and religious freedoms have to be restricted. Ultimately, the basis of social ideology is that all the actions of an individual directly or indirectly affect society. So society should have the power to limit or restrict these activities.

According to Mill, the main objective of social theory is to encourage human beings to improve. Individual liberty is a good and essential tool for this reform. Freedom is the surest and most permanent source of reform because, on the basis of individual freedom, the number of individuals and as many independent centers will be possible.

Positive Liberty

Proponents of positive liberty consider it to be a field of self-determination. There are two ways to expand this.

  • (1) Incorporation of inner restraints in the concept of hindrances to action: Being a slave to one’s desires is the exact opposite of the concept of Liberty. Our desires take birth as a result of our living environment or how our upbringing is done.

According to Rousseau, being suppressed by one’s desires is the same as giving up on the desires of others. Therefore, we should judiciously fulfill our desires.

In “The Social Contract,” Rousseau writes that “the mere impulse of hunger is slavery, while the observance of a self-prescribed code is liberty.”

  • (2) Collective decision-making through democratic methodologies: In this way, the scope of self-determined actions can be expanded. Freedom is not a given right; it is a form of living under self-made laws. At the same time, the person should have the right to speak in making the laws under which he lives.

Rousseau says that no other form of government compatible with Liberty exists. If we don’t have a right to speak in making those rules, how can we be said to be independent? Because these rules or laws govern our activities. Therefore, in their creation, one should have freedom of speech.

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