Three, not two, concepts of liberty

“If being free merely means acting without external restrictions [one] or taking up a rau-emil-kitchen-conversation-oil-painting-300x232reflexive stance [two], then subjects can be seen as being sufficiently free even before they become involved in a social order. But if we grasp subjects as truly ‘free’ only on the condition that their aims can be fulfilled or realized within reality itself, then we must reverse the relationship between legitimating procedures and social justice [that is, procedural justice is not worked out abstractly, and only thence applied to reality, but rather]: We must first regard all subjects as integrated in social structures that insure their freedom, before they then participate in a procedure that monitors the legitimacy of the social order.”

“Free activity, prior to any tendencies to retreat into individuality, consists in the fact that others do not oppose our intentions, but enable and promote them.”

– Axel Honneth, Freedom’s Right, p.57, p.60.

So, the model here is something like this:

  1. Learn social interaction, thanks to family, school, community and state.
  2. Participate. Learn. Participate more.
  3. Learn, thanks to that participation, that ‘freedom’ means interdependence with others who recognise and help realise our aims.
  4. Participate critically by asking of institutions ‘does it make me free’?
  5. If it doesn’t, participate some more – in a way that demands improvements.

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