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Should the State Promote Positive Liberty?

Critically discuss the debate (Isiah Berlin) that the state of hawaii should not promote positive liberty.

The term flexibility has always been a difficult dialogue; there are several views of flexibility in different fields. Corresponding to Heywood, A, (2004), he remarked that in philosophy, independence is often described as an attribute of the will to observe and examine. However, in economics and sociology, flexibility is definitely seen as a social relationship. The politics theorist often seen independence as a liberal ethic or normative key points. Among many definitions of flexibility, Isiah Berlin subdivided independence into negative and positive liberty. On the basis of this variation, Berlin not only declared that positive liberty idea is the theoretical basis of totalitarianism, but also aggressively criticized the idea of positive freedom. He believed that their state should not promote positive freedom. In this article, we will discuss the theoretical structure from Berlin's ideas of liberty and pros or downsides respectively. Also conversation about whether the state shouldn't advocate positive liberty will be included.

According to the Berlin (1958) in the "Two Principles of Liberty" Їјthe ideas of "negative liberty" and "positive liberty " were plainly recognized. The "negative liberty" was defined as a personal action without disturbance from others. For example, the individual gets the independence that others don't have right to attack him. The "positive liberty " means that the options of people living design were decided independently rather than any other factors, or just known as everyone gets the flexibility to pursuit pleasure. In other words, the goal of negative liberty is the security of individual privileges and resistance of collective protection under the law, which assists for the implementation of various individual rights. For the positive independence, its main purpose is to acquire certain passions or achieve contain goals. Typically it displays in the interpersonal rights of various participatory. Therefore, it is often expressed as communal rights.

Isiah Berlin indicated in his theory of freedom that positive flexibility always lead to despotism and world should give attention to negative freedom. Chasing positive freedom can lead to no freedom. For instance, we called for the right of education, which really is a positive freedom. It will require government involvement; hence the energy of government increase accordingly. It could result in a violation of specific freedom. As evaluation, the negative flexibility is less risky. The independence of not suffering from invasion by external forces is a fine illustration of such point. If people want to improve the negative freedom, we only need to change legislation. However to promote the positive liberty, not only we need to change the syndication system, but also the ability of mankind. More importantly it is related to the desire of individuals. Therefore, compare with negative freedom, positive freedom has more opportunities for people to misuse.

Criticism of positive independence from Berlin was very critical. He warned us that dangers include positive freedom, which are limitation and compulsion. Berlin thought that positive independence has a generally applicable correct setting, rationale for illustration, and we ought to do everything in accordance with this model. However, the truth is, people are afflicted by various factors including degree of understanding, which contributes to diffident views about right model. Therefore, they need an authority to define the actual right model is and force visitors to comply such guideline. Eventually, people will observe the rules under the energy of expert, but meanwhile it offers changed liberty to limitation. Berlin called the procedure of turning positive flexibility into not restriction as strange transformation. After such change, the reversal of positive liberty becomes deprival of freedom. However, in simple fact such sensation is unlikely to occur. Berlin was not completely certain about positive freedom will move toward to constraint and inevitable fetter. He only accepted that the probability was extremely high. Based on that, Fromm, E (1941) refuted the view of Berlin. He thought that positive independence has a generally suitable correct method. This mode implies that people can only act in accordance with this model without other choices. He analyzed through German history to understand the reason why of Nazi successful handling their ability. He presumed despotism of Nazi could be achieved based on the two premises. The first one is the fact that with the development of society, people have the negative liberty, which appeared before the rise of capitalism. The next one is that individuals obtained the negative liberty, however, not the positive flexibility. He also mentioned that freedom will become constraint even tyranny, if and only if society does not have positive independence. Fromm' opinion was steady with other people from Frankfurt institution. Each of them thought that fascism and capitalism got a close romantic relationship. The tyranny of Nazi can be a powerful weapon to refuse Berlin' view, as no concerns what negative independence will always stay the same. In Fromm, E 's thoughts and opinions, point out should promote positive liberty scheduled to it'll promote development of society. Although in Berlin' view, the positive independence is always connected with rationalism and through the rationalism, it can change into constraint or autocracy. However, negative liberty will also face such problem. For instance, when people don't have any restrictions, they will do anything just predicated on their desires, and this will lead to discord inevitably. Therefore, as a result, we need regulations to limit the people' independence. Predicated on that, positive and negative freedom face the same issue as law is required to restrain both of these.

The negative freedom and positive independence must be looked at as equally important factors when people discuss the problem of flexibility. However, because of positive independence is very easy to be utilized by the autocratic federal government. It always associated with an extremely poor reputation, making people embarrassing to advocate positive liberty. Taylor, (1985) described, modern day liberalism paid too much focus on the negative independence and rejected positive independence. This habit was unacceptable. The negative freedom and positive independence are indispensable parts of the liberty. In order to achieve real independence, it is necessary to link both of these. Secondly, in the real practice, positive liberty is one of the most essential freedoms in any society. Negative flexibility alone can't ever constitute liberty completely. When there is no positive freedom, negative freedom cannot exist by itself. For instance, the to vote is regarded in all free societies. Such flexibility is an essential condition for guaranteeing various freedoms. However, this independence itself is not really a negative liberty, but a good freedom. According to this, positive freedom is definitely the health of guaranteeing and concluding negative freedom. Therefore the negative liberty cannot be understood and implemented only. Apart from voting right, we can cite many other apparent instances, which also belongs to the positive independence and also very important that people cannot understate it. For example, it includes acquiring the basic right of success; the rights of independence of conversation, press liberty; the right of education; the right of obtaining medical support and healthy environment; the right of obtaining balanced diet; and the right of enjoying sunlight, climate and water. Everyone must admit that these rights are critically important, nonetheless they are positive flexibility. Therefore, it is incorrect that Berlin recommended that state should not promote the positive liberty and only keep carefully the negative flexibility. He ignored the importance of positive freedom, as the independence that people wished to obtain it directly is always a positive liberty, these freedoms help visitors to bring their life. Negative liberty should only be used to ensure or protect the positive flexibility. If there is no positive flexibility, negative freedom will eventually lose its meaning. The purpose of liberty is the positive independence; negative freedom is just a rational agreement, which provides a limit after positive liberty. It could be seen that the negative independence itself is hollow; its only content is to guarantee logical strategy of positive freedom.

In the conclusion, Berlin's theory was against positive liberty, and mainly it was immediately against the positive flexibility of Marxism. He explained that the positive independence of Marxism will lead to a totalitarian world, which will vanish individual liberty. However, we can not just focus on negative liberty and disregard positive liberty, and vice versa. We need to link them collectively, use the negative flexibility as the idea, then we could perform various positive methods to protect the negative flexibility. Therefore, if the positive flexibility applied without negative flexibility, it will belong to compulsion or tyranny as Berlin said. However if the negative freedom does not require positive freedom, it'll become fragile and fragile, so flexibility cannot maintain a long time alone. So if a state wants to accomplish a good level of development, only negative liberty is inadequacy. Hence their state needs to promote the positive freedom, as it offers its unique value, which also made a certain contribution to the culture.


  • Heywood, A. , (2004). Politics Theory: An Launch. 3rd Edition
  • Berlin, I. , (1969). Four Essays on Liberty, Oxford: Oxford School Press
  • Matravers, D. , & Pike, J. , & Warburton, N. (2000). Reading Political Viewpoint: Machiavelli to Mill. P231
  • Fromm, E. , (1941). Escape from Independence. Inc. , New York
  • Fromm, E. , (1942). WORRIES of Freedom. Inc. , Great Britain
  • Taylor, C. , (1979). What's incorrect with Negative Liberty, in D. Miller (ed. ) (1991), Liberty. P141-162
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