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Three Paradigms of Modern Freedom

Three Paradigms of Modern Freedom

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Published by Paul Sid Wren
Alexandros Kioupkiolis

European Journal of Political Theory 2009 8: 473

abstract: The paper makes a case for the new paradigm of freedom which has been
elaborated by thinkers such as Cornelius Castoriadis and Michel Foucault. In response
to the critique of the subject, freedom is construed now as limited and agonistic,
calling for an ongoing struggle against various constraints. But this idea is coupled
with a heightened appreciation of contingency and creativity. Individuals can bring
new possibilities into existence, which go beyond any predefined alternatives. The
paper argues that this is a tenable and empowering figure of freedom which overcomes
the deficiencies of earlier modern views. Essentialist notions, which can be found in
Kant and Marx, contract freedom by tying it down to unchanging universal laws and
definite conditions of realization, while alternative accounts of negative liberty fail to
address the constrained nature of human agency.
Alexandros Kioupkiolis

European Journal of Political Theory 2009 8: 473

abstract: The paper makes a case for the new paradigm of freedom which has been
elaborated by thinkers such as Cornelius Castoriadis and Michel Foucault. In response
to the critique of the subject, freedom is construed now as limited and agonistic,
calling for an ongoing struggle against various constraints. But this idea is coupled
with a heightened appreciation of contingency and creativity. Individuals can bring
new possibilities into existence, which go beyond any predefined alternatives. The
paper argues that this is a tenable and empowering figure of freedom which overcomes
the deficiencies of earlier modern views. Essentialist notions, which can be found in
Kant and Marx, contract freedom by tying it down to unchanging universal laws and
definite conditions of realization, while alternative accounts of negative liberty fail to
address the constrained nature of human agency.

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Published by: Paul Sid Wren on Aug 17, 2013
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TheoryEuropean Journal of Political
European Journal of Political Theory 
Alexandros Kioupkiolis
Three Paradigms of Modern Freedom
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at Manchester Metropolitan (Y) on August 17, 2013ept.sagepub.comDownloaded from 
 
Three Paradigms of ModernFreedom
Alexandros Kioupkiolis
 Aristotle University of Thessaloniki 
 abstract
:
 ThepapermakesacaseforthenewparadigmoffreedomwhichhasbeenelaboratedbythinkerssuchasCorneliusCastoriadisandMichelFoucault.Inresponsetothecritiqueofthesubject,freedomisconstruednowaslimitedandagonistic,callingforanongoingstruggleagainstvariousconstraints.Butthisideaiscoupled withaheightenedappreciationofcontingencyandcreativity.Individualscanbringnewpossibilitiesintoexistence,whichgobeyondanypredenedalternatives.Thepaperarguesthatthisisatenableandempoweringgureoffreedomwhichovercomesthedecienciesofearliermodernviews.Essentialistnotions,whichcanbefoundinKantandMarx,contractfreedombytyingitdowntounchanginguniversallawsanddeniteconditionsofrealization,whilealternativeaccountsofnegativelibertyfailtoaddresstheconstrainednatureofhumanagency.
key words
:
critical reection, critique of the subject, essentialism, negative liberty, radical democracy, self-creation
Freedomoccupiescentrestageamongthefieldsthatwentthroughvariousrealignmentsdueto‘thecritiqueofthesubject’andthekeenerperceptionofcontingencyin20th-centurythought.Inthisrefiguringoffreedom,attentionhastendedsofartofocusontheworkofindividualthinkerssuchasthelaterMichelFoucaultandRichardRorty.Butthereislittleawarenessthatawholenewschemeofthoughthastakenshapeovertime,coheringaroundasharednexusofpremisesandresponsestoparticularstakes. Variousstrandsoftheory,fromhermeneuticsandpsychoanalysistofeminism,communitarianismandpost-structuralism,havepressedthepointthatindividu-alsaremoreofaproductoraplaythingofobjectiveforces,suchasunconsciousimpulsesandsocialstructures,ratherthansovereignandoriginalactors.
1
Takingonboardtheseassaultsontheautonomousagent,awidearrayofthinkers,includ-ingCorneliusCastoriadis,MichelFoucault,GeorgeKateb,RobertoUngerandRichardFlathman,refusedtothrowoutthebaby(freedom)withthebathwater
473 article
Contactaddress:AlexandrosKioupkiolis,SchoolofPoliticalScience,FacultyofLaw,EconomicsandPoliticalSciences,AristotleUniversityofThessaloniki,Greece.Email:alkioup@yahoo.gr
EJPT
 European Journal of Political Theory
8
(4)473–491©TheAuthor(s),2009Reprintsandpermission:http://www.sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav [DOI:
10.1177/1474885109337997
]http://ejpt.sagepub.com
 at Manchester Metropolitan (Y) on August 17, 2013ept.sagepub.comDownloaded from 
 
 European Journal of Political Theory
8
(
4
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474
(theuntenableclaimsmadeinitsname).Theysetoutinsteadtorecastfreedominmoreplausibleterms,whichareattunedtothecritique’sinsightsbuttakealsoadvantageofabroaderunderstandingofhumanpraxis.Despitevariousdissonancesthatholdthemapart,theoristsinthiscurrentthoughtshareadistinctivesetofcommitmentswhichmakeupthecoreofasin-gularparadigmoffreedom.Tobeginwith,exponentsofthisoutlookdismisstheimageofarationalandsovereignselfwhoisindependentofsocietyinhisinnerconstitution.Theaccentisputnowonthesocialconstructionofindividuals,theirbodyandtheirunconsciousundersides.Inconsequence,differentpracticesofcriticalself-engagementandsocialself-determinationareemployedtofosterahighermeasureofopen-endedchoice.Second,agentsandsocietyaredivestedofanabidingessence.Hence,freedombreaksloosefromthecompulsiontoachieveadefinitenatureoftheselfandfixedsocialconditions.Finally,astarkeremphasisoncreativepraxisstimulatesindividualstoconsidernewoptionsbeyondthoseprefiguredbytheirpersonalmake-upandtheirsocialcontexts.
2
 Myobjectivehereistothematizethistrendofthoughtafterthecritiqueandtoworkoutitscontributiontothetheoryandthepracticeofmodernfreedom. TobringoutthedefiningmarksandthecriticalstrengthsofthenewdiscourseI willpititagainsttwosalientstrainsofmodernfreedom:theessentialistparadigmandnegativeliberty.Theessentialistviewinvestshumansubjectswithanarrayofunalteringtraits,whichgivefreedomtoitssubstance,itsbasicconditionsanditslimits.Thisconceptionconfinesfreedomwithinsetpatternsofconduct.Negativeliberty,ontheotherhand,tendstodisengagefreedomfrometernallaws,butthisisnotcarriedfarenoughanditiscombinedwithanindifferencetosocialauton-omyandtheconstitutionofthesubject.Negativelibertyentailsthereforethesameeffectofentrapmentinclosedshapesofbeing.Bycontrast,thenewidiomplaysuptherelativeplasticityoflifeandbuildsintofreedomareflectivestancetowardssocietyandoneself,whichhelpstoloosenuptheholdofpassiveinflu-ences.Thisapproachaddressestheshortcomingsthatbesetmoderndoctrinesoffreedom,whiledoingfullerjusticetotheirliberatinginsights.Moreover,thenewinterpretationputsforthaviableaccountofautonomouslife,whichisanchoredinaplausibleideaofconstrainedandsituatedagency. Themappingoutofthreetemplatesoffreedomisnotmeantasanexhaus-tivecategorizationoftheoutlooksthatcanbetracedoutinmodernthought. Andthetraitsthatmarkoffeachindividualparadigmcapturetendencies,subtlenuancesanddegreesofemphasisthatdrawflexiblelinesofdivision.Theaimofthischartingistoforegroundquestionsofsubjectivityandsocialontologyandtounderscorerelevantdifferencesamongthevariousconceptions,whichtendtobemissedwhenfreedomisbroachedthroughconventionaloppositions(suchasthedichotomypositive/negativefreedom).Iwillstartoffwitharoughoutlineofessentialistfreedomandnegativeliberty. Thiswillcastthenewconstructionasamorecogentandliberatingview.Freedomintheguiseofagonisticself-creationwillbetakenup,then,initsownright.As
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