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Social freedom

Other descriptive meanings

Valuational meanings


The word “freedom,” with its synonym “liberty,” has a strong laudatory connotation. It has therefore been applied to whatever actions, policies, or institutions may be deemed valuable, from obeying the law to attaining economic affluence. Political writings seldom provide explicit definitions of “freedom” in descriptive terms, but it is often possible to infer descriptive definitions from the context. If this is done, it will be seen that the concept of freedom refers most frequently to social freedom, which must be distinguished from other descriptive and valuational usages. Descriptive definitions of “freedom” designate empirically specifiable states of affairs and can therefore be accepted by anyone, regardless of his normative views on liberty. “Freedom” in a valuational sense is used to commend rather than to describe; it therefore means different things to writers committed to different ethical standards.

Social freedom

The concept of interpersonal or social freedom refers to relationships of interaction between persons or groups, namely, that one actor leaves another actor free to act in certain ways. This concept is best defined by reference to another interaction relation, that of interpersonal or social unfreedom.

Social unfreedom defined . With respect to actor B, actor A is unfree to perform action x if and only if B makes it either impossible or punishable for A to do x. “B makes it impossible for A to do x” means that B performs some action y such that were A to attempt x, his attempt would fail. By denying a citizen a passport, the government makes him practically unable to travel abroad and, hence, unfree to do so. With respect to the United States, Communist China is unfree to conquer Formosa, and vice versa, since U.S. forces would presumably prevent either power from invading the other. If the Ku Klux Klan forcibly prevents Negroes from entering a public school, the Negroes are unfree to do so with respect to the Klan, but not with respect to the government. “B makes it punishable for A to do x” means that were A to carry out x, B would perform some action y that would deprive A. Governmental sanctions against illegal acts are only one example of punishability as an instance of social unfreedom. With respect to a union, a company would be unfree to withhold certain benefits if the union were to picket the company. Residents in a typical block of modern suburbia are unfree to deviate from certain tacit norms with respect to the “neighborhood,” which tends to penalize nonconformists.

Social freedom defined . Social freedom is not the contradictory of social unfreedom. I am not officially unfree to pay incomes taxes, yet, I am not free to pay them either; rather, I am unfree to withhold payment. A relationship of freedom refers to a set of at least two alternative actions or types of actions. I am unfree to do this; I am free to do this or that. An actor is free to act in any one of several ways, provided there is no other actor who makes him unfree to perform any of these actions. Thus, with respect to B, A is free to do either x or z if and only if B makes it neither impossible nor punishable for A to do either x or z. “Freedom to vote” means freedom either to vote or to abstain; but “freedom to propagate the truth” really means unfreedom to spread “erroneous” views. Furthermore, I may be free to act in one way or another with respect to one person or group, whereas another actor makes me unfree to engage in one of these activities. Officially, Americans are free to adopt any religion or to adhere to none, but many Americans are unfree to be agnostics with respect to certain nonofficial groups who subject “atheists” to all kinds of informal sanctions.

Testing statements about social freedom . Whether an actor was unfree to do what he actually did can be determined with certainty, but only ex post facto. If A’s attempt to do x was frustrated by B, or if A succeeded in doing x but was penalized by B for having done so, it follows by definition that A was, with respect to B, unfree to do x. That A is imfree to do x, or that A was or is or will be free to do x or z, are empirical hypotheses that can be asserted only with a certain degree of probability, depending on the answers to such questions as: were A to carry out x, would B penalize him? If 60 per cent of all speeders in France are convicted, every French driver is to that extent unfree to speed, regardless of how many comply. A person’s social freedom does not depend on his actual behavior. We often perform actions that we are unfree to do (for example, speeding) and refrain from actions that we are free to perform (for example, driving at any speed lower than the speed limit).

Social freedom and political freedom. Relationships of interpersonal or social freedom and unfreedom may hold between any two persons or groups, for example, members of a family, buyers and sellers, legislature and executive, pope and emperor, members of the Common Market. A government’s freedom may or may not be limited by an international organization, another government, a church, its own citizens, some interest group within or outside of its jurisdiction, etc. Political freedoms are a subclass of social freedoms and usually refer to the freedom of citizens or associations with respect to the government. Interest in political liberty has in various periods of history centered on freedom of religion, of speech and writing, of association (religious, political, economic), and of participation in the political process (suffrage). The idea of political freedom has been extended to cover demands for economic liberty, “freedom from want,” national self-determination, etc.

Social freedom and control. Social unfreedom and control are overlapping categories. By preventing A from doing x, B makes A unfree to do x and controls his behavior. If B punishes A for having done x, one may infer that A was, with respect to B, unfree to do x; but B did not control A’s behavior, since his threat of punishment failed to deter A from doing x. Influence is another form of control; however, if B succeeds, for example, in persuading A to vote Democratic, B does not thereby restrict A’s freedom to vote Republican (or Democratic). Here, both control and freedom relationships hold between B and A.

Social freedom and power. Although there may be unfreedom without control and control without unfreedom, the concept of power had best be taken as comprising both control and unfreedom relationships. If B either has influence over A’s not doing x, or prevents A from doing x, or makes it punishable for him to do so, B may be said to have power over A in this respect. The example of B persuading A to vote Democratic illustrates that power and freedom relationships may hold between the same pair of actors. The same is true in the following situations: B has power over A with respect to a limited range of alternatives; A is free within that range. Government, for example, has the power to compel citizens to serve in the armed forces but may leave them free either to submit to the draft or to volunteer. A may be, with respect to B, free to do x, either because B has no power to limit A’s freedom or because he permits A to do x. The United States Congress is free to legislate as it pleases as far as the president is concerned, to the extent that he chooses not to exercise his veto power. To affirm that freedom of speech prevails in a given society is to refer to the following relationships of both freedom and unfreedom (and power) between any two of its members, A and B: A and B each leave the other free to say what he wants; with respect to B, A is unfree to prevent him from expressing his views, and vice versa; A and B are unfree to do so, not only with respect to each other but also with respect to the government, which protects everybody’s right to free speech.

Social freedom and legal rights. It is true both that liberty depends “on the silence of the law” (Hobbes) and that “where there is no law there is no freedom” (Locke). I am socially free to act in a certain way only if (1) there is no effectively enforced law prohibiting or ordering me to do so and if (2) I have an effectively protected legal right to that effect, that is, if all others are unfree to hinder me from doing so. We must distinguish between freedom in the behavioral sense and in the legal sense. All drivers have the legal duty not to speed, but they are socially unfree to speed only to the extent that speeders are actually fined. Thus, driver A, who sped on a particular occasion without being detected, was socially free to do so on that occasion, even though he had no legal right to that effect. If 40 per cent of all speeders in France escape conviction, French drivers are to that extent socially free to speed.

Other descriptive meanings

Freedom of choice . Whereas social freedom refers to two actors and their respective actions, freedom of choice signifies a relationship between one actor and a series of alternative potential actions. “A has freedom of choice as to x or z” means that it is possible for A to do either x or z, or that both x and z are open as well as avoidable to A, or that A will bring about x provided he chooses to do x. Conversely, if it is either impossible or necessary for A to do x, A has no freedom of choice as to x. It is in this sense that Hume defines liberty as “the power of acting or not acting, according to the determinations of the will.” Freedom of choice is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for social freedom. If A cannot do x, he is unfree to do so only if his inability has been caused by some other actor B. Otherwise, A remains free to do x, even though he has no freedom of choice as to x. Most men are incapable, yet at liberty, to become millionaires or to run for high political office. Unemployment during a recession diminishes freedom of choice, not social freedom, unless the recession itself can be causally linked, for example, to specific governmental policies. The high cost of television time renders this medium inaccessible to most; this restricts freedom of choice for prospective broadcasters, not their freedom of speech. Everybody is socially “free to sleep under bridges” or at home, including the homeless, who have no choice in the matter. (In all such cases, the illusion of paradox arises because the actor is likely to value the opportunity he lacks, not the freedom he has.) Conversely, we do have freedom of choice with respect to most punishable actions; we can be made unfree to do them precisely because they are open to us.

Free will . Indeterminists often hold that human beings have “free will,” that is, that their actual choices and resulting behavior are not causally determined but constitute chance events. Determinists can with perfect consistency deny this doctrine and yet affirm that men often have freedom of choice. They argue that the fact that A has the choice of doing either x or z does not preclude the possibility of explaining and predicting A’s actual choice by virtue of causal (for example, psychological or sociological) laws.

Free actions . Of an action itself, it can be said that it was either a free or an unfree one, as when we say: “this murder was a free action,” or “he paid his taxes, but not freely.” Involuntary behavior is unfree, and so are nondeliberate actions, for example, those that the actor has been conditioned to perform. Voluntary actions are free, unless they are motivated by fear of punishment. A’s handing over his money to B, who points a gun at him, is an unfree action (yet it is a voluntary action, determined partly by B’s threat and partly by A’s desire to save his life). But if A refuses to comply with B, then A acts freely. One may do freely what one is unfree to do. Again, if B persuades A to do x without threats of punishment, A’s action x is a free one. Sometimes, however, “free” is used more broadly to refer to actions that are autonomous, that is, determined exclusively by the actor’s own decisions and not by the influence of others, as when John Stuart Mill said: “The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way.”

Free persons . “Free” often refers to a characteristic, not of actions but of persons. A person may be said to be free to the extent that he has the disposition to act freely, or to act autonomously, or to develop his capacities to the fullest. Marx, for example, prophesied a society “in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.” “Freedom” becomes a synonym for “self-realization.” Laski uses the term almost exclusively in this sense in his article on liberty (1933).

Feeling free . Liberty is often said to consist in doing what one desires. It would be more accurate to say that an actor feels free to the extent that he does what he wants. Freedom as a state of mind must be distinguished from freedom as a state of affairs. Among the things I want to avoid doing, there may be some I am free to do and others I am unfree to do. Some persons derive a feeling of freedom from the fact that they are left free to act out any one of several alternatives. Others feel free when they “escape from freedom” into submission to some authority that conditions them to want to do its will. Dostoevski’s grand inquisitor plays on these two meanings of the word: “Today, people are more persuaded than ever that they have perfect freedom; yet they have brought their freedom to us and laid it humbly at our feet.”

A free society . Is it legitimate to use “free” as a characteristic of a group, such as when democracy is held to be a free society? There is no such thing as freedom in general; every organized society consists of an intricate network of specific relations of both freedom and unfreedom. Citizens in a democracy have the political freedom to participate in the governmental process through “free” elections. Voters, parties, and pressure groups are thereby empowered to limit the freedom of their elected officials. Democracy also requires that “civil liberties” be protected by legal rights and duties, and these duties again imply limitations of freedom. In a perfect dictatorship, the ruler has unlimited freedom with respect to his subjects, whereas they are totally unfree with respect to him. In a democracy, both liberties and restrictions of freedom are distributed more evenly, for example, among the various branches of government, between government and governed, majority and minority. Equal freedom, not more freedom, is the essence of democracy. (Strictly speaking, it is not meaningful to say that there is “more” freedom in one society than in another; but it is possible to define degrees of social freedom in the sense that one actor has greater freedom in a certain respect than another.) A society in which liberties are evenly distributed may be called a free society. However, here we come close to using “freedom” in a valuational sense: a society is free in which those and only those freedom relations hold that are desirable.

Valuational meanings

Because of the laudatory connotation of the word “freedom,” writers have been inclined to define it to cover those and only those relationships of both social freedom and unfreedom that they happen to value and wish to commend to others. Such persuasive definitions of freedom are useful not as tools of the empirical social sciences but as rhetorical devices; they enable the writer to express his normative views in assertive form. For example, by stating that “to obey the laws laid down by society is to be free,” Rousseau in effect exhorts citizens to obey such laws; he is not trying to explicate the meaning of freedom. Persuasive definitions of freedom have been used to propound almost every political ideology, as is illustrated by the following examples.

Freedom as protection of basic rights . Classical liberalism from Locke to Spencer and his followers advocated that government ought to restrict a person’s freedom when and only when necessary to protect another person’s basic rights (often held to correspond to natural rights). Accordingly, “no society in which these liberties are not, on the whole, respected, is free” (Mill). Conversely, a society is free, provided it is based on these laissez-faire principles. And a person who enjoys these legal rights and is subject to the corresponding legal duties is free, however unfree he may be in other regards and with respect to actors other than the government, for example, because of economic exploitation or social pressure. Thus, the United States Supreme Court once held that minimum-wage and maximum-hour laws violate the constitutional principle of liberty, because such regulations are not necessary to the protection of basic rights but constitute “arbitrary” limitations of “freedom of contract” of both employer and employee.

Freedom as satisfaction of basic needs . Neoliberals point out that the right to acquire the necessities of life is of little value to those who lack the opportunity to acquire them, that government ought to make them available to all, and that this may require governmental restriction of individual freedom through regulations concerning public health, education, and welfare. Social welfare, not social freedom, is their ultimate goal; but they still use the word “freedom” to designate this end. “Personal freedom means, in fact, the power of the individual to buy sufficient food, shelter, and clothing” (Sidney and Beatrice Webb). And so, “the distinction between welfare and liberty breaks down altogether” (Ralph Barton Perry). Conversely, those who are unable to bring about what society ought to enable them to achieve, but who are free with respect to the government to make the attempt, are said to lack “true freedom.” “Freedom from want,” unlike freedom of speech, does not refer directly to social freedom, but to absence of want and presence of a satisfactory living standard for all. It is only in an indirect sense that “necessitous men are not free men” (Franklin D. Roosevelt). They have little freedom of choice and are socially unfree with respect to the economically powerful. “Freedom” is applied not only to the welfare goal itself but also to whatever restrictions of social freedom are deemed necessary to achieve it. The Supreme Court now interprets liberty to be compatible with minimum-wage laws and other “reasonable regulations and prohibitions imposed in the interest of the community.” “Freedom” includes desirable social unfreedom and excludes undesirable social freedom.

Freedom as government by consent . This persuasive definition of freedom is used to express the norm that government ought to be based on consent of the governed, and this usually means representative government and majority rule. For example, “the liberty of man in society is to be under no other legislative power but that established by consent in the commonwealth” (Locke). Under such a system, men are free because their freedom is limited only by measures in the enactment of which they were free to participate. With a slight shift in emphasis, “freedom” stands no longer for the government’s duty to be responsive to the will of the citizens but for the citizen’s duty to obey governmental enactments reflecting the will of the majority or the “general will.” According to Rousseau, the citizen is free whether he fulfills this obligation freely or whether he has been “compelled to be free.” And so “freedom” comes to refer no longer to having the choice of acting in one way or another, but to acting in no other way than that prescribed by authority.

Freedom as moral constraint . The definitions of freedom taken up so far, including even the persuasive ones, are made up entirely of descriptive terms. However, definitions of freedom often include ethical words, such as “right,” “ought,” or “virtue.” In such cases, not only the term to be defined (freedom) but also the defining expression has valuational meaning. For example, “Liberty can consist only in the power of doing what we ought to will” (Montesquieu). Similarly, a person is often said to be free, not if he acts freely or develops his capacities, but if he realizes his “best” or “essential” self. For example, “Liberty may be defined as the affirmation by an individual or group of his or its own essence” (Laski 1933, p. 444). Some have held that a person is most likely to realize his essence if he is left free to choose for himself.

According to another tradition, which extends from Plato via the Stoics and Christian thought to Neo-Hegelianism, man reaches the highest form of self-realization by submitting to some moral norm imposed by his own “higher self,” which is usually identified with faith, reason, or moral conscience. “I call him free who is led solely by reason” (Spinoza). “Obedience to a law which we prescribe to ourselves is liberty” (Rousseau). Freedom no longer signifies the absence of unwelcome, but the presence of welcome restraints. “For freedom is not acquired by satisfying yourself with what you desire, but by destroying your desire” (Epictetus). In short, freedom is unfreedom to do wrong, whereas freedom to deviate from the prescribed path is license. “If unbridled license of speech and of writing be granted to all, nothing will remain sacred and inviolate. . . . Thus, license will gain what liberty loses” (Encyclical libertas 1888).

If “freedom” becomes a label for anybody’s moral or political ends, then everybody’s value commitment to freedom will be vacuous. All will agree that liberty is the supreme good, but they will agree on nothing else. Meaningful disagreement about the value of freedom presupposes agreement about the meaning of freedom in nonvaluational terms. The concept of social freedom provides an adequate basis for a fruitful discussion of the normative, as well as the empirical, aspects of liberty. In this discourse, the divergent views about which social freedoms ought to be extended or limited will depend on the value one assigns to such other social goals as equality, justice, or welfare, which may compete with the goal of freedom.




ABLER, MORTIMER J. 1958-1961 The Idea of Freedom. 2 vols. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday. ⇒ Contains significant quotations about freedom selected from all major writings from the Greeks to the present. Bibliography covers anthologies and periodical literature.

AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR POLITICAL AND LEGAL PHILOSOPHY 1962 Liberty. Edited by Carl J. Friedrich. Nomos 4. New York: Atherton. ⇒ A collection of essays.

AHON, RAYMOND 1965 Essai sur les libertés. Paris: Calmann-Lévy.

BAY, CHRISTIAN 1958 The Structure of Freedom. Stanford (Calif.) Univ. Press.

BERLIN, ISAIAH 1958 Two Concepts of Liberty. Oxford Univ. Press.

CRANSTON, MAURICE (1953)1955 Freedom: A New Analysis. 2d ed. London: Longmans.

HAYEK, FRIEDRICH A. VON 1960 The Constitution of Liberty. Univ. of Chicago Press; London: Routledge.

LASKI, HAROLD 1933 Liberty. Volume 9, pages 442-446 in Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences. New York: Macmillan.

MULLER, HERBERT J. 1960 Issues of Freedom: Paradoxes and Promises. New York: Harper.

OPPENHEIM, FELIX E. 1961 Dimensions of Freedom: An Analysis. New York: St. Martins; London: Macmillan.

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Freedom, the capacity for self-directed thought and action, and the choice of ones own goals, is one of the central values of western thought. Often closely tied to questions of free will, freedom is also seen as central to questions of moral responsibility, personality, and identity, and to democratic political life. Rule by others, such as political domination as well as social oppression, through established forms of authority or psychological restrictions, are all opposed by forms of freedom. The idea of liberation from the limits of nature of entrenched authorities or despotic rulers is a central theme of both literature and politics.

Freedom does not have a simple or single essence. It has developed sometimes haltingly in the history of thought. For the ancients, freedom was not equated with worldly accomplishment or goal-directed action; it was primarily an inner state of being. The free person was one who rules his desires (freedom applied mostly to males) rather than being ruled by them. For Plato, freedom meant to be liberated from base desires. Rather than a life of self-chosen ends, however, the ancients saw the highest form of life as contemplation of the order of the universe. The free man was released from desires that impeded this goal.

The Greeks originated the political idea of self-rule (koinonia ), but generally applied it only to a limited group of male, property-owning citizens. In Aristotles political philosophy, freedom requires active participation by citizens in the life of the polis. This, too, is not a form of goal-directed action, but of acting in concert: The citizen alternates with others in holding office and engages in deliberation about laws and public affairs. Although there were examples of wider democracy in ancient Greece, political theorists such as Aristotle supported a limited republican form. Only propertied male heads of household had the requisite self-control over their own desires to be capable of self-rule, they believed; the rest were only fit to be ruled by others. The Stoics living under the Roman imperium reemphasized a purely inner freedom based on deliberate self-mastery. Still, the Stoics also had early notions of a cosmopolitan humanity in which all were naturally equal.

The roots of the modern notion of freedom can be traced back to the late Middle Ages. The rise of independent city-states in Italy and other parts of Europe was accompanied by a revival of ancient republicanism. These newer forms of republicanism were more disposed to give a role to the people and inclined to stress liberty. The later Middle Ages also provided some sources of the modern notion of individuation. The Renaissance that followed developed a modern idea of the self as a work of art, and the development of individuality was the essence of freedom. In the seventeenth century there was a further elaboration of republican thought that stressed the relation of a free people to the new ideals of liberty.


Modern philosophy rejected the idea that knowledge of the structure of the world could and must be achieved through individual human reason alone. Revealed religion or other idols had to be rejected. Although this philosophical ideal first justified only free scientific inquiry, it proved useful for politics as well. But the most influential notions of freedom in modernity are those associated with liberalism. Whereas the Aristotelian tradition saw humans as naturally political animals who realized their aims in community, the modern liberal view saw individuals as possessing natural liberty, prior to social relationships or attachments. Although this is certainly a fiction, it reflects the idea that the individualnot the social environment, the church, the state, or the familyis the source of social and political freedom. These forms of social and political freedom are now seen as a form of self-determination: the capacity to choose to decide upon and pursue ones own goals or plans of life. The individual is an active agent whose freedom is seen in accomplishments. Freedom is also the ability to act freely to achieve these goals. The republican emphasis on deliberating with others was replaced in the philosophies of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke by notions of self-interest. This conception was often linked to the new scientific consciousness, in which the individual was like all other things: a mechanism driven by material pursuit of interest, not by spiritual causality or teleology.

The liberal notion of freedom made a strong distinction between the public and the private that was quite different from what the ancients had conceived. Whereas Aristotle thought that freedom required public participation, liberals saw freedom first of all as applying to the private individual, who is free to act. Here freedom is the absence of constraint, or freedom from something. The idea of the social contract expressed the fact that legitimate political order is based on the freely given consent of the governed. This premise, emphasizing the equality and freedom of all, is the foundation of most modern democracies, where individuals are natural bearers of rights and freedoms that cannot be taken away by governments. In some respects, the liberal model of freedom as self-determination is restricted when combined with an economic model of human action, where the individual is a consumer rather than a creator, one who chooses between products on the market. As a maximizer of goods, the individual is primarily a possessive individual.


The theory of Jean-Jacques Rousseau was important in the development of a second conception of modern freedom. Rousseau held that the social contract (rejected by republican theories) was more than a contractual agreementit created a general will that was the expression of a common moral will. In the romantic period this conception became what has been called a developmental view of freedom. The Romantics rejected the Enlightenment view of man, which was overly rationalist and mechanistic, and sought a broader notion of human freedom that stressed aesthetic and relational qualities of freedom. In the developmental view, humans express their freedom through the development of all their human powers. Freedom is self-realization, or positive freedom. Karl Marxs notion of freedom embodied this view when he invoked the all-around development of capacities. Human action is not simply goal-directed, but includes many forms of human expression: artistic, expressive relations to others, and play, to name a few. Although this view draws on the Aristotelian tradition, it differs from it in its stress on individuality and its adoption of the modern view of the open-ended nature of capacities.

Developmental theories reject the atomism of liberal theory. They stress the interdependency of human activity. The development of freedom and capacities is not the result of individual initiative alone, but rather relies on a backdrop of prior social conditions: We are vulnerable, depending on a wide variety of conditions to develop and employ our human capacities.

Developmental theories have been central to radical democratic and socialist and social democratic conceptions of politics. Stressing the role of active citizen participation in politics, they agree with Aristotle that the fully realized individual has to be a participant in his or her own governance. Socialists extend this equal participation to models of economic production and reject liberal emphasis on private property. Socialized production, accordingly, is central to the development of selfhood and individuality.

For socialists and social democrats, political freedom rests on prior social freedoms, including a minimum of economic equality, retirement and unemployment benefits, health and safety, and other measures of human welfare. Conditions of complex human freedoms have become important not only for socialist states, but also for modern social democratic welfare states.

Critics of developmental views often have held that Rousseaus ideal of the general will have inherently totalitarian elements that are contrary to the liberal ideas of individual freedom. They also criticize the idea of inner powers unfolding in a natural manner. Others see expressive freedom as a socially pathological emphasis on pleasure or aesthetics for its own sake. The exclusive stress on aesthetic freedom reduces the influence of the work ethic and moral responsibility on human conduct.


A third notion of freedom responds to recent concerns with cultural integrity, identity politics, and recent social movements, and new conflicts over the ability of participants to form their own unique relations to themselves and to social worlds. Influenced by the growing emphasis of language as central to philosophy and social science, ideas of communicative freedom have become an important element in contemporary debates. Communicative models stressing individual self-realization take place in a context of intersubjective community. Extending the liberal idea of free speech and expression, freedom involves the very capacity to communicate in language to formulate and express ideas in discussion, but it also is an element in the formation of the identity of individuals and groups. This capacity can be impeded by forms of authority and power that exclude us from discussion and deliberation, or distort our relations to ourselves and others. Deliberative models of democracy attempt to remedy some of the deficiencies of liberal and republican notions by stressing the centrality of discursive rationality.

In the mid-nineteenth century Alexis de Tocqueville raised an objection that has persisted to the present. Although de Tocqueville generally approved of new democracies, as represented by the young American state, he raised questions about the quality of democratic citizens as conformist and mediocre. Democracy may increase political freedom, but it also leads to impoverished personality. At the end of the century Friedrich Nietzsche provided a more aggressive critique of democracies. Opposing the abstract individual of liberal theory and the Protestantism underlying Immanuel Kants notion of autonomy, Nietzsche argued that religion (namely Christianity) produced meek unfree subjects who feared authority and lacked the qualities needed for heroic struggle.

A third objection focuses on the distortions of democratic freedoms inherent in the concentration of power in mass democracies. Agreeing with developmental democrats such as John Stuart Mill and John Dewey that democratic citizenship requires an educated and informed public, critics argued that mass democracies are characterized by a manipulated mass culture. This mass culture is a product of the ownership and concentration of media in the hands of powerful economic and political interests that maintain their power positions, restricting political and social freedom, by controlling the production and reception of information. Access to the means to make sense of and deliberate about public issues remains a major concern for the health of democracies.

Max Webers work on rationalization and bureaucracy raised another concern over the compatibility of large liberal democracies and freedom. Weber saw in social rationalization the increasing centrality of instrumental rationality. Bureaucratic authority became prominent in political regulation for reasons of efficiency or technical expertise, and it has come to displace not just deliberation and citizen participation but also the development of personality and social freedom. Bureaucracy itself further interprets the needs identified by developmentalists in an instrumental fashion, with resources of money or power rather than freedom or mutual understanding; citizens become subjugated clients and dependents.

In complex modern societies, democracies have grown in territory and population. The possibility of face-to-face democracythe town meeting tradition with its stress on citizen participationis difficult to maintain. Most modern democracies are representative, but the process of representing the varied subpublics of a democratic public can lead to conflicts. For critics, liberal and pluralist democracies are also thought to be dominated by interest groups and hence incapable of formulating a common good. Individual freedom does not lead to social or political freedom. This objection, which comes from all political outlooks, tends to see liberal democracy as a form driven by self-and group interests. For example, the conservative jurist Carl Schmitt thought that parliamentary systems were unworkable because of the conflict of interest groups, and contemporary communitarians see liberalism as lacking any orientation to a common good or moral core. This objection has some merit. Many proponents of the interest-group position devalued citizen-shipalready little more than voting. For some proponents, nonparticipation in even a minimum of democratic citizenship is seen as dysfunctional or unnecessary.

Conservative and communitarian objections, however, require a notion of sociocultural unity or homogeneity that is incompatible with the diversity of publics found in multicultural societies. These new challenges to liberal democratic society reflect a conflict between the claims of cultural integrity, which is not generally acknowledged in classical liberalism, and civil and political rights typical of liberal democratic notions of freedom. They also apply to newly important categories such as gender. Other conflicts between a developmental politics of distribution and the newer politics of resignation raise questions of the ways that liberal democracies reconcile the needs for solidarity, which are necessary for communicative freedom, with other freedoms producing a conflict between developmental politics of distribution and the newer politics of recognition. How do liberal democracies reconcile the need for solidarity, which is necessary for communicative freedom, with other freedoms? The renewal and reform of freedom in modern democratic societies rest with the healthy respect for and space for political protest and dissent. Freedom is not a fixed essence; instead, it has to be renewed and transformed in ever-changing social circumstances. Social movements have instituted new regimes, as in revolutions, but also have pressed claims for rights in established democracies, as in labor movements, movements for equal rights for women, racial minorities, and gays and lesbians, and even antiwar movements. The ability of a society to respond to dissent and protest is an important feature of a functioning democracy. In modern societies this often goes beyond mere tolerance to what postmodernists have called openness to the other. Societies have to recognize that dissent takes place in the context of a broader solidarity: We have to be aware of and open to others who seem different, yet we must also accept the need for discussion that may or may not vindicate their claims.

Cultural movements can also be sources of freedom movements. These can often be generational conflicts, as in the Sturm und Drang movement in Germany in the romantic era, and the counterculture movement in the 1960s. Both of these challenged what they saw as repressive social and cultural practices well before they became forces for political change. It could also be argued that cultural resistance had a decisive if largely unacknowledged role in maintaining subterranean political resistance in Eastern Europe prior to the fall of Soviet Communism.

A deliberative model of democracy employing the insights of communicative freedom seems to propose a different model of democratic freedom. Political order is not constituted by a unified general will, but by a web of symbolic interactions in which solidarity and commonality is established through participation in social and political life, not in a reestablished common good. A healthy democracy requires a well functioning parliamentary or representational system, and significant civil rights and economic and social equality. But it also requires a substantial measure of private and public freedom, supported by extra-governmental publics who are able to discuss and actively challenge existing practices. It has to pay equal attention to the claims of solidarity and cultural integrity. It requires a greater interchange between the knowledge of experts and the judgment of citizens in the formation of policy and the formation of public policy. It also requires a truly democratic educational system open to all and a free system of media that promotes knowledge and discussion of significant issues.

Theories of freedom are associated with different institutional arrangements for the maximization of freedom. Theories of negative freedom have been linked most often to liberal political institutions such as constitutional governments with representative political institutions; elected representatives; free, fair, and frequent elections with a competitive party system; and an independent judiciary; along with extensive freedom of information and communications and a network of voluntary associations.

Developmental theorists argue that the institutional framework associated with negative freedom tends to negate the very conditions of freedom that it intends to facilitate. When combined with market economic institutions, liberal political institutions create large-scale inequalities of economic and social power that make the exercise of equal liberty impossible. Poverty, powerlessness, and forms of disrespect all combine to make the exercise of freedom difficult. A commitment to freedom requires maintaining a minimum satisfaction of human needs. In market societies, developmentalists have advocated extensive welfare measures to compensate for the effects of power. They contend that rather than restricting freedom, as classical and neoclassical liberals might think, extensive public support in fact enhances freedom, by providing a basis for equal employment to all. However, for develop-mentalists, such institutions have to include the promotion of civic equality as well. Developmentalists go beyond welfare-state reform to advocate replacing the private-property market system with social production, or radically democratizing areas of work education and communications.

Despite the triumphalism of neoclassical liberals in the postcold war era, democracy has not increased. Only about half of the worlds nations, consisting of less than half its population, can be considered democracies, and all of them do not meet all the criteria discussed above. The dissolution of the Soviet Empire has led to a rise in fundamentalist movements and ethnic conflicts that threaten to undermine democratic institutions in some newer states and to prevent their establishment in others. Some well established democracies have succeeded in accommodating ethnic diversity by forming consociation democracies, but these require special conditions not achievable in all countries. Attempts to design constitutions or democratic institutions through planning or by shock therapy have not led to large-scale democratic movements in these countriesthey have simply reinstituted the pathologies already present in advanced societies.

Pathologies of democratic freedom have sometimes resulted from restricted conceptions of representative institutions in the twentieth century. Examples include competitive elitism, which reduces democracy to a form of choosing leaders, and corporatist representation, which limits popular participation and substitutes consultations with large organized groups. Although contemporary democratic societies provide some room for competing groups, they are characterized by deepening asymmetries of power and wealth that limit the effective equal freedom of all. Actual capitalism, unlike the myth of self-equilibrating markets, requires concentration of economic and social power. The growth of corporations beyond nation-states is another important factor in the growth of poverty and income disparity. Many commentators question whether the nation-state and its conception of democratic freedom is a feasible model in light of the increasing global power of corporations. The nation-state, it is argued, no longer has the autonomy from the economic system to direct its own affairs and achieve its own goals.

In the developing world democratic freedom faces these obstacles and others. The subaltern economic status of developing nations has made them vulnerable to forced political and economic restructuring in order to obtain funds for development projects, and for the most part, attempts to create a civil society from above by local leaders or outside groups has led to limited democratization with a limited role for popular democratic initiatives.

SEE ALSO Aristotle; Bureaucracy; Civil Liberties; Civil Rights; Constitutions; Cosmopolitanism; Democracy; Elitism; Hobbes, Thomas; Individualism; Kant, Immanuel; Liberalism; Liberation; Libertarianism; Liberty; Locke, John; Mill, John Stuart; Nietzsche, Friedrich; Participation, Political; Philosophy; Philosophy, Political; Plato; Political Culture; Political Science; Private Sector; Public Sector; Republicanism; Revolution; Rousseau, Jean-Jacques; Self-Determination; Social Movements; Tocqueville, Alexis de; Weber, Max


Arendt, Hannah. 1998. The Human Condition. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Berlin, Isaiah. 1990. Four Essays on Liberty. New York: Oxford University Press.

Dahl, Robert. 2000. On Democracy. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Fraser, Nancy, and Axel Honneth. 2003. Redistribution or Recognition: A Political Philosophical Exchange. London: Verso.

Habermas, Jürgen. 1974. Theory and Practice. Boston: Beacon Press.

Habermas, Jürgen. 1991. The Structural Transformation the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into the Categories of Bourgeois Society. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Held, David. 2006. Models of Democracy. 3rd ed. London: Polity Press.

Macintyre, Alasdair. 1984. After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.

MacPherson, C. B. 1964. The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pettit, Phillip. 2000. Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom and Government. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Skinner, Quentin. 1978. The Foundations of Modern Political Thought. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Taylor, Charles. 1975. Expressivism in Hegel. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Taylor, Charles, et al. 1994. Multiculturalism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Wolin, Sheldon. 2004. Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Political Thought. Expanded ed. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Brian J. Caterino

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Freedom as understood in the modern West is self-determination by an autonomous being with a rational mind. Precursors to this understanding of freedom begin with Plato in ancient Greece, who shifted the locus of freedom from the political distinction between citizen and slave to the internal will that exercises influence on external events. Aristotle saw in the human will the capacity to harmonize itself with the will of God and the pursuit of the transcendent good and the good life.

Conceptions in Various Religious Traditions

In Hinduism and sister traditions such as Buddhism the doctrine of karma places the human person in a causal nexus of moral determinism where past life behavior determines present life status. Liberation (moksha ) consists of being freed from the wheel of reincarnation, freed for eternity from the effects of karma. A variant of the dispute between grace and merit appears in Hinduism over the role of free human action in salvation. The cat school (Tenkalai ) argues that God's irresistible grace saves the adept like a mother cat carries her young by the nape of the neck; whereas the monkey school (Vatakalai ) argues that human free will is required in a way that a baby monkey is required to cling to its mother.

Islam teaches that God (Allah) is in control of the outcome of human acts, whether those acts are free or not. Human beings are free to choose between good and evil; the Qur'an teaches that God will judge mortals on the Last Day according to good and bad deeds. Some Muslims find comfort in predestination as a doctrine that affirms divine control over the course of events. "God leads astray whom he pleases and guides whom he pleases" (Surah 74:34). Human moral responsibility is not obviated by strong reliance upon divine control.

Freedom according to Christian theology belongs preeminently to God, who is absolutely free. God is the one, original, and authentic person through whose creative self-expression all other persons come into existence and are sustained. Human freedom derives from divine freedom, expressed as divine grace. God liberates Hebrew slaves from their Egyptian taskmasters and liberates faithful believers from the threat of sin, death, and the power of the devil. Christian advocates of predestination hold that human salvation is the result of free divine action, a gracious action that bestows eternal life as a gift rather than as a reward required by a legal structure of merit.

Commitment to belief in a single all-powerful God, which Christians share with Jews and Muslims, has led to three theological struggles over the nature of freedom that provide background to the contemporary conversation with science. The first is the predestination controversy. Once it is accepted that human salvation is a gift of divine grace and not the product of human moral achievement, then the question arises: Why do some persons exhibit strong faith in God and others do not? Predestination answers this question by contending that God has eternally decreed that some individuals would be infallibly guided to saving faith and, thereby, to eternal salvation. Those who do not have faith either were not included in the eternal decree; or, according to the double predestination school, they were actually predestined to damnation. The import of predestination is to make salvation solely a product of divine action, not a matter of human freedom. Humans remain free on a daily basis to make routine choices, but their salvation is a matter of divine decree alone.

The second theological struggle focuses on divine power, on God's omnipotence. Once it is accepted that God is all-powerful, metaphysical questions arise regarding the application of omnipotence to causal efficacy. Is God the cause of all things? Of every event? Should we eliminate causal efficacy, contingency, and human action as factors in the created world? If so, is God responsible for evil and suffering? This tempts some to affirm a thoroughgoing predestination, a complete determinism; and to do so not as a corollary to grace but as an implication of omnipotence. The unspoken assumption is that of a fixed pie image of power in the universe: if God gets more power then human beings get less. The fixed pie assumption has led two contemporary theological schools to compromise divine omnipotence. Process theologians in the tradition of Alfred North Whitehead (18611947) deny divine omnipotence and proportionately increase the power that local human free decision-making has on the future. Similarly, certain classical theists adopt the Kabbalistic notion of zimsum, a primordial self-withdrawal on God's part to permit contingency in nature and freedom in human life. In this case, the self-restriction on God's part is voluntary; whereas for the process theologians it is metaphysically necessary. For both these schools of thought, power is finite and competitive; so to have room for human freedom some proportion of power must be denied to God.

The third struggle in theological conceptuality is to clarify how power begets power, and how freedom begets freedom. Rejected here is the assumption of a fixed pie of power. Rather, theologians influenced by Karl Barth (18861968) and liberation theologians posit that God is the absolutely free one and that divine freedom is contagious; when God exerts divine power, it liberates the creation. The creation of the universe from nothing, creatio ex nihilo, took an act of divine power; and God's continuing work of creation, creatio continua, is similarly an exertion of divine action in the world. Yet this is fully compatible with natural causation, contingency in events, and willful human action. The prayerful cry of petitionary prayer is for God to exert divine power to liberate us from natural disaster, disease, political oppression, or our personal bad habits.

The historical struggles over divine power and human freedom set the stage in Western history for the contemporary debate regarding the relationship of determinism to free will. Rather than see God as the opponent to human freedom, modern Westerners see the causal ubiquity of natural law playing this opposing role. The word 'determinism' refers to lack of contingency in natural events, lack of noncaused events; it is a philosophy deriving from scientific reductionism.

Contemporary definitions of freedom

In the contemporary discussion of freedom versus determinism raised by reductionism among natural scientists, four definitions of freedom are of interest to theologians. First, political freedom or liberty is understood as independence from external coercion by government power. Liberation movements pursue freedom to escape economic and cultural coercion as well as political restriction. Philosophies of political liberty usually presuppose belief in natural freedom applied to the individual. Second, natural freedom or freedom of the will is the ability of a rational mind to choose between alternatives and make decisions that lead to actions. The locus of natural freedom is the choosing self. This is the Enlightenment view of freedom as self-expression, self-determination, and self-pursuit of happiness. Choosing between good and bad things and acting voluntarily are attributes of an individual's free will. Third, moral freedom refers to what the disciples of Aristotle dubbed 'virtue,' the freedom gained when conforming one's life to a higher truth or higher good that transcends the choosing self. For Augustine of Hippo (354430 c.e.) and Martin Luther (14831546) the human self, to be truly free, must be freed from being curved in upon itself; such freedom can come only from a bestowal of God's liberating grace. The Christian variant of moral freedom expresses itself in selfless love of neighbor. Fourth, future freedom is the release of human creativity through designing, engineering, organizing, and building in such a way as to influence future events. Freedom here consists of transcending the confines of past precedents and constraints.

Determinism in modern science

Determinism is a philosophical idea that may or may not be attached to a scientific understanding of natural law. The essence of the deterministic view is that natural law is exhaustive and total in its causal application. Once initial conditions are established, every event that follows is bound to happen as it does and in no other possible way. Nothing in nature is contingent; so no room exists for natural freedom or future freedom. Hard determinists hold that no human act of will is free, even if it appears so. Free will is a delusion. Soft determinists hold a version of compatibilism; they believe that human actions are physically caused, but room remains for exercise of free will.

The mechanistic model of the natural world bequeathed to modern science by Newtonian physics presents a closed causal nexus, an exhaustive nexus of events without contingency. If the laws of nature never go on holiday, then what follows is eighteenth-century philosopher David Hume's (17111776) repudiation of miracles as events that deviate from unbreakable laws. What also follows is the eclipse of freedom, both divine and human. What appears to be freedom in human experience must be reducible to lawful physical activity, and the appearance of freedom as something supraphysical or spiritual must be a delusion.

In the early twentieth century Newtonian mechanism in physics was replaced by quantum mechanics; determinism was replaced by indeterminism. The activity of the individual electron is contingent, unpredictable; it can be predicted only in statistical quanta. Some contemporary theologians such as Robert John Russell argue that indeterminism at the fundamental physical level is a necessary condition for human free will to appear at the psychological level. Some physicists repudiate indeterminism by posing the theory of many worlds, according to which every potential physical state becomes actual in one or another universe. This would in principle apply to every human state as well, eliminating natural freedom.

Near the end of the twentieth century, Newtonian mechanism reappeared in genetics and neuro-science. Genetic determinismthe widespread belief that human essence is found in DNA and that DNA is determinative of both traits and behaviorhas indirect implications for freedom understood as political liberty. The cultural response to the Human Genome Project (initiated in 1990) in conjunction with controversies over gene patenting, cloning, and stem cells lead many to fear an alliance between big science and big money; it is the populist fear that a powerful invisible elite will make decisions regarding human evolutionary future that will release forces beyond the average person's control.

Neuroscience and cognitive theory prompt some philosophers to reduce psychological and cognitive processes to neuronal activity in the human brain. This has led to an alliance between genes and brains that seems to challenge natural freedom with ferocity. If DNA through neural activity turns out to govern behavior, then the genes would turn out to govern human choices. What appears to be a self who makes decisions would be reducible to a complex interaction of genes with environment. Genes might even be found responsible for predispositions to choose between what is moral and what is immoral. Crime and virtue would then be predetermined. No self would need to be transcended by moral freedom, because no self would exist in the first place.

Some opponents of genetic determinism argue for a two-part determinism, genes plus environment. Other opponents defending the Enlightenment doctrine of freedom as self-determination hold to a three-part determinism: genes, environment, and self. In the latter case, the self is an emergent entity not reducible to either genes or environment.

Future freedom is enhanced by the Promethean dimension of genetic determinism, according to which molecular biologists are gaining the knowledge and technology to alter the human germline in such a way as to influence directly the future of human evolution. This future freedom elicits anxiety on the part of many people, because it raises specters of Frankenstein the mad scientist who lets evil loose on society. Those fearing Promethean pride on the part of scientists try to curtail research by saying, "thou shalt not play God." This warning appeals to something allegedly essential or sacred in nature prior to technological intervention; so the commandment against playing God is an attempt to avoid violating nature by legislating against future freedom.

Freedom in theology and science

The commandment against playing God in secular society shares the assumption made by some theologians that there is a fixed pie of power in the universe, that God's power competes with human power. These theologians believe that if God's power is restricted then human power is increased, thereby making human freedom possible. Those who forbid playing God in genetics or other scientific endeavors follow the opposite logic, namely, if human power is restricted then God is freer to act through natural processes.

The advantage for theologians in adopting either the process model or the zimsum model is that they can hold to a doctrine of divine creation while allotting to Big Bang cosmology and biological evolution principles such as deep time, contingency, self-organization, and development. The absence of divine power opens an arena within which a dialectic of regularity and chance governs natural occurrences. This is theologically significant because it solves the theodicy problem: suffering and evil on the part of sentient creatures is now the responsibility of self-organization through natural selection. God is exempt from responsibility for what goes wrong. Science and technology fill the hole vacated by God. God's absence makes natural freedom and future freedom possible.

The difficulty faced by theologians who cling to divine omnipotence is that nature's victims, such as the predator's prey or extinct species, must be judged to be part of God's plan. By allowing such waste and suffering, God risks being thought of as cruel. The theological advantage to omnipotence is that God is viewed as the very power by which development is energized and guided, leading the human race through scientific and medical discoveries toward taking control of its own health and wellbeing. God is viewed as the healer, the redeemer. Science and technology become liberating vocations, expanding the horizon of human freedom while imposing increased environmental responsibilities. God's presence makes natural freedom and future freedom possible.

Finally, reductionism raises the question of the status of the human self. Biologist Francis Crick (b. 1916) would eliminate any ontological status to the self or the soul, on the grounds that it is reducible to gene expression and neural firing patterns in our brain. Many who oppose a strict biological determinism substitute a two-part determinism, genes plus environment. In this case 'environment' can refer to the cytoplasm within the cell or to the food our parents place on our plate. Two-part determinism is just as eliminative of the human self or soul as is raw genetic determinism. What most defenders of natural freedom actually advocate is three-part determinism: genes, environment, and self. The self functions as a determinant. The self can be thought of materialistically as an emergent property within evolutionary development; or it can be thought of metaphysically as a divinely imparted soul. It need not have any material substrate other than genes and environment; but its deliberations, decisions, and actions are observable and can be empirically confirmed.

See also Determinism; Free Will Defense


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282. Freedom (See also Deliverance.)

  1. Areopagitica pamphlet supporting freedom of the press. [Br. Lit.: Benét, 46]
  2. Berihah 1940s underground railroad for Jews out of East Europe. [Jew. Hist.: Wigoder, 80]
  3. Bill of Rights (1791) term popularly applied to first 10 Amendments of U.S. Constitution. [Am. Hist.: Payton, 78]
  4. Declaration of Human Rights (1948) declaration passed by the United Nations; the rights are the individual freedoms usually associated with Western democracy. [World Hist.: Payton, 186]
  5. Declaration of Independence (1776) document declaring the independence of the North American colonies. [Am. Hist.: Payton, 186]
  6. Declaration of Indulgence (1672) Charles IIs attempt to suspend discrimination against Nonconformists and Catholics. [Br. Hist.: Payton, 186]
  7. Declaration of the Rights of Man (1789) proclaimed legal equality of man. [Fr. Hist.: Payton, 186]
  8. eagle widely used as national symbol. [Animal Folklore: Jobes, 213]
  9. Eleutherius epithet of Zeus, meaning god of freedom. [Gk. Myth.: Zimmerman, 292]
  10. Fourth of July American independence day. [Am. Culture: Misc.]
  11. Great Emancipator, The sobriquet of Abraham Lincoln. [Am. Hist.: Hart, 329]
  12. Henry, Patrick (17361799) famous American patriot known for his statement: Give me liberty or give me death. [Am. Hist.: Hart, 367]
  13. Jubilee year fiftieth year; liberty proclaimed for all inhabitants. [O.T.: Leviticus 25:813]
  14. Magna Charta symbol of British liberty. [Br. Hist.: Bishop, 4952, 213]
  15. Monroe Doctrine consolidated South American independence; stonewalled European intervention. [Am. Hist.: Jameson, 329330]
  16. Phrygian cap presented to slaves upon manumission. [Rom. Hist.: Jobes, 287]
  17. Rütli Oath legendary pact establishing independence of Swiss cantons (1307). [Swiss Hist.: NCE, 2384]
  18. Rienzi liberator of Rome from warring Colonna and Orsini families. [Ger. Opera: Wagner, Rienzi, Westerman, 203]
  19. Runnymede site of Magna Charta signing (1215). [Br. Hist.: Bishop, 4952, 213]
  20. Statue of Liberty perhaps the most famous monument to independence. [Am. Hist.: Jameson, 284]
  21. Underground Railroad effective means of escape for southern slaves. [Am. Hist.: Jameson, 514]
  22. water willow indicates independence. [Flower Symbolism: Flora Symbolica, 178]

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free·dom / ˈfrēdəm/ • n. the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint: we do have some freedom of choice | he talks of revoking some of the freedoms. ∎  absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government: he was a champion of Irish freedom. ∎  the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved: the shark thrashed its way to freedom. ∎  the state of being physically unrestricted and able to move easily: the shorts have a side split for freedom of movement. ∎  (freedom from) the state of not being subject to or affected by (a particular undesirable thing): government policies to achieve freedom from want. ∎  the power of self-determination attributed to the will; the quality of being independent of fate or necessity. ∎  unrestricted use of something: the dog is happy having the freedom of the house when we are out. ∎ archaic familiarity or openness in speech or behavior.

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173. Freedom

independent self-rule free from outside influence.
a doctrine of or belief in social equality or the right of all people to participate equally in politics.
Rare. a strong desire for freedom.
an abnormal fear of freedom.
1 . a condition of freedom.
2 . a right or privilege, especially the right to vote.
1 . the advocacy of freedom, especially in thought or conduct.
2 . Theology. the advocacy of the doctrine of free will. See also necessitarianism . libertarian , n., adj.
1 . the destruction of freedom.
2 . the destroyer of freedom. liberticidal, adj.
the act of setting free or being set free from slavery; emancipation.

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freedom freedom ride in the US, an organized ride in buses or other public transport as a demonstration against racial segregation; the term was used particularly in the context of civil rights demonstrations of the 1960s.
Freedom Trail a historic route through Boston, Massachusetts, which begins and ends at Faneuil Hall, where Bostonians met to protest against British ‘taxation without representation’ (see Boston Tea Party) in the months preceding the War of American Independence.

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freedom: see liberty.

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freedomjeroboam, Noam, Siloam •brougham •residuum, triduum •continuum • Brabham • album •sachem • Beecham • Mitchum •Adam, macadam, madam, Madame •avizandum, fandom, memorandum, nil desperandum, random, tandem •tarmacadam •shahdom, stardom, tsardom •beldam, seldom •addendum, corrigendum, referendum •heirdom • sheikhdom • Gaeldom •thanedom • saintdom •Edom, freedom, Needham •chiefdom, fiefdom •queendom • heathendom •crippledom • officialdom • Wyndham •Christendom • kingdom • princedom •wisdom • fogeydom • yuppiedom •rodham, Sodom •condom •boredom, whoredom •thraldom • Oldham • popedom •dukedom •Carborundum, corundum •poppadom • pauperdom • martyrdom •reductio ad absurdum • serfdom •earldom

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