Positive and Negative Liberty

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These two concepts of positive and negative liberty were claimed by Isaiah Berlin in 1958. At that time, Berlin represented the liberal response to Marxist challenge. He believed in liberalism in 20th century, and helped create the definition of pluralism. His positive and negative liberty dichotomy was inspired by Constant. Benjamin Constant is first important liberal thinker of 19th century, and he showed a clear difference between liberty as guaranteed sphere of personal independence and liberty as entitlement to take part in government. Modern liberty is the liberty of independence; ancient liberty is the liberty of participant in decision making. Constant’s ideas were very important for the development of liberal democratic thought that individual liberty and popular democracy are contingently related. Positive liberty relates to the idea of self- realization and personal development, to have the capacity and opportunities to act and fulfill oneself. Positive liberty is very important for state, because it can be a means of providing opportunities to individuals. Positive liberty also relates to the idea of self- determination, being able to participate and shape the decisions made by the community. Positive liberty just likes the ancient liberty said by Constant. Negative liberty is an area in which a man can act unobstructed by others, there is no external constrains influencing people when they are making decisions. Besides, law and government should impose minimal constrains on the acts of individuals, to make sure the domestic order, personal security and the protection of people’s liberty. Negative liberty can be seen as freedom of choice, reflecting people’s preferences, needs or wants. It is based on the belief in human rationality, which enables to make right decisions by themselves without interference.

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