Bras. Political Sci. Rev.. 01/Nov/2014;8(3):39-65.

The Concept of Liberty: the Polemic between the Neo-Republicans and Isaiah Berlin

Ivo Coser

DOI: 10.1590/1981-38212014000100020

This article offers an analysis of the polemic between neo-republicanism and Isaiah Berlin on the concept of liberty. Neo-republican theory argues that Berlin’s concept of liberty allows arbitrary power to emerge, and that the characteristically negative association between intervention and liberty in his argument should be dispelled. This article points out that the concept of liberty in Berlin does not preclude intervention to prevent oppression. One theme present in Berlin’s argument is that interference by Law is an instrument that assures the exercise of both negative and positive liberty. Taking as its point of departure the ideas of negative liberty and positive liberty, the article argues that, on the basis of Berlin’s work, these notions are facets of a broader concept that involves primarily the freedom to choose among alternatives. It highlights the fact that the two lines of thought converge in seeing the exercise of freedom as subject to no ultimate ends.

The Concept of Liberty: the Polemic between the Neo-Republicans and Isaiah Berlin

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