Isaiah Berlin and the Politics of Freedom
‘Two Concepts of Liberty’ 50 Years Later
Edited by Bruce Baum, Robert Nichols
Routledge – 2013 – 270 pages
Since his death in 1997, Isaiah Berlin’s writings have generated continual interest among scholars and educated readers, especially in regard to his ideas about liberalism, value pluralism, and "positive" and "negative" liberty. Most books on Berlin have examined his general political theory, but this volume uses a contemporary perspective to focus specifically on his ideas about freedom and liberty.
Isaiah Berlin and the Politics of Freedom brings together an integrated collection of essays by noted and emerging political theorists that commemorate in a critical spirit the recent 50th anniversary of Isaiah Berlin’s famous lecture and essay, "Two Concepts of Liberty." The contributors use Berlin’s essay as an occasion to rethink the larger politics of freedom from a twenty-first century standpoint, bringing Berlin’s ideas into conversation with current political problems and perspectives rooted in postcolonial theory, feminist theory, democratic theory, and critical social theory. The editors begin by surveying the influence of Berlin’s essay and the range of debates about freedom that it has inspired. Contributors’ chapters then offer various analyses such as competing ways to contextualize Berlin’s essay, how to reconsider Berlin’s ideas in light of struggles over national self-determination, European colonialism, and racism, and how to view Berlin’s controversial distinction between so-called "negative liberty" and "positive liberty."
By relating Berlin’s thinking about freedom to competing contemporary views of the politics of freedom, this book will be significant for both scholars of Berlin as well as people who are interested in larger debates about the meaning and conditions of freedom.
"What is appealing about this book is the way in which it brings Berlin’s essay squarely into the context of contemporary debates in political philosophy. Whether they are admirers or critics (or both), the authors in this collection show how Berlin’s essay speaks to contemporary debates involving issues such as feminism and republicanism, and illustrate how the essay can be employed as a theoretical building-block in the development of new theories of political freedom. The authors’ contributions prove that Berlin’s essay still provides an interesting and vital point of departure for political theorizing."
—Daniel Weinstock, McGill University
Introduction: Berlin and the Politics of Freedom Part I: Berlin in Context 1. "Two Concepts of Liberty" in Context; James Tully 2.In Defense of Berlin: A Reply to James Tully; George Crowder Part II: Rethinking "Positive" and "Negative" Freedom 3. Defending Isaiah Berlin´s Distinctions between Negative and Positive Freedoms; Maria Dimova-Cookson. 4. Freedom, Autonomy, and Social Selves; John Christman 5. Retrieving Positive Freedom and Why It Matters; Carol C. Gould 6. Republicanism and the Market in "Two Concepts of Liberty"; Eric MacGilvray Part III: Democratic Pluralism and National Self-Determination 7. Berlin and Democracy; Ella Myers 8. Making Sense of Negative Liberty: Berlin’s Antidote to Political Rationalism; Melissa Orlie 9. Berlin, Tagore and the Legitimacy of Nationalism; Partha Chatterjee Part IV: Berlin and Critical Theories of Freedom 10. Berlin, Feminism, and Positive Liberty; Nancy Hirschmann 11. From Rationalism to Micro-power: Freedom and its Enemies; Diana Coole 12. The World of Negative Liberty: Reading Isaiah Berlin through Weak Ontology; Robert Nichols 13. Critical Theory, Ecology, and "What´s Wrong With Negative Liberty"; Bruce Baum
Bruce Baum is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of British Columbia, Canada.
Robert Nichols is Assistant Professor in the Departments of Philosophy and Political Science at the University of Alberta, Canada.