Monday, 27 July 2009

Liberalism and Potentialities

In Dewey's essay, Philosophies of Freedom:

(the real fallacy of classical liberalism) lies in the notion that individuals have such a native or original endowment of rights, powers, and wants that all that is required on the side of institutions and laws is to eliminate the obsctructions they offer to the "free" play of the natural equipment of individuals. The removal of obstructions did have aliberating effect upon such individuals as were antecedently possessed of the means, intellectual and economic, to take advantage of the changed social conditions, but left all others at the mercy of the new social conditions brought about by the free powers of those advantageously situated. The notion that men are equally free to act if only the same legal arrangements apply equally to all -- irrespective of differences in education, and command of capital, and that control of the social environment which is furnished by the institution of property -- is a pure absurdity, as facts have demonstrated. Since actual, that is effective, rights and demands are products of interactions and are not found in the original and isolated constitution of human nautre, whether moral or psychological, mere elimintation of obstructions is not enough. The latter merely liberates fortce and ability as it happens to be distributed by past accidents of history. This "free" action operates disastrously as far as the many are concerned. The only possible conclusion, both intellectually and practically, is that the attainment of freedom conceived as power to act in accord with choice turns upon positive and constructive changes in social arrangements.

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