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Two Concepts of Unity in Political Practice

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For more than a decade now, the famous distinction between two concepts of liberty, introduced by Isaiah Berlin in 1958, has enjoyed its second life. It has been revived, though largely for the critical purposes, in the context of the liberal/communitarian debate, especially in Charles Taylor's and Alasdair Maclntyre's critique of individualism, emotivism and atomism in political and social philosophy life of modern societies.

It is worth remarking that Berlin's distinction between two concepts of liberty, negative and positive ones, has been formulated in a very specific historical context. His insistence upon the understanding of liberty as individual freedom from limitations, along with his critique of the historical inevitability, much paralleling, and I think much indebted to, Karl Popper's critique of historicism and totalitarianism, has been put forward at the time when much of the world has been under the sway of the communist regimes which, both doctrinally and practically, aimed at controlling and limiting the freedoms of individuals. Berlin's critique of the positive concept of freedom, just as Popper's defence of the liberal individualism and of the open society, are properly to be understood in the historical context of the dangers liberty had to face at that time.

Ever since the time of the staunch defence of liberty by Berlin and Popper, the world has undergone dramatic changes. Victorious liberal freedom prevailed in much of the world, most specifically in those parts of it which previously were stifled by non-liberal regimes. At the same time, however, its victory has enticed strong adverse reactions in different regions where the negative freedom is not, and has never been appreciated. The strength of the resistance against globalization of the Western ideology and economy is nowadays leading to dramatic conflicts that contribute to the instability of the post-coldwar world disorder. It is becoming evident that at this particular moment of history, in view of the strength of the resistance against the liberal world, and gravity of the present global conflicts, we should now be addressing not so much the questions of individual liberty, but those of the unity of the world.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2007

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