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Non-domination and pure negative liberty


  • Michael David Harbour

    () (Harvard Law School, USA)


The central insights of Philip Pettit’s republican account of liberty are that (1) freedom consists in the absence of domination and (2) non-domination is not reducible to what is commonly called ‘negative liberty’. Recently, however, Matthew Kramer and Ian Carter have questioned whether the harms identified by Pettit under the banner of domination are not equally well accounted for by what they call the ‘pure negative’ view. In this article, first I argue that Pettit’s response to their criticism is problematic insofar as it produces the following dilemma: either Pettit must concede that domination which one regards as consistent with one’s own best interests does not limit one’s freedom or he must embrace the implication that one can be forced to be free, a result he explici tly wants to avoid. Second, I argue that, despite the inadequacy of Pettit’s response, he is ultimately right in thinking that domination and negative liberty are sometimes compatible. My central contention, then, is that neither Pettit’s non-domination view nor Carter and Kramer’s pure negative view are able to account for the loss of liberty one suffers under conditions of domination.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael David Harbour, 2012. "Non-domination and pure negative liberty," Politics, Philosophy & Economics, , vol. 11(2), pages 186-205, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:pophec:v:11:y:2012:i:2:p:186-205

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