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A Theory of Freedom: From the Psychology to the Politics of Agency




A Theory of Freedom: From the Psychology to the Politics of Agency

Philip Pettit

ISBN: 978-0-745-66815-4 May 2013 Polity 200 Pages



This innovative approach to freedom starts from an account of what we mean by describing someone, in a psychological vein, as a free subject. Pettit develops an argument as to what it is that makes someone free in that basic sense; and then goes on to derive the implications of the approach for issues of freedom in political theory. Freedom in the subject is equated with the person's being fit to be held responsible and to be authorized as a partner in interaction.

This book is unique among contemporary approaches - although it is true to the spirit of classical writers like Hobbes and Kant - in seeking a theory that applies to psychological issues of free agency and free will as well as to political issues in the theory of the free state and the free constitution. The driving thesis is that it is only by connecting up the different issues of freedom, psychological and political, that we can fully appreciate the nature of the questions involved, and the requirements for their resolution. The book does not not seek a comprehensive reach just for its own sake, but rather for the sake of the illumination it provides.

A Theory of Freedom is a ground-breaking volume which will be of wide interest to scholars and students in political philosophy and political science.

Introduction 1

1 Conceptualizing Freedom 6

2 Freedom as Rational Control 32

3 Freedom as Volitional Control 49

4 Freedom as Discursive Control 65

5 Freedom and Collectivization 104

6 Freedom and Politicization 125

7 Freedom and Democratization 152

Conclusion 175

References 180

Index 188

"[A] tightly structured and superbly organized work." Times Literary Supplement

'A Theory of Freedom is full of fresh and stimulating arguments on all the topics addressed, and draws useful and interesting connections between issues that are ordinarily treated in isolation from each other. It displays an almost breathtaking elegance of conception.' R. Jay Wallace, Department of Philosophy, University of California at Berkeley

"Pettit's work is, as can be expected from the author, full of incisive comments and enlightening observations, woven together in ingenious ways, and deserves to be read by any serious student of metaphysical or political freedom." Mind

"A Theory of Freedom and Government (1997) has been described by many as 'landmark work' on the republican model of political life. Even if he had only done this work Pettit's intellectual achievement would be considerable". Acta Politica

"Pettit argues his case engagingly and this book deserves a wide audience. Pettit provides a concise and accomplished volume which in large part achieves its aim and should be of interest to both domestic and international political theorists". Kirsten Ainley

  • A major contribution to the theory of freedom by one of the outstanding political thinkers of our time

  • An original and innovative approach

  • Clearly and accessibly written