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Pettit’s republican ideal

Opinió | 22/03/2010

The complex balance of freedom

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Philip Pettit explained in Barcelona the keys to a republican society, with freedom as non-domination at the centre of the theory. He spoke about its practical applications and its limits. And he admitted that he is preparing an assessment of one of his self-confessed disciples, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero

Philip Pettit understands freedom of the individual as non-domination. He left it quite clear in the presentation of his book Llibertat i govern: republicanisme, published in Catalan by the Centre d’Estudis de Temes Contemporanis. This freedom has to result in active attitudes of the state and of society itself. The political scientist gave two examples to explain his views. “A horse can have its reins looser or shorter. But however loose they are, if it has reins it is not free”. As a counterpoint, he gave the example of Ulysses: “He chose to be tied up because he knew that that he could not resist the Sirens’ song. Here no-one is attacking his personal freedom; they are protecting it”.

For Pettit, while some ideologies would support the reins and others would not accept the ropes binding Ulysses, the republican state is situated in the middle: it encourages freedom without attacking it. But, he warns, “freedom is not for cowards, it has to be exercised and demanded; it is not enough just to consent”.

The Culture Minister, Joan Manuel Tresserras, who closed the event, praised the republican concept of personal and social freedom and linked it to the tradition of Catalanism: “We must be capable of eliminating all forms of domination, both internal and external, to build a nation and a freer global society inspired by equality and justice. That is certainly a future project worth fighting for”.

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