Institute for Social Justice

Theories and Practices of Freedom

Freedom seems to be an unquestionable value and good. But what is freedom?

Do we all mean the same thing by it, or are there different ways of understanding and living freedom?

Are our theories of freedom adequate to the diverse ways people understand and practice freedom?

Individuals and collectives around the world are struggling for freedom from oppression, exploitation, and colonization, and toward a better life. What are the theories, practices, and politics that illuminate and support these struggles? Romand Coles explores the dialogical characteristics of freedom, the relationship between receptivity and freedom philosophically and in social movements, and visionary pragmatic practices of radical democratic freedom. Akeel Bilgrami argues for a conception of non-alienation as a way of rethinking freedom, and reconciling the standing conflict between conceptions of liberty and equality. Nikolas Kompridis argues for a conception of freedom as the capacity to begin anew, and to bring into being something that did not exist before, as an answer to questions and challenges that cannot otherwise be addressed. Drawing on Arendt, Heidegger, Emerson, and the tradition of philosophical romanticism, he connects this idea of freedom to his conceptions of world disclosure and receptivity. Allison Weir analyzes relations between identities and freedom, and argues for conceptions of identity and freedom in relationship. She is currently studying diverse practices and conceptions of freedom, including Indigenous and Islamic, and spiritual and secular conceptions, to develop a postwestern theory of freedom-in-relationship that can sustain struggles for decolonization. Lia Haro studies the history and social impact of Amartya Sen’s theory of development as freedom as it reshaped the landscape of human development in the 1990s and early 2000s with unintended consequences.