Volume 48, Issue 2, Fall 2020
The Political Philosophy of Socialism
Socialism and Freedom
Socialism has long been thought by many to be the enemy of freedom. Here, I argue that in order to understand the relationship between socialism and freedom, we must have a better idea both of what socialism is and of what it is to have a right to freedom. To start, I argue that the right to freedom is best understood as a right to direct one’s own will in the world consistently with the rights of others to do the same. This Kantian conception of the right to freedom is importantly different from the ubiquitous conception of freedom as negative liberty: with this Kantian conception, one’s right to freedom is limited to directing one’s own will and does not include a right to direct the wills of others. I then argue that socialism, like the right to freedom, is often misunderstood: today, socialists often argue for robustly democratic forms of socialism that are far from the autocratic so-called “socialist” regimes of the last century. With a better understanding of both socialism and the right to freedom, we can see that the right to freedom is indeed compatible with a robustly democratic form of socialism.