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Freedom in mass values: egocentric, humanistic, or both? Using Isaiah Berlin to understand a contemporary debate

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 August 2011

Gina Gustavsson*
Affiliation:
Department of Government, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden

Abstract

Does an increasing emphasis on individual freedom in mass values erode or revitalize democratic societies? This paper offers a new approach to this debate by examining it through the lens of Isaiah Berlin, and his distinction between positive and negative freedom. I show that, contrary to the common assumption among scholars who study mass values regarding freedom, these do not consist of one dimension but two: negative and positive freedom. I also show that, while valuing negative liberty clearly leads a person to become more morally permissive and more condoning of non-compliance with legal norms, valuing positive liberty does not seem to have the same effects at all; in fact, it shows the very opposite relationship with respect to some of these attitudes. Thus, it matters what kind of freedom people value. The results rely on confirmatory factor and regression analyses on World Values Survey data from ten affluent Western countries in 2005–2006.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © European Consortium for Political Research 2012

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