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Pettit’s Conception of Freedom as Anti-Power Research Paper

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An attempt of Pettit’s Conception of Freedom as Anti-Power to Improve What He Sees as The Faulty Conception of Freedom in Liberalism

Philip Pettit is among the few advocates championing what he deems as republican political theory. The idea is not linked to the American republican party; instead, it is conceived from the word a republic, a term used to refer to a nation in the political arena. According to Savery and Haugaard (2016), the main idea that Pettit highlights in this theory is the notion that the contrary to freedom is never interference as many people claim, but it is slavery and the domination by arbitrary power. In other words, Pettit describes freedom as a non-domination act also referred to as anti-power.

First, there are two kinds of freedom that Pettit describes; non-interference and non-domination. For instance, a person can think that a non-dominated subject is accessible simply because the non-domination action guarantees his non-interference in the future. In short, the freedom of non-domination is just an act of defending oneself from being interfered with by another agent. For example, a slave who has an understanding master is free in the essence that the master rarely interferes with him; however, the same slave is not free because the master is dominant and can exercise arbitrary action upon the slave. Therefore, this illustration improves the faulty conception of freedom in liberalism by demonstrating that freedom is relative and every individual can define its context.

However, there are instances where there is a lack of domination, but there are high levels of interference. This is mainly common when specific laws are put in place to restrict the actions of a person. In this regard, there is interference because a person cannot exercise what they intend to do; however, in case the laws are, a person can be free because there is non-domination since there is no superior person to exhibit arbitrary action against the person (Newell, 2018). Therefore, Pettit’s conception of freedom as anti-power attempts to improve upon what he sees as the faulty conception of freedom in liberalism by illustrating that freedom is what people perceive. It can be applied differently depending on the situation.

A significant attribute of the republican theory is the illustration that an agent plays an essential role in defining freedom. Pettit believes that for one to determine that they are free, they have to consider the capacity of interference exercised by an agent. For example, in the case of slavery or dictatorship, someone can act upon another individual. Additionally, instances of gender violence where men threaten their wives and occasions where employers have complete authority over their employees are examples of domination. As a result, freedom as anti-power visualizes that subjects are never free even though they seem free. Therefore, it improves liberalization in that as much as people want to be free, they must act accordingly, and there should be some set guidelines that they are to follow. Luck of dominance does not mean that one person acts in a manner that infringes on others’ liberty. Freedom as anti-power, therefore, limits the interference but also restrains the actions of an individual.

Freedom as anti-power should be devoid of intentional actions since it cannot occur by accident. According to Pettit, interferences regarding freedom are the capability to coerce the body, will, and manipulation of a person (Savery & Haugaard, 2016). Therefore, when a person can intentionally and arbitrarily interfere with another individual’s affairs, it is concluded that the individual whose affairs are interfered is not free in terms of non-dominance. Therefore, this improves the faulty conception of freedom in liberalism where one is perceived free although intentional action is subjected to the individual. Unintentional action does not determine one’s ability to be free; however, actions subjected intentionally to deprive an individual of certain rights illustrate anti-power freedom. Therefore, freedom only applies in the liberal world when people willingly and knowingly give freedom to others.

Pettit’s conception of freedom as an anti-power attempt to improve upon what he sees as the faulty conception of freedom in liberalism demonstrates that no human is free. According to Pettit, there is nothing like liberalism freedom; in a real sense, what is viewed as liberalism freedom is more the same as republican idea (Savery & Haugaard, 2016). For example, liberalism emphasizes that the law never takes away freedom. However, considering freedom as non-interference, one gets to know that the law itself is an interference. It bars people from exercising their will. In other words, it acts as a control mechanism; therefore, liberalism never implies total freedom as many allude because freedom is in the context of what the law provides.

Pettit demonstrates that liberalization thinking illustrates that the law governs the person is free in that they are independent on their way and not under someone’s control. Additionally, the law in place never imposes the will on individuals but instead provides sovereignty in relation to others (Newell, 2018). Therefore, a person has private non-domination freedom provided by the law; however, the individual still needs public non-domination, being that the law is not imposed on the whim.

The Implications for Society if Anti-Power is Pursued

If anti-power is pursued in a society, the society will embrace equality and refrain from acts that can affect others. Anti-power illustrates that for a person to enjoy what is termed as absolute freedom, the individual should be sincerely protected against others (Tonello, 2020). Similarly, the individual must shelve personal freedom because everybody should have equal freedom. Therefore, society will have similar laws that apply to all people without discriminating against certain people.

Additionally, anti-power focuses on face-to-face relationships, but it also encompasses all the people who are discriminated against in society. Society has a system where people are grouped based on gender, race, religious affiliation, social class, and even age (Tonello, 2020). Therefore, if society decides to pursue the anti-power theory, it must be willing to guard not only domination over a group of people but also the structural conditions of the domination.

In conclusion, what people describe as liberal freedom is not freedom because it is guided by the laws that refrain a person from getting indulged in certain activities. Freedom is relative, and the law provides the room to chose what to do and what not to perform. In other words, people are not free because they can not act independently without being guided by certain norms in society. The standards can be laws or certain believes that the society subscribes to. A community that is willing to adopt anti-power freedom should be ready to embrace equality since freedom should apply to people in the same manner. Therefore, Pettit’s anti-power idea improves the faulty conception of freedom in liberalism by indicating no freedom in the world.


Newell, B. C. (2018). European Data Protection Law Review, 4, (1), 12. Web.

Savery, D., & Haugaard, M. (2016). Freedom, Power, and Relational Equality: Republican Justice in Diverse Societies [Doctoral dissertation, National University of Ireland, Galway]. NUI Galway.

Tonello, S. (2020). Resolving the Democratic Dilemma: Contestation, Anti-Power, and Democracy [Doctoral Theses, Victoria University of Wellington]. Creative Commons GNU GPL.

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