Perhaps no distinction is as crucial and yet obscured in political life today as that between liberty and freedom. What may be called liberty is exercised through the will and expressed in terms of “agency”, “people’s will”, “individual rights”, and is exemplified in French Declaration’s “rights of man and citizen.” What may be called freedom involves a power exercised through a suspension or surrender of the will and is articulated especially intensely in relations of friendship and neighborliness, and the vulnerability they involve. The distinction is crucial because freedom provides a vocabulary for questioning, thinking critically about, and even setting aside liberty. Yet the distinction remains repressed in most of our political thinking, where liberty remains the dominant way in which we conceive of free polities and societies. This talk explores Gandhi's thinking and politics of freedom.
Ajay Skaria teaches at the University of Minnesota. He is the author, most recently, of Unconditional Equality: Gandhi's Religion of Resistance. He is currently working on two projects--a short book on the concepts of religion and secularism in contemporary India, and a larger book on Ambedkar's thinking.
Cosponsored by the Department of History and The Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute.