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A Measure of Freedom$
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Ian Carter

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780198294535

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198294530.001.0001

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Group Freedom

Group Freedom

(p.246) 9 Group Freedom
A Measure of Freedom

Ian Carter (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The freedom of a group of individuals is best understood as the sum of the degrees of freedom of its individual members. G. A. Cohen has opposed this view, arguing that a group (e.g. the proletariat) can suffer from “collective unfreedom”, where collective unfreedom signifies the incompossibility of given actions of different individuals, and can coexist with the individual freedom of each to perform her respective action. A closer analysis of the notion of collective unfreedom suggests that what is true in claims about collective unfreedom can be stated in terms of individual unfreedom. Cohen is nevertheless right in suggesting that degrees of group freedom can vary depending, among other things, on the structure of property rights. This contradicts Hillel Steiner’s claim that group freedom is constant-sum, a claim which arises out of a failure to distinguish between the number of actions a possible world can contain and the number of freedoms it can contain.

Keywords:   compossibility, constraints on freedom, costs, difficulty, liberal, Philip Pettit, physical impossibility, republican, restrictivist, threats

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