Individual Freedom and Civil Society

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In historical civilizations, the idea of individual freedom was different than it is today. Individualized liberties were often restricted and subjugated. Political liberties were the foundational structure of society. How you stood within the political order determined the relationships you would form.

In the modern civil society, we have a different definition of liberty. It is one that falls outside of the political arena. People are encouraged to form voluntary and peaceful relationships with family, friends, and those in different socioeconomic arenas. The political arena is considered a secondary component of society.

Civil Society Has a Life of Its Own

The creation of the modern civil society is what changed the definition of individual freedom. Because of the presence of private organizations, institutions, and companies, a market economy that is outside of the political arena can be developed. This economy encourages independence because people can embrace commerce in a way to satisfy their needs and wants on their own terms.

There is no longer a need to wait for political intervention to satisfy a desire.

This means the focal point of society also shifts when looking at individual freedom and civil society. In historical context, the focal point of society was basic survival. You needed a political footprint that would allow you to carve out some kind of life for yourself. Otherwise you would just be a beggar looking in from the outside.

In civil society, there isn’t a focal point on this social order. Each individual has their own focal point, which allows them to direct the course of their life. Instead of being guided by political favors to follow personal interests, their passions can be what allows the following of a personal interest.

Is Civil Society Really a Free Society?

Relationship exchanges occur in civil society just as they did in political society. The difference is that the exchanges are done for personal gain instead of political gain. As for the remainder of the processes in place to pursue individual freedoms, the principles are essentially the same. People can choose to withdraw from the relationship building process and this is usually a choice that will not increase their ability to access commerce.

In many ways, our definitions of liberty have changed. Yet they have also stayed the same. The key difference is this: in civil society, we’re building our own status without the need to consider political consequences.