Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Freedom as non-dependence.

An interview with Quentin Skinner

Thijs Bogers and Bert Drejer sat down for an afternoon with Quentin Skinner to discuss his theory of freedom as non-dependence. The result is a comprehensive account of Skinner’s view on the uses of the past for the present, his understanding of the interplay of rights, duties and freedom and his view of a state which guarantees freedom as non-dependence.


“What is fundamental to being a free person … is that you should not be obliged, in any domain of your life, to endure a condition of dependence upon the arbitrary will of anyone else. But this is to say that you will want to be ruled by laws alone, not by the arbitrary will of a ruling elite, and also that you will want these laws to be an expression of your own will (or at least your represented will) rather than the will of anyone else. But this in turn is to say that securing your own liberty must depend in part on your being ready to make your will and voice heard in public affairs. The seeming paradox on which the neo-Roman theory of liberty insists is that the performance of such public services may be a condition of upholding your own negative liberty. According to this analysis, the state is not the enemy of individual liberty but a means to prevent conditions of dependence developing, and is thus a friend of equal freedom.”

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