The following is a ‘Compare and Contrast’ essay which talks about two works of philosophers. In one of the writings, Karl Marx responds to Bauer on the issue of the Jewish Question, while in the other, Berlin distinguishes between positive and negative liberty in the essay The Two Concepts of Liberty. These two philosophers were great thinkers who wrote works on political liberation and emancipation. Both of the writers seem to be articulating something about the role of the state, life of an individual and the relationship between the two. Each of these writers expressed his thoughts about political liberation through similar thought and divergent thoughts.

Marx talks about the issues and resolutions that surround historically civil, legal and national statuses among Jews and non-Jews especially in Europe. These issues include Jewish disabilities, Jewish emancipation and Jewish enlightenment.  Isaiah Berlin expressed his thoughts about negative and positive liberty, as he understood them. He felt that negative liberty consists of absence of obstacles, constraints and barriers. Positive liberty, he argued, consists of liberty of acting in such a way that one takes control of his life and realizes his fundamental purposes. The discussions of positive and negative liberty normally exist in the issues of social and political aspects (Berlin and Margalit 99).

Differences between political & human emancipation and difference between negative and positive liberties

The ‘’On Jewish Question’ by Karl Marx is a response to Bauer who seems to be a radical liberal and atheist who, in response to whether Jews and Christians should get equal rights, said that there should be the abolition of religion from the political sphere so as to realize human emancipation. Bauer wanted the Jews to have equal rights as Christians. Marx claimed that Bauer possessed the wrong question since the question addressed only the Jewish emancipation instead of believing that political emancipation should be for all. Marx felt that Bauer failed to distinguish between human and political emancipation.

Marx argued that political emancipation should not require the abolishing of religion since in secular societies could afford the freedom of practicing religion, owning private property and creation of class divisions. The emancipation that Bauer talked about created a divided life for the individual by placing religion in the civil sphere. Marx argues that political emancipation remains insufficient in bringing human emancipation.

Isaiah Berlin delivered an inaugural lecture, which had an analytical approach to the definition of political concepts. It remained an expression of Berlin’s first expressions of his ethical ontology of pluralism. Berlin expressed his thoughts about negative and positive liberty in a society. He viewed positive liberty as having a chance in choosing who governs the society that one lives. He explained negative liberty as the liberty that deals with an area where a group of persons or an individual remains isolated without interference by other people.

Berlin believes that positive liberty should not be rejected, and it should be recognized as a human value, which should be necessary to all free societies. He felt that positive liberty seems to be genuine and extremely valuable.  Both Marx and Berlin talk about political emancipation and liberation, which remain essential issues in the societies. Both Karl Marx and Isaiah Berlin had some similar concepts that surround political liberty and freedom. The both felt the need to have political liberty but also had some reservations about the same. Marx talks of political and human emancipation and how they should be viewed by the society.

Karl Marx supported the issue of political emancipation, but he felt that it was insufficient in bringing about human emancipation, and was, in fact, a barrier to human emancipation. He insisted that liberal ideas and rights of justice get grounded on the idea that each one of us requires protection from other human beings. Marx insisted that liberal rights seem to be rights of separation, which could be designed to protect the people from such perceived threats.

He noted that freedom on such a view would remain freedom from interference. Isaiah Berlin explained that positive and negative liberty seems to be rival and incompatible interpretation of one political idea. Since extremely few people can claim to be against liberty, the ay the term gets defined and interpreted may have important political implications. Political liberation seems to be a negative definition of liberty since liberals claim that if someone favors individual liberty, he should keep strong limitations on state activities. The reason for using the terms positive and negative liberty is that in positive liberty, it denotes a mere absence of obstacles, constraints, barriers and interference from other people.

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Negative liberty, Berlin argues, seems to denote the presence of something such as self-mastery, control, determination and realization. It may be important to think of the distinguishing issues between the two types of liberty in terms of the difference between internal and external factors to an agent. The most important thing that the above philosophical works convey is liberty. Liberty can be termed as a political or moral principle that identifies the environment that human beings can govern themselves. By governing themselves, people are expected to behave according to their own will and be accountable for all their actions.

Classical liberal and individualist conceptions of liberty consist of freedom of persons from compulsion or coercion, also referred to as negative freedom. Liberal conceptions of liberty denote agency and social structure, also referred to as positive liberty. Opinions that denote liberty may vary widely. In general, they can be classified as positive and negative liberty. The latter refers to a negative condition where an individual gets protected from the arbitrary exercise of authority while the former refers to getting the means or chance, rather than lack of restraint to do something.

Political freedom seems to be a central philosophy in the history of the Western countries and their political thought. It can be described as the absence of oppression, coercion and lack of disabling conditions for a group of persons or individual. Political freedom may refer to positive exercise of individual rights and the exercise of group or social rights. Political freedom seems to be closely related to civil liberty and human rights where in democratic societies, people get accorded legal protection from the state. There should be a difference between political and human emancipation as Marx puts it across. He makes it to be clear that political emancipation in a contemporary setting should not require Jews or Christians to renounce their religion.

The only thing that would lead to the disappearance of religion could be total human emancipation, but that does not seem possible in the existing world. These arguments convey the need for liberation and political emancipation but emphasizes on the need to acquire positive liberty. There seems to be a paradox of positive liberty that seems not to be considered. Most liberals, including Berlin, have always suggested that the positive concept of liberty seems to carry with it a problem of authoritarianism. Considering the fate of a permanently oppressed minority, the members in such a minority group take part in democratic processes characterized by a majority rule.

In such a case, they might be said to have freedom on the grounds that they remain to be members of a society that exercises self determination over its own affairs. The issue remains that they remain oppressed, and so they continue to be completely unfree. In addition, it does not seem necessary to see a society as democratic to see it as self-controlled; an individual might instead adopt a different conception of society. Such an organism will have that conception when its various parts seem to be brought into line with various rational plan devised by its wise governors. In this case, even the majority might be oppressed which does not go well with political freedom and emancipation (Berlin 87).

Conclusion on Karl Marx’s and Isaiah Berlin’s essays on political liberation and emancipation

Positive freedom in its political form can be though of as achieved through a collectivity. Individual freedom seems to be achieved through participation whereby one’s society exercises collective control over his own affairs according to the issue of the general will.

One might say that a democratic society should be a free community since it remains a self- determined society. Members of that society seem to be free to the point that they participate in the society’s democratic processes. For example, it remains to be said that a state should aim to create the environment necessary for individuals to be self-sufficient and to achieve self-realization (Marx 71).

The negative concept of liberty, on the other hand, seems to be most commonly assumed in liberal defenses of the constitutional freedoms typical of liberal-democratic states, such as freedom of religion, freedom of movement, and freedom of speech, and in issues against paternalist or moralist societal intervention. It remains also often invoked in defenses of the right to owning private property, although some have contested the issue that private property necessarily enhances negative freedom. 

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