Freedom – Equality RelationJune 28, 2021
The first thought to be considered in establishing the relationship between freedom and equality is that both are ideals, ideas-thoughts of necessity-that man desires and struggles to have in social life.
The desire of man to be both equal and free and to live together in a fraternal society, our famous poet Nazım Hikmet said, “To live is one and free like a tree and brotherly like a forest; This longing is ours” finds its most authoritative expression. But, as we have seen above when examining various views on freedom and equality, it seems impossible to have both at the same time, even if we want freedom and equality at the same time. In other words, today’s social and economic conditions force people to make a choice between liberalism and socialism (Tepe 2010, p. 1-2). The fight between freedom and equality between the priority and the aftermath appears as a fight between socialism and liberalism, at least one of the main axes of the socialism-liberalism conflict is this freedom-equality opposition (ibid., p. 2). But is it really a necessity to choose between freedom and equality? Can’t both freedom and equality coexist in a society? In this last part of our unit, we will discuss the relationship between freedom and equality in the axis of this question.
The emphasis on the inevitability of choosing between freedom and equality is most evident in the axis of opposition between liberalism and socialism.
As we mentioned above, the liberal thesis is based on the assumption that there is an inevitable and necessary conflict between “personal interests” and “social necessities”. According to Turner, “Liberalism presupposes a false dichotomy between the individual and society”, but “…since attaining personal satisfaction is only possible in a state-supported social environment, such a philosophical view is also controversial in terms of sociology… Being an individual is essentially a social process (hence the liberal opposition between person and society is controversial). In this way, we can evaluate the deep-rooted relationship between social citizenship, equality and individual development. The increase in individual opportunities in modern societies has been made possible by the universal expansion of civic rights, and the individual’s freedom to advance education requires the state to intervene to redistribute wealth in such a way as to make general education possible. As Dahrendorf clearly states, ‘there is no inevitable conflict between freedom and equality, as ‘civic rights’ give only the chance of freedom to those who are less placed in the hierarchy of social differentiation’ (Turner 2007, pp. 39-40). As can be seen, individual freedoms are not necessarily in conflict with the needs of society, and moreover, the demands for freedom are not necessarily in conflict with the demands for equality.
Bryan Turner finds the liberal view that opposes the individual and the society controversial, and argues that freedom and equality are not incompatible ideals.
But any attempt to eliminate inequality requires significant state or social intervention to level conditions and abolish existing privileges; however, such an intervention would mean interfering with individual or private practices of freedom. The rationalist approach explains this contradiction with the following assumptions: 1. No individual will willingly give up his wealth and privileges in a society where there is no equality. Therefore, programs aiming at social equality have to interfere with the democratic rights of the individual. 2. Socialists regard individualism as a reactionary doctrine, while liberals see the manipulation of the individual by socialism as a form of totalitarian politics.
According to Turner, the primitiveness and underdevelopment of the concept of individualism is one of the underlying reasons for such evaluations, and thus for the almost traditional opposition between freedom and equality (ibid., p. 93). Turner’s approach to individuality and individuation can be summarized as follows: 1. “Individuality emphasizes the importance of difference; whereas individuation is an administrative process that aims at homogenization as the basis of equality. Without bureaucracy and individuation, it would be impossible to achieve equality in conditions or to create equality of results. The individual is vulnerable to disease and social deprivation in the absence of minimum social benefits. In this sense, citizenship makes freedom possible, it cannot be violated” (ibid., p. 96-97). 2. “The classical contradiction between individualism and equality is an unwarranted contradiction; because ensuring personal development at the individual level also requires significant contributions from the state and society (ibid., p. 133).
According to rationalists, any state or community intervention to eliminate inequality is inherently antidemocratic and leaving the individual under the control of the state creates totalitarian policies.
Freedom and equality are not mutually exclusive ideals.