Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science


J. W. Seaman


The liberal notion of freedom, that the individual has a right to pursue his own self-ascribed interests in his own way, is an intuitively appealing account of political freedom. On a theoretical level, however, this notion of freedom has traditionally been linked with justifications of capitalist market relations. These relations have themselves persistent+'Y been criticised by humanist theorists who have argued that they entail coercion and are "dehumanising". In their turn, humanist positions have consistently been criticised by liberals for opening up the possibility of coercion in the name of freedom. This raises the immediate question of whether liberals and humanists appeal to similar or substantially different notions of freedom in their arguments for and against capitalism.

In addressing this question this thesis raises a number of important theoretical issues. Through an examination of Lockean liberalism it is argued that there is, in fact, no necessary link between the liberal notion of freedom and the justification of capitalist appropriation. Indeed, it is argued that this notion of freedom could be used as a foundation for arguing in support of and justifying other forms of appropriation. Via a consideration of Marx's critique of capitalism it is argued that the concept of freedom that can be drawn out from this can be understood to be compatible with the liberal concept. By considering Marcuse's critique of advanced industrial society it is argued that it is only under certain conditions that humanist positions tend to justify coercion in the name of freedom.

Through a consideration of the compatibility between the liberal notion of freedom and that which is drawn out of Marx's critique of the capitalist mode of production, it is suggested that it would be possible to launch a critique of contemporary capitalism from the foundation provided by the liberal premise that the individual has a right to pursue his own self-ascribed interests in his own way. Finally, pointers are provided to the form that such a critique could take.

McMaster University Library

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