Gajo Petrović 1965

What is Freedom

First published: Covek danas, "Nolit", Beograd 1964.
First published in English: Praxis, No. 4, 1965, pp. 419-432.
Transcribed: by Zdravko Saveski, 2022.
This paper is an elaboration of the brief theses on "Man and Freedom" that have been published in Socialist Humanism. An International Symposium, edited by Erich Fromm, Doubleday & Company, Inc., New York 1965.


In the history of philosophy various opinions have appeared as to who man is. Attempts to find the answer have most often started from the seemingly undoubted "fact" that man is a species of animal and have then sought those particular qualities which distinguish that particular animal species.

Thus a multitude of various theories on man has come into being, all remaining within the limits of the same general conception. At first glance acceptable, all these theories meet with unsurmountable difficulties. Yielding to their free play we can become so entangled as to end up not knowing where we are.

Let us assume that man is a rational animal as he has most often been considered in philosophy hitherto. That seems acceptable; man possesses the faculty of abstract thought, and no other animal species has this faculty.

However, how is that wonderful faculty of man, that only he can think, to be explained? Is it not to be explained by the fact that only man possesses the faculty of speech? Is man not animal rationale because he is first of all animal linguale? One might thus put forward the thesis that man is first and above all an animal endowed with the faculty of speech.

But one could ask further why only man is endowed with speech? Is it not because he lives in a social community? If he did not live in a social community he would have no one with whom to speak. The "best" thesis might then appear to be that man is a social animal.

One could go further still, and ask why man is a social animal, why he lives in society. Might one not assert that man is a social animal because he is an animal which works and produces? Man, as an animal which does not only glean the finished products of nature but also himself produces what is necessary to him, could not exist as a lone individual. Work is possible only in society. Man is thus a working animal.

But why does man alone work and produce? Does it not seem most plausible that man alone works and produces because only he possesses reason? So we come back to our initial theory according to which man is an animal rationale.

Attempts to discover that single property which makes man man can catch us up in an unpleasant vicious circle.

But that is not the only trouble with such attempts. In addition to those properties already mentioned (reason, speech, socialibility and work), there is a multitude of others which are also peculiar to man. Man alone develops varied forms of spiritual creativity - literature, painting, sculpture, music; man alone cooks food and cultivates culinary art. Only man is capable of being malicious, narrow-minded, corrupted, hypocritical, ironic. There are so many properties which belong to man only, and it is difficult to say which of them is the "most important".

One may think that it is not even necessary to single out the most important among these properties, that one should simply enumerate all such properties possessed only by man and by virtue of which he differs from all animals. But such an endeavor also meets with difficulty. There are many properties which are possessed by man only. And man is not a chaos of these properties but something integral and structured.

Perhaps one need not ask which properties are possessed by man only. Perhaps one should ask for that general structure of man's being which manifests itself in every one of man's acts and deeds, in all his properties and activities?

The relatively best answer to this question was given by Karl Marx - man is a being which exists in the form of praxis. More briefly: man is a being of praxis. To be sure, other answers to the question of who man is have also been ascribed to Marx. Some have attributed to him the conception of man as a tool-making animal, and some the similar view that man is a being whose entire activity is determined by the economic sphere of his existence. But these and similar interpretations only indicate the extent to which Marx has been misconceived.


If we say that man is a being of praxis, the question "what is praxis?" naturally arises. To the extent that we cannot answer this question the entire definition of man as praxis remains in the dark. However, different opinions exist as to the way in which this question should be answered.

Some hold that praxis is a concept which cannot be defined. It is a concept with the help of which all other concepts are defined, but is itself directly comprehended or is informally explained with the aid of examples or by the undefined but comprehensible words of ordinary speech.

According to another view, the concept of praxis can be explained by enumerating various kinds or forms of practical activity (economic production, political activity, artistic creativity, scientific research work, philosophizing, etc.) and at the same time determining their mutual relationship.

However, if we assume that praxis is something complex and structured, a third solution is also possible: we can try to determine the structure of praxis, to discover those fundamental characteristics which make praxis praxis.

Those who think that in Marxist philosophy praxis can be defined only in one of the first two ways obviously draw no distinction between that concept which is most important in a philosophy and that concept which is the most simple in it. Were praxis to Marx the most general and the simplest concept, as pure being is with Hegel, it could not otherwise be explained than in one of the first two ways. But "praxis" is not the simplest concept. As the concept of the being of the most complex being (man), the concept of praxis is the most complex. Therefore we can analyze and define this concept, indicating its elements or moments. Of course, this does not mean that we will ever analyze and define it exhaustively and for good.

In the first place praxis is a definite mode of being (Modus des Seins), which is peculiar to a definite being (einem bestimmten Seiendem), transcends all other modes of being and differs from them in principle. This initial characterization compels us to attempt to indicate forms or characteristics of praxis as a peculiar mode of being. Though the question is not simple, it is not difficult to mention at least some of the characteristics by which praxis is differentiated from every other form of being. For example, praxis is free being, praxis is creative being, praxis is historical being, praxis is being through the future. All these characteristics should be more closely explained. But it is fairly certain: freedom is one of the essential "elements" of praxis. There is no praxis without freedom, and there is no free being which is not praxis. The question of freedom is a constituent part of the question of praxis and hence a constituent part of the question of man.


As a being of praxis man is a being of freedom. There is no freedom without man, and there is no humanity without freedom. This does not mean that all men have everywhere and always been free. On the contrary, one of the most widespread phenomena in contemporary society is the escape from freedom.[1] People feel their freedom and the responsibility associated with it as a heavy burden of which they wish to be quit, transferring it to others.

The escape from freedom was one of the most fundamental factors in the spread of fascism and nazism as movements in which individuals were freed of the burden of freedom and all responsibility was assumed by a leader (il Duce, der Führer). Those who so freed themselves of freedom were willing to submit without contradiction to the leader, silencing any inner human voice. They were ready for the most wicked crimes, but also for physical hardships and sacrifice. Without deliberation they killed and looted, froze on snowy plains and choked in the sands of the desert.

The burden of freedom is also heavy for people in "democratic" (capitalistic) countries. To them as well the escape from freedom is a mass phenomenon, only the forms are different. One of these forms is the avoiding of the effort of thought, uncritical, passive acceptance of opinions which are suggested by the media of mass communication, as well as in other ways.

The escape from freedom makes its appearance in socialism too. Here we also encounter people on whom freedom weighs heavy and who therefore seek to avoid it or be rid of it. Such are those who reduce or attempt to reduce themselves to blind executors of the directives of higher social or political forums, prepared to be active to the limit, even of physical exhaustion. Why? Only in order not to have to carry the invisible but nevertheless difficult and unpleasant burden of freedom.

The escape from freedom is a spreading phenomenon in the contemporary world, but this does not mean that man is not a being of freedom. To the extent that he evades freedom man is not man. The escape from freedom is a form of man's self-alienation.

The young Marx wrote "A life danger for every being consists in loss of oneself. Unfreedom is thus a real death danger for man."[2] This is well said, but one should go even further: unfreedom is not merely the death danger for man, unfreedom is man's death. Through becoming unfree, man ceases to be man.


The question what freedom is, cannot be reduced to the question of various kinds or forms of freedom. Every day we speak of the most diverse kinds, forms and aspects of freedom. We speak of metaphysical, ethical, psychological, economic, political, national and religious freedom. We speak of freedom of the spirit, of the will, of thought, conscience, movement, activity, freedom of the press, radio and television, of assembly, speech and association. We speak of freedom from exploitation, oppression, hunger, war, and fear. We speak, of freedom from tradition, convention, vice, passion, weakness, prejudice, of freedom in art, science, education, instruction. Of free behavior, free love, free time and so on.

But the enumeration of varieties of freedom does not resolve the question of what freedom is. Moreover, before resolving this question we cannot say which of the kinds or types of freedom mentioned actually represent freedom, and which are only pseudo-freedoms. The question of freedom is in the first instance the question of the essence of freedom.

The question of the essence of freedom is not purely a theoretical one, nor can its answer be some purely factual judgement. Nor does the inquiry about freedom's essence mean asking what freedom has meant hitherto or what it in fact is or, still less, which meanings the word "freedom" has, or may have. To ask about freedom's essence also does not mean to ask what freedom ought to be according to someone's subjective whim or wish. To inquire into the essence of freedom means to inquire into that by virtue of which freedom is a constituent of man, into what freedom as human freedom can and should be, what it in essence is.

The question of the essence of freedom, like the question of the essence of man, is not only a question. It is at once participation in production of freedom. It is an activity through which freedom frees itself.


In what lies the essence of freedom? What is freedom in its essence? One cannot speak of what freedom is without speaking of that which it is not. Replying to the question of what freedom is and is not, we will achieve our object soonest by setting out from the conceptions or theories which have already been developed in the course of the history of philosophy.

Theories of freedom are practically numberless. Here we will mention, and subject to criticism, three groups of theories. We will discuss first theories according to which freedom is the absence of external impediments to movement or activity - more generally, the sum of external circumstances under which something exists. Second, we will take theories which assert that freedom is the knowledge of necessity, or an adaptation to the world, and a transformation of the world, based on the knowledge of necessity. Finally, we will mention theories which regard freedom as self-determination.

The first group of theories according to which freedom is the absence of external impediments to movement, can be found in many philosophers in the course of the centuries. We find it in the seventeenth century - in Thomas Hobbes, but also in the twentieth - in a paper of the American Marxist (or Marxologist) John Somerville at the XII International Philosophical Congress in Venice 1958. According to these theories, a being or body is free as long as no external impediments to its movement or activity exist.

This view of freedom may seem acceptable. In everyday speech we perhaps most frequently speak of freedom in just that sense. We say, for example, that the convict is not free when he is in prison, and that he is free when he escapes or is set at liberty. Similarly we say that a caged tiger, or a caged canary is not free, but that a tiger at large, or a bird outside a cage, is.

With a little thought we will see how this conception of freedom makes it possible to speak not only of the freedom of beasts, birds and fish but of inanimate things as well. In this sense we can say that water is not free while in a pot, that it is semi-free when a hole is made and completely free when the pot is overturned.

These and similar consequences, which Hobbes indeed draws, show that such a conception of freedom is not acceptable. If freedom is understood in this way, it is obviously not something specifically human, but something common to man, animals and inanimate things. However we are concerned with what freedom is as something peculiar to man alone.

This first conception of freedom also has other "inconvenient" consequences. If freedom consists in the absence of external obstacles then it is differentiated in species according to the kind of external obstacles. However, external obstacles can be of the most varied sort, so that the existence of some is good, of others bad and of still others a matter of indifference. For example, in this way one might say that man is free to speak when he is not hindered from saying what he wishes to, and that he has the freedom to kill or torture when he can kill or torture whomever he wishes without external hindrance to do this. Thus we arrive at very unusual and strange kinds of freedom such as the freedom to kill, the freedom to rob, the freedom to pester. And then the conclusion follows (which Somerville indeed draws) that freedom in itself is neither good nor bad. There are freedoms which are "good", there are likewise "bad" and "indifferent" ones.

However, it is exactly this conclusion, according to which are counted among the forms of freedom phenomena that we regularly consider the most conspicuous examples of the negation of freedom, that indicates that something is wrong with this theory.

In contrast to the theory of freedom as the absence of external impediments, or as the sum of external conditions under which something exists, we may assert that freedom is a certain way of being. Freedom is not something outside one who freely is, it is his specific mode or structure of being.


The second group is comprised of theories according to which freedom is in him who is free and consists in the knowledge of necessity or in activity which is founded on the knowledge of necessity. The idea of freedom as knowledge of necessity can be found already among the ancient Greeks who conceived of freedom as the realizing and acceptance of fate, but we find it also among many new philosophers, such as Spinoza, Hegel, Engels. This is not to say that the theory of freedom in these philosophers can be reduced to this idea. Hegel's conception, for example, is much more complex.

In any case, the idea that the knowledge of necessity is the essence or essential presupposition of freedom extends throughout the entire history of philosophy and appears in three main variants: one - freedom is the knowledge of necessity; two - freedom is the adjustment to the known necessity; three - freedom is power over nature and over oneself based on the knowledge of internal and external necessity.

In all three variants this conception has at the very least two basic defects: it is contradictory and conservative.

The theory is first of all, contradictory. If everything is necessary, then neither knowledge of (and adjustment to) necessity, nor power over nature (and over oneself) can be something outside that necessity. The idea that freedom is the knowledge of necessity is based tacitly on two mutually irreconcilable assumptions: (1) that everything is necessary, and (2) that man can (but does not have to) know that necessity. But if everything is necessary, then man's knowledge (or failure to know) necessity must also be necessary. Therefore, to consider the knowledge of necessity as freedom, and lack of knowledge as unfreedom is senseless.

This contradiction is observable to a still greater extent in the conception of freedom as the adaptation to that which exists on the basis of the knowledge of necessity. If everything is necessary, then we are of necessity such as we are, and we are of necessity "adjusted" in the way in which we are. In order to be able to adjust freely, we would have to be, at least to a certain extent, excepted from necessity.

This contradiction comes to its fullest expression in the notion of freedom as power over nature and oneself, which is based on the knowledge of necessity. For if everything is necessary, if necessity already rules over nature and over man, it is not clear how we can achieve power over both of them.

The idea that we ought first to know "necessity" and then to gain sway over it has "something" to it. That idea arose out of a somewhat rash generalizing from some experiences in daily life, from certain practical teachings which make up an important part of the sagacity of the weak. A servant or a slave can possess great power over his master if he is familiar with his weaknesses. Then cannot our knowledge of nature similarly make possible power over nature?

The presupposition for the slave's power over his master is that the latter possesses some weakness. Accordingly, if we wish to dominate nature, it must have its "weaknesses" as well. At least some "points" must exist in it where universal necessity is obviated.

The other basic defect in necessity theories of freedom is that they are in essence conservative. If everything occurs of necessity, it is then natural to accept what is, and not attempt to change it. Precisely on this account necessity theories of freedom can be, and often have been, used as a weapon by conservative forces wishing to maintain the existing social order.

It might be observed that revolutionaries have often been inspired by the idea of freedom as the knowledge of necessity. Indeed, such an idea can be the basis of a peculiar revolutionary deed. The revolutionary can say that he considers his activity as a constituent part of necessary happening and that he does not wish to think about whether he could act otherwise. However revolutionary activity on such a basis can easily become counter-revolutionary. The necessity theory of freedom cannot be the basis for creative revolutionary action. At the very best it can be the basis for revolutionary fanaticism which does not examine critically its objectives and methods and which is intrinsically conservative, albeit at some stage of human history it can for a certain time and to some extent have a progressive effect.

These are the general defects of theories of freedom in which knowledge of necessity has decisive importance. The third variant of this theory, according to which power over nature and over oneself is based on the knowledge of internal and external necessity, has yet another important defect. This variant insists on freedom as a kind or form of power, domination. It assumes that nature and man are collections of completed powers and that nothing else is necessary except to conquer these powers in order to harness, subordinate and utilize them.

The view of freedom as a kind of domination and exploitation is typical of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Contemporary man is interested in everything only as a possible object of subordination and utilization. But this is not to say that such a view is "good". Such a concept of freedom is an alienated concept characteristic of an alienated society.

In opposition to theories of freedom as knowledge of necessity we may maintain: If freedom is conceived of as knowledge and acceptance of fate, destiny, universal necessity, then "freedom" is only another name for voluntary slavery. Freedom is neither submission nor accommodation to external or internal necessity. Only that action can be free by which man changes his world and himself. Knowledge of necessity is only the knowledge of limitations to freedom. The positive condition of freedom is the knowledge of the limits of necessity, the awareness of human creative possibilities. Freedom is also not in the heedless exploitation of nature. Freedom lies in man's ability to make nature human, and to participate in its blessings humanely. Man and nature are not aggregates of finished powers which have to be merely mastered, subjugated and utilized. The essence of freedom is not in subjection of the given but in the creation of the new, in the development of man's creative abilities, in the widening and enriching of humanity.


Finally, we are left with the third basic theory of freedom, the theory which considers that freedom is self-determination.

This idea has often appeared in the history of philosophy and has attained various forms (compare e. g. I. Kant and J. P. Sartre). The idea is to a great extent justified in contrast to those which it opposes. No one will call an act free which is determined from outside. If someone does something by order, under hypnosis, in fear, or under threat we will not say of him that he is free. For someone to be free he must first of all himself guide his own actions. But that is still not sufficient.

Some think that not every self-determination is free but only immediate self-determination (spontaneity), so that the idea of freedom as self-determination turns into the idea of freedom as spontaneity. According to such a view, that act would alone be free which we ourselves determine and through which at the same time this or that inclination, ability, aspiration or need of ours is directly expressed. We are free, they say, only when we do not calculate, speculate, premeditate.

But is man really free when in a fit of anger he commits some thoughtless act which he will later regret, or is he at that instant a slave of his passions? It seems that freedom does not consist in sheer spontaneity. Man is a being who is always both immediate and mediated; he is not always free when spontaneously manifesting particular aspects or elements of his being, he is free only when acting as an integral and many-sided being. This does not mean that man is free only while doing something great and important. The whole man may be present in the most minute trifle.

However, activity in which the entire man participates is not by virtue of that necessarily free. The tyrant or criminal whose whole activity is directed by inhuman, destructive motives is far from being free. Man is free only when what is human in him moves him to creative action by which the limits of humanity are extended and enriched.

In favour and against the theory of freedom as self-determination we may maintain: Even the most intensive and the most successful activity is not free if it is determined from the outside. Disciplined soldiers, obedient officials, well-paid policemen may be extraordinarily active and successful, nevertheless their activity is anything but free. Only that activity is free in which a man himself determines his deed. Nor is every action inwardly determined of itself free. Only that self-determined activity is free in which a man acts as an integral, many-sided personality, in which he is not a slave of this or that special thought, emotion or tendency. Furthest from free deeds are those whose activity is the "free" destruction of humanity. Dictators craving power, cruel conquerors, insatiable exploiters are only the slaves of their own inhuman obsessions and ambitions. Man is free only when that which is creative in him determines his acts, when by his deeds he contributes to an extension of the limits of humanity.

The above theses on the essence of freedom do not resolve the problem "to the end", but they do indicate a conception which may be a basis for discussion.


In the foregoing discussion no mention was made of "greater" or "lesser" freedom. We spoke simply of "freedom" and of "unfreedom". One could consequently conclude that freedom does not allow degrees, that man is always either absolutely free, or absolutely unfree.

One might object that such a concept is both undialectical and unhistorical. Undialectical because it overlooks that various degrees of freedom and unfreedom are possible, and that a definite degree of freedom is also a definite degree of unfreedom. Unhistorical because it does not realize that man has never been absolutely unfree and will never be absolutely free, that all of human history is a contradictory but unrestrainable progression toward ever higher degrees of freedom, an advancement in which every degree achieved can be considered as a "greater freedom" (or "lesser unfreedom") in relation to those lower, superseded degrees, but as "greater unfreedom" (or "lesser freedom") in relation to all prospective greater ones.

We may agree with the foregoing and similar objections. Man is a being of freedom, but he is never absolutely free or absolutely unfree. He is always only to a greater or lesser extent free. Freedom is "relative". If we wish, all the theses on freedom presented so far can be translated into a "relativized" form. Instead of saying that "man is a being of freedom" we can say "man is man to the extent that he is free". Instead of "unfreedom is man's death", we can say "to the extent that he is unfree man is dead" (or, man is not man). Similarly, instead of saying "man is free only when that which is creative in him determines his actions" we can say "man is free only in so far as the creative in him determines his actions".

Freedom is indeed relative, but theories on the relativity of freedom often go too far. Relativity, some say, is not something which is appended to freedom from outside; it is a constituent element of freedom's essence. Regardless of how we will continue the definition of freedom, we have to begin it with the words: "Freedom is a relative . . .", or "Freedom is a definite degree . . ."

If freedom is thus made relative, the historically relative degrees of freedom are thereby made absolute. The theory that freedom is "in essence" relative does not differ essentially from the theory that the essence of freedom is slavery. Freedom is indeed "relative", but that does not mean that relativity is what makes it free. Relativity is that which makes it relative.


In the preceding discussion we spoke generally of freedom and of "man". It was not specified whether by man was to be understood man as association (society), man as a group (class, stratum, nation, tribe, family etc.), or man as an individual (personality). But such specification is not essential. Regardless of whether we have in mind man as society, man as social group, or man as personality, the essence of freedom remains the same. Just as society is not free if it does not itself determine its own destiny, neither is personality free if somebody else decides its fate. Just as society is not free if it hinders the development of creative human powers, so the personality is not free if it does not contribute to the developing of man's creativity.

Does this mean that free society consists only of free individuals, and unfree society only of unfree individuals? In other words, is a free person possible only in a free, and an unfree person only in an unfree society? An affirmative answer to these questions would be a sign that the essence of society has been miscomprehended. Society is a community of personalities, but such a community is not a mere sum of individuals.

Society can develop creative human powers only so as to make possible, and to stimulate, the development of free human personality. There can be no free society without free personality. But this does not mean that in a free society all are free. Even in a free society the individual may be unfree. By using a relativized terminology: the individual may be less free than the society in which he lives. Society may be organized so as to render possible and to stimulate the development of the free personality but freedom cannot be given as a gift to anyone. "Given" or "imposed" freedom is a contradiction in adjecto. Freedom is by definition the activity of one who is free. Only by his own free deed can the individual achieve his personal freedom.

Just as in a free society not all are free, so neither are all in an unfree society unfree. Even in an unfree society an individual may be free. More precisely, it is possible for the individual to elevate himself above the degree of freedom obtaining in society. External obstacles erected by an unfree society can make more difficult or limit a free human act but they cannot completely prevent it. An unwavering revolutionary in chains is freer than the jailor who guards him, or the torturer who vainly tries to break him down. If we were to deny the possibility of a free personality in an unfree society, we would be denying the possibility of transforming an unfree society by conscious revolutionary action.

If unfree personalities are possible in a free society, and if free personalities are possible in an unfree society, this does not mean that the freedom of a society is irrelevant to the freedom of the personality. The unfree society endeavours to destroy the free personality, while a free society makes possible and stimulates its flowering. Therefore the struggle for a free society is a component part of the struggle for the freeing of personality. When this part attempts to become everything, it ceases to be that what it ought to be. The struggle for a free society is not a struggle for a free society unless through it an ever greater degree of personal freedom is created.

Personal and social freedom are inseparably associated, but the relationship between them is asymmetrical; there is no free society without free personality (which does not mean that all individuals in a free society are free) but a free personality is possible outside a free society (which does not mean that the freedom of society is irrelevant for the freedom of personality or that a free personality is possible outside every social community!).


Man as individual is not only a member of a broader social community, he is also included in particular groups. Membership in antagonistic social groups, "classes", has been of decisive importance in history up to the present time.

The class struggle in all its variety of forms is a fundamental form of the development of class society. The struggle to achieve a higher degree of freedom has in class society also a class character. By concrete historical analysis it can be established which class or stratum is the bearer of a higher degree of freedom in a particular situation and which class or stratum the defender of unfreedom.

But every class society is alienated, inhuman, in essence unfree. Only classless society can develop into a realm of freedom. A progressive class which fights for a new, freer form of class society is only striving for a new "freer" form of unfreedom. The radical champion of freedom can only be the class which fights for the abolishment of every class society, and of itself as a class. One free personality, or several, cannot transform an unfree society into a free one. The free personality succeeds in its transforming endeavours only to the extent that it manages to convince, inspire, to stir to action those potentially revolutionary social groups.

This essential knowledge is often distorted and abused. The personality is asked to "merge" completely with his class, to subordinate all his personal thoughts, wishes, hopes, apprehensions and passions to the requirements of the class struggle. Those who in this manner demand the subordination of the personality to "class" do not realize that there is no revolutionary class struggle without free personalities capable of raising themselves above the factual level of their class and of realizing its revolutionary, universally human potentialities.

The need of "class" for "personality" is often interpreted as the need for a "great" personality which "sees" and "leads". Great personalities are indeed necessary to class, nation and mankind, but no less necessary are those seemingly "lesser" personalities, which regardless of their own modest working and intellectual "capabilities" evince high qualities of humanity.

It might seem to some that I over-emphasize the importance of personality. But, regardless of what anyone thinks, socialism is the cult of personality. Of course not in that politico-journalistic sense which is nowadays widespread (the term "cult of personality" is often used for the cult of impersonality).


In discussing the sense of the question of freedom, we have emphasized that the question of freedom cannot be reduced to the question of types or forms of freedom. The essence of the question of freedom is in the question of freedom's essence.

This does not mean that one cannot speak of various forms, types or aspects of freedom. We have just made several observations on certain important aspects of freedom (social, individual, class) and in an earlier section we enumerated many of freedom's various kinds, forms and types.

The analysis of forms and aspects of freedom has a great significance which many contest. The denial of varieties of forms of freedom is most often motivated by the wish to render specific characteristics of one type of freedom the norm for all remaining types. In contrast to such endeavours we may assert: in addition to the universal essence of freedom, every kind of freedom has its own specific essence by virtue of which it is precisely that kind of freedom. "As in the solar system each individual planet revolves around the sun only while turning around itself, so in the system of freedom each of its worlds circles around the central sun of freedom by circling around itself."[3]

The possibility of various types or forms of freedom should not induce us to assume that the various forms of freedom are completely peculiar and mutually dissociated. All the forms of freedom are mutually conditioned, and each of them is one form of freedom. Trampling upon this or that form of freedom is often excused by the demand for maintaining or establishing some other more important form of freedom. To such arguments we may answer: "Each form of freedom is the condition for the rest of them as one member of the body is for the others. Whenever a specific freedom is brought into question then freedom itself is brought in question. Whenever one form of freedom is rejected, it is freedom which is rejected, and it can continue to carry on only a fictitious life because henceforward it is pure chance at which point unfreedom will manifest itself as the predominating force."[4]


Finally, it is necessary to say at least something about the relationship between the problem of freedom as a lasting human problem and the varied forms in which that problem appears historically.

In the foregoing analysis certain important aspects of the problem of freedom were brought out, but we did not systematically discuss the various forms assumed by the problem of freedom in various social formations ("primitive", slave, feudal, capitalistic, socialistic) and in various developmental phases of individual formations. This does not mean that the problem of freedom is always the same. It is "eternal" (in the sense in which we use that attribute to characterize all lasting problems of man), but in every epoch it assumes a different form.

The consideration of various historical forms in which the problem of freedom appears does not fall within the limits of this essay. Nevertheless it may be mentioned: in our time it becomes clear that a free society is not created only by expropriation of the expropriators, nor alone by raising the standard of living, nor yet by the combination of these two. In a society from which exploiters have been eliminated man's freedom is threatened through the means by which he communicates with nature and with other men (technology) and by the social forms through which he effects that communication (social organizations and institutions). The question of freedom appears today primarily as the question of freedom and socialism and as the question of freedom with technology.

Those who stress the question of freedom and socialism are sometimes blamed that they neglect the more important question of freedom and capitalism. This objection only seems justified. Capitalism is still a great force but socialism is not a lesser one. The problem of freedom in capitalism is still theoretically interesting; but the problem of freedom in socialism is nevertheless newer and more interesting. And regardless of what is more interesting the problem of freedom in socialism is certainly incomparably more important, not only from the standpoint of the internal development of socialism but also from that of the contemporary world as a whole. The development of socialism as a free community of free personalities is the most effective criticism of capitalism.

To those who emphasize the problem of freedom with technology the objection is raised that they uncritically transfer a grave question of capitalism into socialism. "Technology" is a mere instrument which can be dangerous in capitalism, but which becomes "obedient" in socialism. There is something in this objection as well. But the atomic bomb will not start producing edible mushrooms the moment we affix a socialist label to it.



[1] See more about that in E. Fromm's book Escape from Freedom, New York 1941.

[2] K. Marx, F. Engels: Werke, Bd 1, Berlin 1957, p. 60.

[3] K. Marx, F. Engels: Werke, Band I, Berlin 1957, pp. 69-70 (Italics G. Petrović).

[4] K. Marx, F. Engels: Werke, Band I, Berlin 1957, pp. 76-77 (Italics G. Petrović).