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The Hispanic Tradition

Leonard P. Liggio:

"The great Liberal historian, Augustin Thierry, had documented the development in the middle ages of free institutions. Basing himself on the economic theory and political studies of Jean Baptiste Say, Destutt de Tracy, Benjamin Constant, Charles Comte, and Charles Dunoyer, Thierry undertook voluminous researches and publications of the growth of commerce and industry, the emergence of the middle class, and the charters and oath-associations from the eleventh century where by the legal and constitutional rights of the middle class were protected. Thierry's work showed how the individual rights of Europeans were sanctified in the progression of oath-bound associations from the peace of God-Truce of God movements through the town charters and the formation of representative institutions. The memory of this magnificent Classical Liberal historiography was practically lost. But its importance has been emphasized by recent valuable contributions to legal and constitutional scholarship. The most significant contribution has been that of Harvard Law Professor Harold Berman, Law and Revolution: the Formation of the Western Legal Tradition (Harvard University Press, 1983).

Thierry's historical contributions show how rights emerged in the great religious movements of the Peace of God and the Gregorian Reformation, and were consolidated in the oath-bound associations creating town-charters and representative institutions. In the debris of the Carolingian Empire and its tradeless feudal system, there arose commerce, industry, with watermills and windmills and private property in land. The feudal institutions were challenged by the oath-bound associations, usually led by abbots or bishops. Contract and consent became the center of the struggle against the feudal institutions of autarkic economy. In the conflict against feudalism, the emerging market forces of commerce and agriculture created the edifice of medieval legal and constitutional institutions.


The oath-sworn associations, arising from the Peace of God and Truce of God movements in the tenth and eleventh centuries, were led and protected by the Clunic monasteries. The great Abbey of Cluny (north of Lyon) led a religious reform, and then a political reform. Spain and Spanish monasteries were particularly linked to the Abbey of Cluny through the most important of its pilgrimage goals--the shrine in western Spain of Santiago de Compostela. Large numbers of pilgrims, often the people who had participated in the oath-sworn associations which brought self-governing charters and representative institutions to the towns and provinces of France, traveled to Compostela. Massive numbers of the monks who had led these movements made the pilgrimage to Compostela. The Spanish Pyreneean kingdoms were inundated with the information of the representative institutions of town charters and provincial representation in medieval Europe which were expressed in the Fueros. Karen M. Kennelly, C. S. J. (President, Mount St. Mary's College, Los Angeles), "Medieval Towns and the Peace of God", Medievalia et Humanistica (1964), and "Catalan Peace Truce Assemblies," Studies in Medieval Culture (1975); Thomas Bisson, "The Organized Peace in Southern France and Catalonia, c.1140-c.1233," American Historical Review 82 (1977), pp. 290-311; H.E. J. Cowdrey, "The Peace and the Truce of God in the Eleventh Century," Past and Present 46 (1970), pp. 42-67; Georges Duby, "Les laics et la paix de Dieu," I laici nella 'societas christiana' dei secoli XI e XII: Atti della terza settimana internazionale de studio della Mendola, 21-27 Agosto 1965 (Milan, 1968), reprinted in Hommes et structures du moyen age (Paris, 1973) pp. 227-2240, and trans. C. Postan in The Chivalrous Society (Berkeley, 1977), pp. 123-33; and Thomas Head and Richard Landes, eds., Essays on the Peace of God: The Church and the People in Eleventh-Century France, in Historical Reflections (Fall, 1987, volume 14, number 3.)" (


Murray Bookchin:

"Let me stress that in the British and American social tradition, autonomy and freedom are not equivalent terms. By insisting the need to eliminate personal domination, autonomy focuses on the individual as the formative component and locus of society. By contrast, freedom, despite its looser usages, denotes the absence of domination in society, of which the individual is part. This contrast becomes very important when individualist anarchists equate collectivism as such with the tyranny of the community over its members.

Today, if an anarchist theorist like L. Susan Brown can assert that "a group is a collection of individuals, no more and no less," rooting anarchism in the abstract individual, we have reason to be concerned. Not that this view is entirely new to anarchism; various anarchist historians have described it as implicit in the libertarian outlook. Thus the individual appears ab novo, endowed with natural rights and bereft of roots in society or historical development.1

But whence does this "autonomous" individual derive? What is the basis for its "natural rights," beyond a priori premises and hazy intuitions? What role does historical development play in its formation? What social premises give birth to it, sustain it, indeed nourish it? How can a "collection of individuals" institutionalize itself such as to give rise to something more than an autonomy that consists merely in refusing to impair the "liberties" of others -- or "negative liberty," as Isaiah Berlin called it in contradistinction to "positive liberty," which is substantive freedom, in our case constructed along socialistic lines?

In the history of ideas, "autonomy," referring to strictly personal "self-rule," found its ancient apogee in the imperial Roman cult of libertas. During the rule of the Julian-Claudian Caesars, the Roman citizen enjoyed a great deal of autonomy to indulge his own desires -- and lusts -- without reproval from any authority, provided that he did not interfere with the business and the needs of the state. In the more theoretically developed liberal tradition of John Locke and John Stuart Mill, autonomy acquired a more expansive sense that was opposed ideologically to excessive state authority. During the nineteenth century, if there was any single subject that gained the interest of classical liberals, it was political economy, which they often conceived not only as the study of goods and services, but also as a system of morality. Indeed, liberal thought generally reduced the social to the economic. Excessive state authority was opposed in favor of a presumed economic autonomy. Ironically, liberals often invoked the word freedom, in the sense of "autonomy," as they do to the present day.2

Despite their assertions of autonomy and distrust of state authority, however, these classical liberal thinkers did not in the last instance hold to the notion that the individual is completely free from lawful guidance. Indeed, their interpretation of autonomy actually presupposed quite definite arrangements beyond the individual -- notably, the laws of the marketplace. Individual autonomy to the contrary, these laws constitute a social organizing system in which all "collections of individuals" are held under the sway of the famous "invisible hand" of competition. Paradoxically, the laws of the marketplace override the exercise of "free will" by the same sovereign individuals who otherwise constitute the "collection of individuals."

No rationally formed society can exist without institutions and if a society as a "collection of individuals, no more and no less" were ever to emerge, it would simply dissolve. Such a dissolution, to be sure, would never happen in reality. The liberals, nonetheless, can cling to the notion of a "free market" and "free competition" guided by the "inexorable laws" of political economy.

Alternatively, freedom, a word that shares etymological roots with the German Freiheit (for which there is no equivalent in Romance languages), takes its point of departure not from the individual but from the community or, more broadly, from society. In the last century and early in the present one, as the great socialist theorists further sophisticated ideas of freedom, the individual and his or her development were consciously intertwined with social evolution -- specifically, the institutions that distinguish society from mere animal aggregations.

What made their focus uniquely ethical was the fact that as social revolutionaries they asked the key question -- What constitutes a rational society? -- a question that abolishes the centrality of economics in a free society. Where liberal thought generally reduced the social to the economic, various socialisms (apart from Marxism), among which Kropotkin denoted anarchism the "left wing," dissolved the economic into the social.3

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as Enlightenment thought and its derivatives brought the idea of the mutability of institutions to the foreground of social thought, the individual, too, came to be seen as mutable. To the socialistic thinkers of the period, a "collection" was a totally alien way of denoting society; they properly considered individual freedom to be congruent with social freedom and, very significantly, they defined freedom as such as an evolving, as well as a unifying, concept.

In short, both society and the individual were historicized in the best sense of this term: as an ever-developing, self-generative and creative process in which each existed within and through the other. Hopefully, this historicization would be accompanied by ever-expanding new rights and duties. The slogan of the First International, in fact, was the demand, "No rights without duties, no duties without rights" -- a demand that later appeared on the mastheads of anarchosyndicalist periodicals in Spain and elsewhere well into the present century.

Thus, for classical socialist thinkers, to conceive of the individual without society was as meaningless as to conceive of society without individuals. They sought to realize both in rational institutional frameworks that fostered the greatest degree of free expression in every aspect of social life." (

Modelling Freedom in a formal way

Poor Richard:

""Is freedom simply "participation in power” (Marcus Tullius Cicero)? It might depend on the terms... of participation, which might be too constraining. In society as in nature, one's degrees of freedom depend on the balance between external constraints and innate or acquired capabilities such as weaponry, stealth, cunning, camouflage, strength, speed, agility, availability of resources, allies, extent of various dependencies, etc. Promoting and maintaining human emancipation would seem to be a very complex issue that has to be considered in micro and macro, as well as local, regional, and global context. History is ideally a database of specific past examples of the consequences of various behaviors under various conditions. Unfortunately, the recorded history is seldom complete and accurate!"

I think it very germane to the p2p community to try to model "freedom" in a formal way. As I suggested above, I think this begins with some kind of matrix of vectors and "degrees of freedom". At the top level would be things like freedom of association, freedom of movement, freedom of expression, etc. Subordinate to each category would be some list of capabilities, resources and constraints that had a bearing on a given type of freedom.

As long as we try to talk about freedom as one monolithic thing, the way politicians often do, people can easily talk past each other."