Such a concept as freedom has many different definitions depending on the field of study. The most basic and widespread description of this phenomenon is the understanding of freedom as independence from the desires and opinions of other people. This research paper aims to compare and contrast the understanding of this phenomenon concerning the economy. The main figures whose views will be considered are Marx and Arndt. Arendt’s works such as “On Revolution” and “What is Freedom?” were taken as the basis for this scientific paper, and “Selected Writings” was taken from the works of Karl Marx. All of them provided insight into the opinion of the authors and helped to understand their reasoning more. These philosophers represent two different points of view and ideas from each other, which is of particular interest and value for study.
Therefore, the main difference between the concept of freedom in relation to Marx’s economy is the understanding that freedom is determined by self-actualization. In addition, Marx’s vision has a more centralized approach to the individual, which is helpful for society. On the other hand, Arendt defines freedom as worldly and eruptive action and focuses on the contribution of this phenomenon to society (Arendt “What is Freedom?” 145). Already based on this information, different perceptions of the concept of freedom of two philosophers can be identified.
Marx’s Concept of Freedom’s Relationship to Economics
Karl Marx is one of the most prominent political figures who has made a significant contribution to various spheres of society. Thus, the philosopher paid much attention to politics and actively supported communist views (Bloch 3). His principal works were The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital, in which Mark described the foundations of his vision, which later became known as Marxism. The German philosopher’s concept of freedom also had a significant contribution, as it attracted great attention for its opposition to liberal concepts. Karl Marx believed that the state should not completely control the economy and regulate every individual’s life in society. Thus, this phenomenon consists in changing the place so that the government obeys society.
The crucial aspect that caused the most significant amount of confusion was the fact that Marx’s concept of freedom called into question the central values of individualistic freedom of liberalism. Hence, for the thinker, freedom was created in the ability of a person to control the environment and social forces (Marx 98). In addition, this understanding was closely associated with capitalism, which was characterized by the organization of freedoms. This was since the work was carried out under strict monitoring of dominant persons. The freedom of people is limited by the aristocracy; thus, unfree individuals occupy a rather critical position and occupy a fundamental part of human self-development.
Despite the fact that at first glance, work is not a forced measure, in fact, employees are obliged to work. This is since there is a need for finances that can provide them with a comfortable life. It also affects access to essential aspects such as food, clothing, and a place to stay. Thus, workers are obliged to work for capitalists and are dominated by impersonal market forces. Consequently, the interrelation of individual freedom in relation to the economy is reflected. Moreover, Marx defines that manufactured goods have power over workers, in the sense that their ability to live a comfortable life depends on them.
Arendt’s Concept of Freedom’s Relationship to Economics
The political theorist Hannah Arendt had a different point of view on freedom within the framework of economics. The thinker is best known for being the creator of works on such topics as the political revolution and criticism of the totalitarian system of government (Fehér 2). According to Arendt, freedom consists of peaceful actions that, if necessary, can cause extraordinary consequences. People do not have a complete idea of what freedom of action and life is until they themselves feel it. Therefore, the philosopher directly linked this phenomenon with the revolution and the ability of people to free themselves. This was also effective because revolution implies the overthrow of the old charter, and freedom consists in the creation of a new one.
As an example of the manifestation of the phenomenon of freedom and liberation, Ardent cites such significant revolutions as the French and American (Ardent “On Revolution” 23). Thus, the philosopher notes that the first one carried the character of liberation, which came from the poor. In this regard, the parallelism between the concept of freedom and the economic state is visible, which only hindered its provision. The American Revolution was based on the concept of freedom to change the situation in the country. In this case, people were also in an unsatisfied position with respect to the economy. In relation to the American Revolution, the thinker also emphasizes that freedoms that are conditioned by the need for freedom in the presence of needs and fear are negative. This is due to the fact that they do not represent the true essence of the phenomenon under study, which consists in participating in the change and reformation of society. This is the concept of unlimited actions of people.
In conclusion, this work compared the opinions about freedom in relation to the economy. The research was based on the works of such great philosophers, political theorists, and historical figures as Karl Marx and Hannah Arendt. At the end of the analysis of the main provisions of the theories of researchers, it can be concluded that the view of the problem of Marx can be considered more convincing. This is because everyone is under the yoke of the economy, and the quality of life they will lead depends only on individuals. Hence, people independently create the conditions for this, and the positive contribution from such activities also affects the economy. Arendt, in contrast, considered the concept of freedom as an opportunity to bring changes to society and the state.
The thinker considers freedom separately from economics, believing that its main essence lies in the reformation. Moreover, Arendt emphasizes that people’s freedom is limited by need. However, from Marx’s point of view, revolution cannot lead to the desired results while poverty plays a tremendous economic and political importance in the world. Therefore, to destroy this phenomenon, it is important to overthrow the elite and the political system that dominates the lower classes. Because of such economic superiority, freedom is unworthy for the majority of society since their life directly depends on their financial condition. In conclusion, we can say that according to Marx, freedom begins where the domination of labor is limited, which includes need and external expediency.
Arendt, Hannah. What is Freedom?. Between Past and Future, Viking, 2006, pp. 143-171.
—. On Revolution. Penguin Books, 1990.
Bloch, Ernst. On Karl Marx. Verso Books, 2018.
Fehér, Ferenc. “Freedom and the “Social Question” (Hannah Arendt’s Theory of the French Revolution)”. Philosophy & Social Criticism, vol. 12, 1987, pp. 1 – 30.
Marx, Karl. Selected Writings. Oxford University Press, 2000.