Freedom and Its Relation to Enslavement
Writer Orlando Patterson describes how the concept of freedom developed in his essay titled The Ancient and Medieval Origins of Modern Freedom. He breaks down the idea of freedom into three parts and claims that freedom “has always been a tripartite complex of beliefs relating to power” (32). The first of the three types of freedom that he describes is called negative freedom, which arises when one is not under the control or power of another person. The second type is positive freedom: the power to do whatever one wants. Finally, the third he calls freedom as participation, which is essentially the notion of belonging as a citizen and of being a part of a democracy.
These three types of freedom did not, however, always go hand in hand; Patterson explains, for instance, that in ancient Greece, and in vast areas of Europe during serfdom, newly freed citizens only experienced negative freedom because it was an “escape from the often abusive power of their overlords” (46). Patterson also posits that the concept of freedom was stimulated by the Christian religion because, as he states, Christianity “was a religion of freedom” (54). Christianity places emphasis on spiritual freedom through Christ’s self-sacrifice for our freedom, “its equation of slavery with sin…and redemption” (31). He rightly believes that there is a strong correlation between freedom and the existence of slavery starting as early as the fifth century BC, and this correlation is what caused the notion and importance of being free.
This connection between liberty and enslavement causes problems for higher-class citizens who are fortunate enough to experience all types of freedom. In his essay, Patterson discusses how highly people value freedom, especially those who are not able to benefit from it. These people—slaves, serfs, etc—will literally do anything for freedom, even if the means it takes to attain it are not in their best interest. They...