What is Freedom?

We usually think that slavery is something that exists in dichotomy with Freedom. But what does Freedom mean? In explaining this, Dr. Jonathan Brown inverts Rousseau’s famous line about man’s natural state of Freedom “Man is born in chains, but everywhere he thinks himself free”. Almost no human being is free of dependence on others and on society as a whole. Almost everyone if forced to work in order to earn wages in order to buy food and shelter.

At a theoretical level, how do we understand freedom roots from our understanding of the history of Rome, where free was a legal category of citizens of a democratic state. A free person was autonomous, at liberty to do whatever he or she wanted unless the law prohibited. Everyone else was a slave. But even in classical times, this legal definition of freedom was no more than a rhetorical argument. Since in reality, few people of Greece and Rome, very few people were free from this definition, almost everyone was constrained by most powerful economic, social and even legal bonds. This theory of freedom only applies to liberal democracy however in autocracy; almost no one is free by this definition.

Dr Jonathan Brown Slavery blogs point out that the word freedom exists on a single plain. It is often relation expanding and contracting depending on the relationships in question. In the ancient and medieval Mediterranean rule both in Europe and Islamic organizations, a slave’s intense subordination was not absolute, he or she was subordinated to his or her master not society as a whole. SO Roman masters used slaves to run their shops and to be the public faces of their businesses. Negotiating and arguing with countless free customers and contractors on a daily basis. A slave was not the lowest rung of the ladder on the streets of Rome or Constantinople or Istanbul. If the master was a powerful or wealthy person the slave enjoyed and shared that status. The status of the slave depended on the status of the master. If the master enjoyed a prominent status in the society, the slave demanded the same right through his master’s influence.