From No Subject - Encyclopedia of Psychoanalysis
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LIBERAL FREEDOM I do claim that what is sold to us today as freedom is something from which this more radical dimension of freedom and democracy has been removed — in other words, the belief that basic decisions about social development are discussed or brought about involving as many as possible, a majority. In this sense, we do not have an actual experience of freedom today. Our freedoms are increasingly reduced to the freedom to choose your lifestyle. You can even choose your ethnic identity up to a point. But this new world of freedom described by people like Ulrich Beck, who say everything is a matter of reflective negotiation, of choice, can include new unfreedom. My favourite example is this, and here we have ideology at its purest: we know that it is very difficult today in more and more professional domains to get a long-term job. Academics or journalists, for example, now often live on a two- or three-year contract, that you then have to renegotiate. Of course, most of us experience this as something traumatising, shocking, where you can never be sure. But then, along comes the postmodern ideologist: 'Oh, but this is just a new freedom, you can reinvent yourself every two years!' The problem for me is how unfreedom is hidden, concealed in precisely what is presented to us as new freedoms. I think that the explosion of these new freedoms, which fall under the domain of what Michel Foucault called 'care of the self', involves greater social unfreedom. Twenty or 30 years ago there was still discussion as to whether the future would be fascist, socialist, communist or capitalist. Today, nobody even discusses this. These fundamental social choices are simply no longer perceived as a matter to decide. A certain domain of radical social questions has simply been depoliticised. I find it very sad that, precisely in an era in which tremendous changes are taking place and, indeed entire social coordinates are transformed, we don't experience this as something about which we decided freely.