Freedom, Freedom... but What Kind of Freedom?

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Sense of Freedom as Predictors of Preferences for Political Community and Attitudes Towards Democracy


  • Piotr Radkiewicz
  • Krystyna Skarżyńska


In theoretical considerations on democracy freedom is sometimes understood in unconditional and conditional terms. This general distinction underlies I. Berlin's concept of negative and positive freedom, and E. Fromm's concept of 'freedom from' and 'freedom to'. The authors of this paper introduce the concept of extrinsic and intrinsic sense of freedom which is meant to be psychological representation of the philosophical distinction on unconditional and conditional freedom, respectively. An extrinsic freedom results from a lack of external restrictions/barriers, whereas intrinsic freedom is based on the belief that being free means compatibility between one's own actions and preferred values, life goals or worldview. Based on nationwide survey data, the authors show that both forms of freedom are embedded in entirely different basic human values and moral intuitions. Further, it is shown that intrinsic freedom negatively predicts liberal orientation and clearly favors communitarian orientation, whereas extrinsic freedom clearly favors liberal orientation. The authors argue that both forms of experiencing freedom have different effects on support for the principles of liberal democracy. The positive effect of extrinsic freedom is indirect, i.e., entirely mediated by liberal orientation. On the other hand, the effect of intrinsic freedom can be decomposed into three components: a) as a positive direct effect, b) as a positive indirect effect (by strengthening the communitarian orientation), and c) as a negative indirect effect (by weakening the liberal orientation). In conclusion, the consequences of intrinsic and extrinsic freedom are discussed in the light of their relationships with support for democratic principles.