This book explores, within a liberal framework, the nature, significance, and justification of political freedom or liberty ... What underlies rights, and the value of freedom, is a concern with autonomy.
Central to liberalism is the concept of political freedom.
The doctrine of liberty is underpinned by the ideal of autonomy.
Autonomy is an ideal of self-creation, or self-authorship
Autonomy should be distinguished from self-realization, as autonomous persons may choose not to realize their capacities. Autonomy itself, in an environment that supports autonomy, is not similarly optional, as living autonomously is the only way of flourishing within an autonomy-supporting environment.
The ideal of autonomy, together with pluralism, underlies the doctrine of political freedom. Autonomy underlies both positive and negative freedom.
It's interesting that my own analysis of liberalism is condensed here in three brief sentences:
i) Central to liberalism is the concept of political freedom.
ii) The doctrine of liberty is underpinned by the ideal of autonomy.
iii) Autonomy is an ideal of self-creation, or self-authorship
It's gratifying that my own view should parallel that of a major authority on liberalism like Raz. Of course, Raz as a liberal thinks that the logic of liberal belief summarised above leads to positive outcomes, whereas I see it as having created, in practice, highly destructive outcomes.
If the most important good is to be free, and freedom is understood in terms of autonomy, and autonomy is an ideal of self-creation or self-authorship, then the important thing is to be liberated by the removal of impediments to our own self-creation.
We do not self-create those things which we receive as part of a tradition, as part of the embedded nature of reality, or as part of our biology. We don't self-create our sex, our ethnicity, our nationality, the traditional family, inherited moral codes and so on.
We can, on the other hand, self-create our careers, our consumer choices, our travel destinations, our personal amusements, our casual sexual and romantic liaisons etc.
Care to guess then which set of goods is emphasised within liberal society? Obviously, it's the latter. Liberal society does the latter set of goods reasonably well. But it mostly closes off the former set of goods. And the former set of goods are amongst the most significant in life.
It's in this sense that liberalism, despite its intentions, tends to narrow or limit the range of options available to people. Or, more exactly, it trivialises the range of available options. You can choose between dozens of different varieties of iced tea, but you don't get a culture that supports the expression of masculinity, or which upholds the deeper forms of communal identity.