Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Forced to be Free: The Limits of European Tolerance

Liav Orgad (EUI Florence/WZB/IDC Herzliya) will give a short presentation before his paper will be discussed.

The Article addresses a long-established debate in political theory—under which circumstances is it legitimate to force people to be free? Focusing on recent cases in Europe—handshaking, gender-mixed swimming lessons, and burkini ban—the Article reveals two types of moral hypocrisy. At first, there is an increasing appeal to the notion of “forcing people to be free.” This seems counterintuitive and the antithesis of freedom, yet it is often justified based on conformity with the “general will” and the avoidance of self-imposed “harm.” The Article shows the dangerous use of the concepts of general will and harm, and claims that the concept of freedom is employed to legitimize the submission of the minority to the majority culture. It then indicates the double standard of laws and policies in Europe. While religious symbols and ways of life of the majority are first culturalized and then universalized, symbols and ways of life of the minority, even when seen to be cultural, are often religionalized and politicized. This legal façade enables to frame social reality as a direct conflict between universal morality and religious fundamentalism.

Please register by sending an email to: Katrin.Ludwig [at]