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Freedom: From Collectivist to Individualist Structures and Realities

19 min read

The Nature of Freedom

All of this reflection on music and societal patterns leads to a fundamental question that I have been pondering since listening to old and new classical music and listening to the calls emanating from an Istanbul minaret. My question is: what is true freedom? Is freedom something more or something else than the absence of imposed structure and standards? Can freedom be found in a society that also holds some standards? Is there a religious freedom (or liberation) to be found in the shared practices of those living in a sacred world? Is there such a thing as communitarianism (a term used by George Lodge) that provides a balance between individual rights and collective responsibility—or is this just an idealistic fiction that soon falls apart midst the reality of contemporary polarized politics and religious zealotry?

These questions and a host of similarly-oriented questions reside at the heart of a series of essays to be produced by the Freedom Project that is operating at The Professional School of Psychology, where I serve as President. Some of these essays are based on writing I did while spending time in Estonian during the early 90s when the Soviet Union was collapsing. My time in this remarkable country, culminated in a book, Freedom, that I co-authored with my colleague, Berne Weiss, who was living though a similar transformation in Hungary. Other essays have been prepared by students and faculty at my graduate school who come from countries throughout the world. Each of these essays focuses on one or more aspects of freedom and addresses the fundamental issue of balancing individualism and collectivism.

At a basic level, freedom seems to have something to do with standards that are or are not imposed on or inculcated in the hearts, minds and lives of citizens living in a specific society. Given this contextual perspective on freedom, a series of additional questions emerge. Can people from different societies, with different opportunities for freedom, readily appreciate each other’s world? Can they easily collaborate in our new global work space? If they were suddenly transported into our 21st Century world, could Haydn and Mozart live comfortably beside and collaborate with minimalists such as Adams and Gorecki—or would they long for and revert to shared musical standards? Would Haydn or Mozart begin composing music with their own distinctive style applied to each of their compositions? After all, these two 18th Century composers played a major role in setting the musical standards that remained in place for almost a century in the world of Western classical music. Are standard bearers often free from their own standards. Does their freedom lead to the loss of freedom among those who follow in their footsteps? Stay tuned . . .

Next Steps

With this brief introduction to the elusive and complex topic of freedom, I wish to begin introducing you to other essays that are products of the work being done by doctoral students enrolled at The Professional School of Psychology or products of the Freedom Project at PSP. I provide links to these essays below. I feel confident that you will find these essays to be thought-provoking and quite timely given the postmodern world in which we are all now living.

Freedom, Loneliness and Big Business

Xiaoyun (Sharon) Ma offers a powerfully insightful analysis of ways in which loneliness can be leveraged in the creation of a multi-trillion dollar business in China.

How to Turn Loneliness Into a Multi-Trillion Dollar Business

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