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Brownlee, Kimberley. Freedom of Association: It’s Not What You Think
2015, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 35 (2):267-282
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Added by: Deryn Mair Thomas

This article shows that associative freedom is not what we tend to thinkit is. Contrary to standard liberal thinking, it is neither a general moral permissionto choose the society most acceptable to us nor a content-insensitive claim-rightakin to the other personal freedoms with which it is usually lumped such asfreedom of expression and freedom of religion. It is at most (i) a highly restrictedmoral permission to associate subject to constraints of consent, necessity andburdensomeness; (ii) a conditional moral permission not to associate provided ourassociative contributions are not required; and (iii) a highly constrained, contentsensitive moral claim-right that protects only those wrongful associations thathonour other legitimate concerns such as consent, need, harm and respect. Thisarticle also shows that associative freedom is not as valuable as we tend to think itis. It is secondary to positive associative claim-rights that protect our fundamentalsocial needs and are pre-conditions for any associative control worth the name.

Comment: This paper offers a novel account of associative freedom, which counters existing philosophical consensus in the literature and proposes an account grounded in more positive claim-rights that we have as human beings to hold intimate associations throughout our lives. As such, it could be included in a course exploring the fundamentals of social philosophy, as a way to explore the basic requirements we have for social resources, as well as the rights/freedoms/obligations/duties that surround those requirements. It could also be useful as a core text in more traditional topic areas like political theory, human rights, or basic freedoms, or further reading as a counterposition to more traditional claims in those areas.

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