Issues pertaining to democracy and freedom have always been

controversial in the contemporary human society. This is especially
considering that a large number of countries have their history carved
in slavery and other horrific events. Needless to say, a large number of
decisions in the American society today are based on democracy and
freedom. However, questions have been raised on whether freedom is a
static concept.
In “Progressive Freedom”, Foner opines that freedom incorporates
different meanings at different times and to different Americans. He
states that the foundations of individualism, as well as q9th century
ideas of liberty have been eroded by life’s increasingly bureaucratic
organization, in which case it was necessary that a new meaning of
liberty is obtained (Foner 140).
In illustrating this point, he explores the varieties of economic
freedoms and states that industrial freedom was founded on empowering
workers to take part in economic decision-making through strong unions
that are free from court injunctions and managerial hostility (Foner
141). American socialism, on the other hand, used economic freedom as
its rallying call stating that socialism would take mankind from the
state of wanting in which coercion was the main technique governing
human relations to one characterized by freedom. Progressives, on their
part, took up the notion that the wage levels should not only be
determined by the laws of supply and demand but also by moral and social
considerations (Foner 144). Progressives, however, took personal freedom
as a male prerogative just as the labor movement strived in a way to
organize female workers while still clinging to the notion that the
living wage was a symbol of manliness, which encompassed the right of an
individual to be a man and exercise the rights of being a free man fully
and freely (Foner 145). Nevertheless, the increasing number of women in
the work force gave rise to feminism where the working woman represented
female emancipation. Feminists opined that the freedom of women would
only be attained via the workplace rather than through being
domesticated. Indeed, they argued that the home was the place for
oppression rather than fulfillment especially considering that
housewives were unproductive parasites rather than protectors of social
virtues or guardians of republics (Foner 145). On the same note,
feminists opined that personal freedom was primarily connected with
economic emancipation. Unfortunately, a large number of women in the
working class were paid peanuts that could only take care of their
subsistence rather than economic freedom. Nevertheless, feminists, in an
attempt to outline the connection between personal freedom and economic
emancipation, stated that working daughters of immigrants had a sense of
independence something that highly patriarchal family structures did not
have.
Foner, in this chapter, presents a significantly comprehensive picture
pertaining to freedom and its basic tenets. Indeed, he seems to have a
proper grasp of the variations and modifications that were visited upon
the concept of freedom in the different parts of the American history.
One of the most striking arguments revolves around the relationship
between personal freedom and economic emancipation, whether it is for
women or men. Nevertheless, questions emerge on whether freedom is
primarily tied to economic wellbeing. This is especially in the case of
housewives who chose to remain at home and tend for their families
rather than go to the workplace. As much as there may be no monetary
value to what they do, it is evident that they allow for immense
savings, which in some way bear some financial aspect.
Works Cited
Foner, Eric. The Story of American Freedom. New York: W.W. Norton,
1998. Print.
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