Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 117–134 | Cite as

Social Freedom and Commitment

  • Shay Welch


Much of feminist theory takes issue with traditional, liberal theories of consent and obligation. Though none have proposed abandoning obligation outright, there has been a general shift among feminists towards a responsibility paradigm. Responsibility models acknowledge given relationships and interdependence, and so posit responsibilities as given, regardless of whether they are voluntary. But in theories that take freedom as a principal value, a move from a socially unembedded voluntarism to socially embedded responsibility leaves something missing. Constructive accounts of and prescriptions for freedom must consider the reality of social life; yet acknowledging that relations are given need not require subordinating the role of voluntarism and consent in most relationships. In this paper I offer a commitment framework that seeks to supplant obligation while also reconciling relational given-ness and voluntarism. I propose an analysis of commitment that takes relations as the starting point and then show how the concept can: 1. guide actions 2. account for responsibilities 3. enhance freedom and 4. avoid a large share of coercive forces that are believed as necessary for reinforcing obligation and responsibility fulfillment.


Commitment Consent Freedom Social Obligation Responsibility 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Gaius Charles Bolin Fellow in PhilosophyWilliams CollegeWilliamstownUSA

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