Individual freedom which is referred to as individualism is basically the
relationship between the concept of freedom and the concept of autonomy.
Autonomy means the right to govern oneself. Individual freedom in general terms
means the freedom that a person has to express themselves, and in appearing
equal before a court of law. It includes basic rights such as the right of
assembly, the freedom of press, of security and liberty and of privacy. It means
that every individual who is part of a society has the freedom to act according
to his own will without coercion from any external source.
The reason why individual freedom is considered to be essential is because
freedom is a natural requirement of humans. From birth, each individual has the
ability to control his or her own actions or at least aims to seek autonomy to
be able to have control over his own behaviour.
Civil society is a separate entity from government and business enterprises and
includes family and private sphere. Civil society comprises of organisations
that are dissociated with the government and includes educational institutions,
professional and cultural institutions. This civil society is also self reliant
and self generation upto a certain extent.
Another interpretation of civil society is that it is the voluntary
participation of citizens and doesn’t consist of any behaviour promulgated by
Civil society is essential for strengthening democracy and also for facilitating
resolution of conflict. Civil society groups should maintain their independence
even if they associate with a political party. One role of civi societies is to
curb the arbitrary power of the state. Civil societies must keep a check on how
power is used and misused by state officials and should work towards preventing
abuse of power. Civil societies also promote political participation in the form
of NGOs spreading awareness and information about voting in elections and
attending election campaigns and rallies. Another step which can be taken by
civil society to further strengthen the democratic form of government is to
inform the public of important public issues.
Civil society tends to focus on democracy, stability and prosperity. The civil
society may not always be able to safeguard values that currently apply in the
community. However, the civil society can attempt to modify the political system
prevalent in the society today.
Role Of Civil Society In Democracy
Civil society ensures good governance by helping in reducing the number of human
rights violations and advocating for the rights to the the weaker sections and
the minorities. It insists on accountability by the government for its actions
and insists on efficiency, equitability and inclusivity. It follows the rule of
law and takes steps to minimise corruption.
Limitations on arbitrary power of the State
One important role of civil society is to curb misuse of power by the state
while simultaneously preserving their own individual freedom. Members of civil
society should keep a check on how power is being used and misused by state
officials. Awareness should be made regarding abuse of power. Advocacy should be
done for access to information. Citizens should be made aware of their rights
and duties and traditionally oppressed sections of the society should be
encouraged to utilise their rights and powers.
Increasing Political Participation
One of the primary functions if civil society is to try and increase the
participation of ordinary citizens in politics. One of the most effective ways
to bring about political participation is through the efforts of NGOs, which can
make people aware through various form of education and spreading awareness such
as free seminars, and door to door dispersal of information. NGOs can work
toward spreading the information regarding the importance to vote. They can
encourage citizens to attend political campaigns and election rallies and to
exercise their right in choosing a government of their choice.
Development of Democratic Values
The three most important values of democracy which have been prevalent since the
emergence of democracy are Libery, Equality and Justice. Other essential values
of democracy which should be protected by civil society are free and fair
elections, tolerance, accommodation et cetera.
Spread information regarding prevalent public issues
This role can be done by educational institutions, social media, mass media as
well as NGOs. They can work towards spreading awareness and information about
ongoing issues such as social and political issues which concern citizens and
the society at large.
Importance Of Individual Freedom
Freedom is a basic instinct of human being. It is essential for their holistic
personality development as well as overall well being. Freedom is inherent to
our nature since we are born with it. This isn’t given to us by any governmental
authority but we have these by virtue of being born as humans.
It is imperative to have access to basic rights and freedoms such as that of
movement, expression, security. This expedites the process of putting a system
of check on authority and governance in an attempt to ensure what is right and
beneficial for the citizens of a nation.
The concept of individual freedom must be in accordance with social standards
and must work in consonance with responsibility. “With great freedom comes great
responsibility.” This ca rightly be put to use in the context of individual
freedom, social responsibility and civil society. Since freedom implies
responsibility considering that they’re both sides of the same coin.
Responsibility in turn leads to a feeling of social responsibility which creates
a compulsion in the minds of citizens towards ensuring guarantee of rights such
a human rights especially for the weak and the vulnerable, optimum utilisation
of resources while concurrently ensuring minimum misuse.
The pattern is similar across the globe. Most countries vouch for a fair
judiciary, free media, competent elections, right to speak and to express
oneself and that of being able to practice the religion of their choice.
The Correlation Between Individual Freedom And Civil Society
A recap of individual freedom would be the various rights which are guaranteed
to citizens of India by the Constitution such as protection of life and personal
liberty, freedom of expression and the right to an education among others.
Freedom must be in accordance with the well being of the society. Freedom must
not be absolute and there are limitations to the amount of freedom which can be
exercised by an individual.
Rights exist keeping in mind the societal perspective and not the individual
perspective since the rights of one cannot compromise the rights of others.
Hence exercise of individual freedom must not be detrimental for the society.
Individual freedom is the necessity of every every human and must be utilised in
the best way in order to extract maximum benefits. Society on the other hand
helps in ensuring that individual freedom is only being used in the positive
manner and for welfare purposes.
One opinion is that people must not interfere with a person’s individual liberty
and freedom unless their behaviour violates the spirit of the Indian
Constitution. Society places restriction on freedom in order to curb the misuse
of freedom and to prevent it from being used in the wrong way.
The freedom of individuals cannot be curbed unless that freedom interferes with
the societal point of view regarding what is correct and what is incorrect.
However, interference of society is integral when exercise of an individual’s
freedom or liberty has a pernicious effect on the overall society. In such a
scenario, intrusion becomes indispensable and the society must interfere to
millet the right of the particular citizen by utilising various constitutional
provision or laws.
Sometimes, this allowance given to the society to control irrational individual
freedom leads to inexplicable and unlawful curbing of the liberties of a person
which is arbitrary in nature and goes against the spirit of a heathy functioning
democracy. This must be avoided for a properly functioning democratic country.
Through this research paper, I have tried to explain what is mean by civil
society and individual freedom in terms to two separate entities and what they
mean together. I have always aimed at explaining how the two function together
while maintaining a check on each other and how it is integral for the proper
functioning to both.
Individual freedom guarantees a well balances civil society and civil society in
turn world toward healthy exercise of individual freedom such that it doesn’t
put the society to a risk.
I would like to end by saying that both are essential to each other and go hand
in hand. One is incomplete without the other.