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The Ends of Autonomy

The Past, Present and Future of Freedom

This research project analyses how new social, scientific and technological realities are changing our understanding of freedom, and explores how we can develop new accounts of freedom that empower citizens to make informed decisions about their liberty. The dominant modern concept of individual autonomy was not designed for today’s world of extremism, surveillance, big data, climate change and global public health, all of which complicate its emancipatory axis of oppression and liberation. Yet a sense that we have been freed from past oppressions remains fundamental to our self-construction as individuals and to the collective identity of modern Western societies.

Funded by a Monash-Warwick Alliance Catalyst Award, this project brings together a cross-disciplinary group of researchers from the arts, humanities and social sciences to investigate how concepts of freedom have developed historically and to consider whether they can and should continue to change in response to emerging social challenges and if so, how. Two two-day public colloquia were held in 2020 and will be followed up by an edited volume of selected papers. You can view recordings of some of the papers here: