Three Books That Will Change Your Perspective On The Concept Of Freedom
I recently shared a list of three books to read this quarter. The selections were all management books from world-renowned management gurus, hot off the press. Now, I’m pivoting to a new range of books about freedom. Three particular books I read recently really recalibrated my idea of, and perspective on, freedom in general—but also on freedom in the workplace. And I would recommend them to all who are interested. Here’s a little overview of each one.
Magnificent Rebels by Andrea Wulf
Seriously. How could I not recommend a book with such a title?!
In this superb biography that is well-researched and elegantly written, Andrea Wulf takes you all the way back to 1790 in a small, quiet German university town called Jena. There, we find the Jena Set, a group of rebels consisting of philosophers, poets, writers, and scientists (think Goethe, Hegel, and von Humboldt).
Together, they start a revolution. No, not with guns, but with radical ideas. They forever change how we think about such concepts as the self, free will, and the true meaning of freedom. At least they did for me.
The Dawn of Everything by David Graeber & David Wengrow
This book by David Wengrow and the late David Graeber is a pretty long read. And a radical and bold read. As the book's subtitle describes, they write 'a new history of humanity.'
The book liberates us from the familiar stories about our human past. In fact, it rewrites it. The authors show that our ancestors did not necessarily rely on hierarchy and domination but instead were able to build and sustain highly egalitarian societies—and do so at scale.
The book fundamentally changed my understanding of our human past and offered me many new paths and ideas about forms of freedom and highly egalitarian ways of organizing.
I hope it will for you too.
Anarchic Solidarity by Thomas Gibson & Kenneth Sillander
This book, by a group of anthropology researchers, was recommended to me as a tip from fellow contributor Perttu Salovaara. It describes and analyzes a group of Southeast Asian societies that all organize themselves in a way that strongly emphasizes personal autonomy, political egalitarianism, and group solidarity.
This combination of these three elements makes these societies both unique and utterly fascinating. Because for many, the concept of radical equality in their organization seems to be just some far-fetched utopian ideal, but the described societies prove that these utopias are more within reach than we may think.
The book captures many mechanisms and practices that enable these societies to sustain viable organizational forms of “anarchic solidarity,” relying on individual freedom and coordination without needing a formal hierarchy. And that’s certainly something we can all learn from.