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From David Graeber & David Wengrow’s The Dawn of Everything:

American citizens have the right to travel wherever they like – provided, of course, they have the money for transport and accommodation. They are free from ever having to obey the arbitrary orders of superiors – unless, of course, they have to get a job. In this sense, it is almost possible to say the Wendat had play chiefs and real freedoms, while most of us today have to make do with real chiefs and play freedoms. Or to put the matter more technically: what the Hadza, Wendat or ‘egalitarian’ people such as the Nuer seem to have been concerned with were not so much formal freedoms as substantive ones. They were less interested in the right to travel than in the possibility of actually doing so (hence, the matter was typically framed as an obligation to provide hospitality to strangers). Mutual aid – what contemporary European observers often referred to as ‘communism’ – was seen as the necessary condition for individual autonomy.

I’m not sure if Graeber & Wengrow invent this distinction—I assume not—but distinguishing ‘formal’ freedoms from ‘substantive’ freedoms is helpful. My sense is that the political left in the United States has largely ceded talk of “freedom” to the right; you don’t often (or, at least, I don’t often) encounter arguments for leftist politics on the basis of freedom. But in fact, I think, the left does want “freedom” for people and their proposals can help facilitate such freedom. The difference is the left is less concerned with formal freedom (the concern of the right) than it is with substantive freedom.

This is one piece of Graeber & Wengrow’s work that I really appreciate. They repeatedly stress that American indigenous peoples had a worldview closer to the contemporary US than European Enlightenment thinkers, because American indigenous peoples were concerned with (substantive) freedom. It’s a clever rhetorical move: both the original inhabitants of the American continents and the present inhabitants of the American continents are interested in freedom; the difference is, in what that freedom consists.