"Freedom as Freedom of Choice: A History" by Dr. Sophia Rosenfeld, University of Pennsylvania

The glorification of choice is, today, central to consumer culture and to human rights initiatives alike.  In both domains, choice is closely linked to the idea, even feeling, of freedom.  This talk will explore how, in the modern West, this association came to be, focusing both on the expansion of social practices dependent on choice-making (i.e. voting, shopping) after the age of revolutions and on the constraints and restrictions they entailed.

Dr. Sophia Rosenfeld is Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches European intellectual and cultural history with an emphasis on the Enlightenment, the trans-Atlantic Age of Revolutions, and the legacy of the eighteenth century for modern democracy.  She is the author of A Revolution in Language: The Problem of Signs in Late Eighteenth-Century France (Stanford, 2001); Common Sense: A Political History (Harvard, 2011, and winner of the Mark Lynton History Prize); and Democracy and Truth: A Short History (Penn, forthcoming in 2018).  Her articles and essays have appeared in the American Historical Review, the Journal of Modern History, French Historical Studies, and the William and Mary Quarterly, as well as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Dissent, and The Nation, and she is a former co-editor of Modern Intellectual History.  Currently, she is co-editing (with Peter Struck) a six-volume book series for Bloomsbury on the cultural history of ideas since antiquity and writing a book, to be published by Princeton, on how the idea and practice of choice-making became critical to modern conceptions of freedom.  She was previously Professor of History at the University of Virginia and Yale University and has also been a Guggenheim Fellow and a visiting faculty member at UVA Law School, the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

Sponsored by the Institute for Historical Studies in the Department of History, with generous support from the Center for European Studies. This talk opens the institute’s yearlong “Genealogies of Freedom” research theme in 2018-19.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018 at 4:00pm to 5:30pm

Patton Hall (RLP), 1.302E
305 23RD ST E, Austin, Texas 78712

Event Type

Academics, Arts & Humanities, Business & Economy, Policy & Law, World & Culture, Diversity & Social Justice


All Departments

Target Audience

Students, Faculty, General Public


Free and open to the public.

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