The concept of personal autonomy is central to discussions about democratic rights, personal freedom and individualism in the marketplace. This book, first published in 1986, discusses the concept of personal autonomy in all its facets. It charts historically the discussion of the concept by political thinkers and relates the concept of the autonomy of the individual to the related discussion in political thought about the autonomy of states. It argues that defining personal autonomy as freedom to act without external constraints is too narrow and emphasises instead that personal autonomy implies individual self-determination in accordance with a chosen plan of life. It discusses the nature of personal autonomy and explores the circumstances in which it ought to be restricted. In particular, it argues the need to restrict the economic autonomy of the individual in order to promote the value of community.
1. Introduction 2. Personal Autonomy: A Character Ideal 3. Personal Autonomy: Intrinsic Value 4. Personal Autonomy: External Obstacles 5. Personal Autonomy: Internal Obstacles 6. Limiting Autonomy: Harm to Self 7. Limiting Autonomy: Harm or Offence to Others 8. Limiting Autonomy: Economic Relations 9. Conclusion