When Ivo, Bishop of Chartres, wrote to dissuade a canon, living according to the Rule of St. Augustine, from becoming a hermit, he raised the objection that the life of a hermit was a vita voluntaria. By this he did not mean that it was a life voluntarily adopted, but that every detail of the life was at the will of the individual: the life governed by a well-established rule was higher, and essentially freer.
Freedom could only be defined by reference to the law, by which those who were free were governed. Freedom was not a status like serfdom; it was a quality which was attached to the status of all who were not serfs. This quality was the quality of rational order. The mere freeman, with no further qualification, was a man who stood on a zero line: it was not easy to decide on which side he stood, and he could easily be pushed across the line into unfreedom. It was only when the quality of freedom was articulated by being attached to the status of knight, burgess or baron that it could be observed, analysed and measured.
-R.W. Southern, The Making of the Middle Ages. New York: Hutchinson's University Library, 1953. (107-8)
21 July 2011
Quite possibly what freedom looks like in a non-voluntarist society: