Rereading Power and Freedom in J.S. Mill

Rereading Power and Freedom in J.S. Mill

BRUCE BAUM
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 384
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442679269
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  • Book Info
    Rereading Power and Freedom in J.S. Mill
    Book Description:

    Baum recovers lost dimensions of Mill's thought, and in so doing, contributes to a critical sociology of freedom for our our time like workers' co-operatives & women's rights.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7926-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-20)

    In the modern world, the concept of freedom figures prominently in people’s self-understandings – including their hopes and ideals – and in their social and political practices. It is intimately connected to ideas about personhood, citizenship, individuality, responsibility, autonomy, and democracy. Moreover, debates about other political goals, such as social justice, equality, the common good, and even a sustainable environment, typically spark further debates about freedom. Yet while many people affirm the centrality of freedom, they continue to disagree sharply about its meaning and requisite conditions.

    In this study I draw upon John Stuart Mill’s political philosophy to make a...

  6. 1 Mill’s Conception of Freedom
    (pp. 21-44)

    Mill never systematically articulates his guiding view of freedom, not even in his famous essayOn Liberty. Nonetheless, he develops a compelling conception of freedom in such writings asOn Liberty,The Subjection of Women,A System of Logic, andPrinciples of Political Economy. Despite his reputation for defending a negative conception of freedom, Mill develops a richer view: he highlights both positive and negative aspects of freedom and illuminates the complementary relationship between freedom and power. His conception thus differs strikingly from the negative view of freedom as merely the absence of external constraints on people’s efforts to satisfy...

  7. 2 Mill’s Theory of Modern Freedom
    (pp. 45-70)

    Starting with Mill’s conception of freedom, his ongoing and varied inquiries into the conditions of freedom can be brought together as a coherent theory of modern freedom in light of his philosophy of social scientific inquiry. With his philosophy of the social sciences, which he explains inA System of Logic, he connects questions of fact to questions of value and outlines the underpinnings of his ‘social philosophy.’ Through his social philosophy he seeks to explain societal tendencies toward stability or change in relation to the various forms of social power. This sociology of power leads Mill to examine ‘agencies...

  8. 3 The Theory of Social Power
    (pp. 71-102)

    Mill’s previous interpreters have offered little systematic analysis of his understanding of power.¹ This inattentiveness is unfortunate because, although he never systematically analyses power, he continually addresses the topic in a way that is pivotal to his theory of freedom. Moreover, he offers considerable insight into the positive and negative aspects of power and the diverse sources of social power in modern societies. In addition, his attention to the ‘power over human character’ that is wielded by ‘education and opinion’ (U, 218) foreshadows the investigations by more recent radical social theorists, such as Steven Lukes and Michel Foucault, into the...

  9. 4 Education for Freedom
    (pp. 103-133)

    As we have seen, Mill’s conception of freedom contains both psychological and sociological aspects. It encompasses both the cognitive capacity for autonomous thought and action, and the field of social and political relationships in which people develop autonomy and exercise self-determination. Mill views the capacity for free action asa potentialityof all human beings, and as enhanced or stifled in proportion to the development of their faculties of reasoning, deliberation, imagination, judgment, and self-control. For this reason he takes an abiding interest in education ‘in its largest acceptation’ as a means of empowering people for freedom.

    Mill addressed the...

  10. 5 The Principle of Liberty
    (pp. 134-171)

    Mill’s principle of liberty is the best-known component of his theory of freedom. Building upon his conception of freedom and his theories of individual development, social power, and societal development, he presents it as ‘one very simple principle’ for determining ‘the nature and limits of power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual’ (OL, 223, 217). The principle, in short, is that members of a society can rightfully interfere ‘with the liberty of action of any of their number,’ individually or collectively, whether through the force of law ‘or the moral coercion of public opinion,’ only to...

  11. 6 Freedom, Sex Equality, and the Power of Gender
    (pp. 172-198)

    Mill regards gender relations as among the most significant power relationships that govern people’s lives. His bookThe Subjection of Women, published in 1869, can be read as a feminist analysis of how gender relations – relations through which sex differences are given social and political meaning – structure unequally the constraints to and opportunities for freedom that men and women face. He sees prevailing gender relations as relationships of unequal power and unequal freedom that favour men at the expense of women. Moreover, he illuminates how gender relations structure people’s freedom in a distinctive way compared to other power...

  12. 7 Economic Freedom
    (pp. 199-227)

    Mill’s attention to the interplay between freedom and power in the economic sphere is one of the most distinctive features of his liberalism. Most importantly, he regards property – especially ownership and control of the means and instruments of production – as a key source of social power; and he construes economic freedom in terms of the power of individuals, individually and collectively, to direct the course of their economic activities. Mill explains in hisAutobiographythat the ‘criticisms of the common doctrines of Liberalism’ by St. Simonian socialists helped convince him of ‘the very limited and temporary value of...

  13. 8 Political Freedom
    (pp. 228-266)

    Mill’s fame as a proponent of individuality has led some commentators to regard him as a theorist of strictly individual as opposed to political freedom. R.H. Hutton, an early reviewer ofOn Liberty, articulates this charge against Mill as follows:

    The only liberty he would deny to the nation is the liberty to be a nation. He distrusts social and political freedom. There is a depressed and melancholy air about his essay in treating social and political organisms. He thinks strongly that individuals should be let alone, but virtually on the condition that they shall not coalesce into a society...

  14. 9 Mill and the Politics of Freedom
    (pp. 267-278)

    Mill said in a letter to Pasquale Villari near the end of his life that his work ‘lies rather among anticipations of the future than explorations of the past.’¹ Thus, there is considerable irony in the task of recovering his insights into the interplay between freedom and power in the context of contemporary struggles for freedom. In a profound way, his work still anticipates the future, even if he was overly optimistic about trends toward societal ‘improvement.’ His hopes and ideals regarding equality between the sexes, economic freedom, and a vibrant and deliberative form of democratic politics have nowhere been...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 279-324)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 325-350)
  17. Index
    (pp. 351-360)