Mill On Liberty Chapter 1

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  • Created on: 19-06-13 10:33

Mill Chapter 1 Introductory

1.    The four stages of social progress

a.    1st stage refers to classical civilisation in Greece and Rome, whereby the leaders frequently oppressed the population, the leader was not elected by the people hence the leader only served his will and his own interest to remain in power

b.    Liberty during this period meant protection against tyrannical rulers by securing basic rights which meant that they could rebel if the rights were violated

c.    The 2nd stage of social progress is the birth of democratic societies whereby people felt that the state should serve or represent their interests. The rulers were elected temporarily and they reflected the view of the majority (Rousseau and Enlightenment)

d.    This meant that no limit was set on the government’s powers because the state represented the will of the nation

e.    Mill argues that the will of the people needs to be checked otherwise it will be taken over by the will of a few powerful minority who are charismatic enough to argue that they represent the view of the majority- not a true reflection of the view of the majority

f.     The 3rd stage Mill mentions a democratic republic which is the united states and he praises the idea of self governance but says in reality, only a very few have political power (inequality and oppression arises)

g.    The 4th stage of social progress is where Mill argues for a democratic ideal where the will of the people actually matters and minorities and individual’s needs and liberties are not stifled by a majority or powerful elite.

2.    The tyranny of the majority

a.    Prevents society from progressing, stifles individuality, prevents us from being rational and making our own decisions 

b.    Tyranny of the majority can either be in


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