John Stuart Mill: Modern political thought
To start before talking about the specific, it must be contextualized about the general. John Stuart Mill is a nineteenth century philosopher. This century was characterized by being a century of revolutions, the great dissemination of the industrial revolution and finally of the consolidation of the power of the bourgeoisie. It is important to mention that it was a time of great social changes since a new salaried rare class appears that works in very low and cruel conditions but, this makes the working class slowly power.
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) was a British economist, politician and philosopher. He was born on May 20, 1806 in London. His father (James Mill) imposed a strict method of study which was about reading economic, political, philosophical and law classics. Because of this, he did not have a childhood as normal as that of other children at that time. After having a decline for so much demand in the study, he begins to raise his own taste in ideas of Comte such as positivism, socialism and romanticism. In 1803, he knows who he will later be his wife, Herriet Taylor, philosopher and feminist which had great influence on his ideals. From 1865 and for three years, he was a member of the British Parliament in the Liberal Party, where he defended the equality of women’s rights, made measures against the less favored classes and raised different reforms to the electoral system. He finally dies in France on May 8, 1873.
After having contextualized the philosopher to work and the time in which his thinking develops, it is now important to mention the problem question that the essay will guide: What are the main contributions of John Stuart Mill to modern political thinking?
First, to get to the problem question answer, certain concepts and ideals of John Stuart Mill must be explained. In one of his main works "about freedom", the British philosopher talks about individual freedom and a responsible government with an efficient and corruption -free administration. For him, freedom is when: "The individual is free to do as much as he wants as long. In addition, social freedom is another important concept and this consists in putting limits to the power of the ruler so that he cannot use it for the benefit of his own interests and make decisions that affect or cause harm to society. And the last freedom that Mill speaks and defends. Each person is free to believe what he wants, but the individual must not defend a belief just because he is true but he must understand what he defends and why what he holds is true. This means that, so they do not like or does not agree with the ideas of others, discussing them will help recognize what is not right in ideas and also be able to look and take into account other points of view.
On the other hand, we must talk about democratic policy since this is a fundamental part of the ethical development of individuals, in addition, political participation and good education are essential for the formation of good citizens. If in a society you do not take into account what is mentioned above will be extended and citizens, without having knowledge, will not be able to put limits, nor can they control the abuse of power. Another characteristic of democracy according to Stuart Mill, is a democracy that respects minorities. The same society must create a mechanism to put a limit to the rulers who only seek their own benefit. In addition, it is important to protect minorities from tyranny, since ideas are imposed only because they are more in number, abusing power but at the same time disrespecting minorities. There must be a cultured minority in society, which manages to perceive an interest in respect for other opinions. For Mill, it is very important to keep in mind that power is not absolute and that exercising power must be limited. The limitation is important and inevitable so that there is no abuse and so that this tyranny is controlled, there must be an opposition that participates and enforces the interests of citizens. The English philosopher presents the right to suffrage and is in favor that everyone has the right to vote, mainly women (feminism). The purpose of his vote is to protect and defend himself from the State and men.
And last but not least John Stuart Mill proposes the principle of utility or utilitarianism. Which is to act in order to achieve mainly happiness for the greatest number of people, that is, the actions will be good if they promote happiness and are bad when they promote the opposite of happiness. For happiness, it can be understood as the absence of pain and pleasure; And unhappiness is the pain and lack of pleasure. To achieve everything mentioned above, people must have freedom in order to decide that they make them truly happy.
To conclude and be able to answer the problem question, the most important contributions of John Stuart Mill to modern political thinking were several aspects. The first, the difference between what is public and what is private. While the public is what must be managed democratically, it means that it is to follow what the majority says, the private is the scope of individual freedom which must be set in a series of rights, but, those rights are not questionable. In what differ the public and the private, it is that the difference does not occur in physical spaces but in symbolic spaces, this means that it is not that the private is what each one does at home and the public in the spaces where others are, but the private is what the individual does without attempting against the rights of others. And the public, everything that the individual who has consequences regarding the rights of the other does. Another contribution is that it is proposed that modern democracy is a democracy mediated by a rule of law and that this must guarantee both individual rights and the rights of minorities.
And as a last contribution is republican liberalism which is the importance of citizens’ participation in public life. As for social liberalism, it is where there must be a state intervention to guarantee social and civil rights. It should be clarified that John Stuart Mill was always a defender of the freedom of individuals, freedom of expression, gender equality and was always in the search for the happiness of most people. Finally, freedom and tolerance are the two most important pillars in a democracy, without those two characteristics, democracy can result in a tyranny.