Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Book Notes: John Stuart Mill

So, I am about halfway through John Stuart Mill: Victorian Firebrand, the new biography by Richard Reeves, and I still do not know if JSM was the Father of Libertarianism or the Father of Socialism. That's quite a philosophical conundrum! Individualism and collectivism are both central to his thinking. We'll see if these two theories can be reconciled before the end of the book. Some of my confusion may be the way Reeves uses terms such as "liberal," "progressive," and the like with their contemporary meanings when they had a different meaning back then. For example, the "radical reformers" Mill supported wanted a more laissez faire economy to encourage industrialization, while the "conservatives" thought industry was bad and wanted a return to nature. These definitions seem topsy turvey now. Hopefully I'll be able to make heads or tails out of all this so I can write my review for The Internet Review of Books. It's due for the October edition.


  1. I found this to be true of my Dad. He was a registered Democrat, but he sounded like a tried and true Republican (and I think he voted that way). I was a bit confused until I realized that he was a Democrat of the Middle American 40s/50s/60s kind which seems to be quite different from today's Democrats. Ever since realizing this, I've been careful to note who is speaking/writing and what date is on the speech/book!

  2. Good tip! It's funny how labels change -- even within a relatively short period of time. Good to keep semantics in mind when reading about politics.


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