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3. John Stuart Mill

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the contribution to liberalism of John Stuart Mill (1806-73), focusing in particular on: (i) Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (1835) and the concept of the ‘tyranny of the majority’, which was picked up by Mill; (ii) the influence of Mill’s father, James Mill, and Jeremy Bentham on his political thinking, and the impact of his relationship with Harriet Taylor; (iii) Mill’s On Liberty (1859) and its “one very simple principle”, the idea that individuals should be free to do anything except harm other individuals; (iv) Mill’s arguments in defence of liberty of thought and action; and (v) the application of Mill’s arguments during the debate over the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England in the 1960s.


In this course, Professor Jeremy Jennings (King’s College, London) provides an overview of Liberalism from its origins to the present day. In the first module, we provide a broad introduction to liberalism as a political philosophy, focusing in particular on its origins in the sixteenth century and its evolution between the seventeenth and twenty-first centuries. In the second module, we look more closely at the development of liberalism in the 17th and 18th centuries, focusing in particular on the works of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Mary Wollstonecraft. In the third module, we think about the contribution to liberalism of John Stuart Mill, before turning in the fourth module to the application of liberalism to the economic sphere. In the fifth module, we think about the emergence of new liberalism at the beginning of the twentieth century, focusing especially on the work of John Maynard Keynes, J. A. Hobson, and Leonard Hobhouse, before turning in the sixth module to consider the development of liberalism in the post-war period and the works of Raymond Aron, Karl Popper, Isaiah Berlin and (especially) Friedrich Hayek. Finally, in the seventh module, we focus on one of the most important work of political philosophy in the last fifty years – John Rawls’ Theory of Justice.


Jeremy Jennings is Professor of Political Theory at King's College, London. His research focuses upon the history of political thought in France. He is presently finishing a book provisionally entitled Travels with Tocqueville and is acting as co-editor of the Cambridge Encyclopedia of French Thought. A larger, long-term project is to write a history of the concept of liberty.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Jennings, J. (2020, February 11). Liberalism - John Stuart Mill [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Jennings, J. "Liberalism – John Stuart Mill." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 11 Feb 2020,