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Lecture 3

Classic Conservatism & Mill's "On Liberty" (Week 3)

2 Pages

Political Science
Course Code
Margaret Kohn

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POLC78 – Week 3 – 25/09/2012 What is modern conservatism? - Emphasizes civil society and intermediary organizations (family, church, etc) - Nostalgia for aspects of feudalism (decentralized but still hierarchical; critique of democracy as despotic). - Importance of tradition (“When it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change.”) - Prejudice (not reason) - Incompatibility of liberty and equality. - Positive view of hierarchy Tensions in Conservatism - Role of the state: Early conservatism was more hierarchical than contemporary conservatism; thought of elites as being able to lead the people. The state no longer signifies the same things as it used to, as a tool of the masses, and therefor lead conservatives to react negatively to state interventionism and redistribution. - Role of the economy: Early conservatives (particularly Burke) were not supportive of the free market and economists like contemporary conservatives are. The new industrialists were a source of at least change (if not chaos), disrupting the social order. Today the business elite are the social elite, not oppositional to the aristocratic elite of old; economics becomes a means of hierarchy and elitism to be supported by contemporary conservatives. John Stuart Mill - Son of James Mill, a prominent utilitarian. Always engaged in reform projects, particularly education to the end of ridding pedagogy. - Extremely rigorous home schooling - Mental breakdown in early adulthood, which he described as because of the intense training in rationality which he had leading to a lack of emotion and empathy. He was a reformer without the emotional impetus to drive him. Turned towards romanticism afterwards. - Career for life in the East India Company, in which he was eventually promoted to the highest position. Although he wrote about self-government, he was very active in keeping colonial control over India. - Lifelong friendship and eventual marriage to Harriet Taylor. On Liberty - Civil or social liberty: the nature and limits of power that can be legitimately exercised by society of the individual (592) - Previously “liberties” limited the power of oppressive governments - In a democracy, the main threat to liberty is the tyranny of the majority. - Tyranny of the majority can be exercised in civil society (IE some towns in the States, one can't get a job without being evangelical because jobs are mostly gained through networks) as well as by the state. - Mill argues against those who assume the liberty of individuals as natural. Does so through utility to not just the person but to the state. Factors that tend to limit the principle of liberty - Feelings/prejudices (596) - Class interests (595) - Intolerance is natural (596). Firstly, because people are not that critical of their own views. Secondly, there tends to be an assumption that the view of the
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