I wish to thank John Christian Laursen, Daniel O'Connor, Elizabeth Wingrove, and anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and criticism, and the late Richard Ashcraft for igniting my interest in Mill's political economy.
Labor, Democracy, Utility, and Mill's Critique of Private Property
Article first published online: 3 DEC 2004
American Journal of Political Science
Volume 49, Issue 1, pages 135–149, January 2005
How to Cite
Medearis, J. (2005), Labor, Democracy, Utility, and Mill's Critique of Private Property. American Journal of Political Science, 49: 135–149. doi: 10.1111/j.0092-5853.2005.00115.x
- Issue published online: 3 DEC 2004
- Article first published online: 3 DEC 2004
Scholars have long debated whether John Stuart Mill became a socialist, as he claimed in hisAutobiography. This article strengthens the case that he did, ironically, by examining Mill's longstanding adherence to a labor-based justification for private property in means of production. Even while he developed sharp criticisms of capitalist property relations based on democratic principles of individuality and freedom, Mill held on to this labor justification, which partly offset his growing socialist sympathies. But relatively late in life, Mill reconsidered and discarded the labor justification and began to argue for a more explicit utilitarian analysis of the relevant questions, thus bolstering the importance of his democratic critiques of the system of private property. A recognition of the slow gestation of Mill's views on the labor justification enriches our understanding of his thought on socialism versus capitalism and provides an insight into how he applied utilitarianism in a practical context.