James Mill - Research Paper Example

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The paper "James Mill" argues that Mill viewed the commercialization of society as a means of politically and socially liberalizing the remnants of feudal society. Though he believed that individual happiness was tied to material comfort to some extent…
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James Mill
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Download file to see previous pages Understanding Mill's advocacy of commerce as a response to the specific conditions of nineteenth-century Britain underscores important aspects of his work that are often overlooked. Mill's assessment of the social benefits of the market is considerably more cautious and skeptical than is often understood in "economic" interpretations of his utilitarianism. He is often mistaken for a theorist who thought that social sentiments were irrelevant to human happiness. Mill negatively assessed social sentiments because in this context the predominant social sentiments were aimed at maintaining deference to ascribed social status. He also believed that if social sentiments were egalitarian, they contributed positively to human happiness. Indeed, what is most often overlooked is that Mill was critical of an excessive preoccupation with interests. He believed that the esteem of others was a critical part of human happiness and that it was undesirable to pursue interests to the exception of cultivating affective ties. From a contemporary perspective, it is important to understand that Mill's theory in favor of the market had a specific historical reference to the conditions of nineteenth-century Europe. For that reason, his theory does not provide a normative basis for economic liberalization today in any straightforward way. We ought to understand the early history of capitalism as a specific ideological response to the shortcomings of traditional societies-not just in economics but in basic social and political values....
He is often mistaken for a theorist who thought that social sentiments were irrelevant to human happiness. Mill negatively assessed social sentiments because in his context the predominant social sentiments were aimed at maintaining deference to ascribed social status. He also believed that if social sentiments were egalitarian, they contributed positively to human happiness. Indeed, what is most often overlooked is that Mill was critical of an excessive preoccupation with interests. He believed that the esteem of others was a critical part of human happiness, and that it was undesirable to pursue interests to the exception of cultivating affective ties. From a contemporary perspective, it is important to understand that Mill's theory in favor of the market had a specific historical reference to the conditions of nineteenth-century Europe. For that reason, his theory does not provide a normative basis for economic liberalization today in any straightforward way. We ought to understand the early history of capitalism as a specific ideological response to the shortcomings of traditional societies-not just in economics, but in basic social and political values. Commerce was recommended by early nineteenth century utilitarians as a means for bringing about conditions in which a transition to liberal democracy could be realized. Market society's focus on economic interests would increase the expectations of the traditionally poor majority. The legitimacy of the disproportionate material benefits enjoyed by the traditional oligarchy would wane. This would erode the hierarchical social sentiments that supported the power of the oligarchy. This created the historical possibility of reforming social sentiments in an ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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