On Liberty is a philosophical work by English philosopher John Stuart Mill, originally intended as a short essay. The work, published in 1859, applies Mill's ethical system of utilitarianism to society and the state. Mill attempts to establish standards for the relationship between authority and liberty. He emphasizes the importance of individuality which he conceived as a prerequisite to the higher pleasures-the summum bonum of Utilitarianism. Furthermore, Mill criticised the errors of past attempts to defend individuality where, for example, democratic ideals resulted in the "tyranny of the majority." Among the standards established in this work are Mill's three basic liberties of individuals, his three legitimate objections to government intervention, and his two maxims regarding the relationship of the individual to society "which together form the entire doctrine of [Mill's] Essay." On Liberty was a greatly influential and well received work, although it did not go without criticism. Some attacked it for its apparent discontinuity with Utilitarianism, while others criticised its vagueness. The ideas presented in On Liberty have remained the basis of much liberal political thought. It has remained in print continuously since its initial publication. To this day, a copy of On Liberty is passed to the president of the British Liberal Democrats as a symbol of office. A copy of the same book is also presented to and then held by the resident of the Liberal Party as a symbol of office. Mill's marriage to his wife Harriet Taylor Mill greatly influenced the concepts in On Liberty, which was largely finished prior to her death, and published shortly after she died. According to Mill's Autobiography, On Liberty was first conceived as a short essay in 1854. As the ideas developed, the essay was expanded, rewritten and "sedulously" corrected by Mill and his wife, Harriet Taylor. Mill, after suffering a mental breakdown and eventually meeting and subsequently marrying Harriet, changed many of his beliefs on moral life and women's rights. Mill states that On Liberty "was more directly and literally our joint production than anything else which bears my name." The final draft was nearly complete when his wife died suddenly in 1858. Mill suggests that he made no alterations to the text at this point and that one of his first acts after her death was to publish it and to "consecrate it to her memory." The composition of this piece was also indebted to the work of the German thinker Wilhelm von Humboldt, especially his essay On the Limits of State Action. Finally published in 1859, On Liberty was one of Mill's two most influential books (the other being Utilitarianism). John Stuart Mill opens his essay by discussing the historical "struggle between authority and liberty," describing the tyranny of government, which, in his view, needs to be controlled by the liberty of the citizens. He divides this control of authority into two mechanisms: necessary rights belonging to citizens, and the "establishment of constitutional checks by which the consent of the community, or of a body of some sort, supposed to represent its interests, was made a necessary condition to some of the more important acts of the governing power." Because society was-in its early stages-subjected to such turbulent conditions (i.e. small population and constant war), it was forced to accept rule "by a master." However, as mankind progressed, it became conceivable for the people to rule themselves. Mill admits that this new form of society seemed immune to tyranny because "there was no fear of tyrannizing over self." Despite the high hopes of the Enlightenment, Mill argues that the democratic ideals were not as easily met as expected. First, even in democracy, the rulers were not always the same sort of people as the ruled.
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