Views of Karl Marx and John Stuart Mill Essay examples

Good Essays

"None of the supposed rights of man go beyond the egoistic man, man as he is a member of civil society; that is, an individual separated from the community, withdrawn into himself, wholly preoccupied with his private interests and acting in accordance with his private caprice."

Karl Marx, On the Jewish Question

"The only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it."

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

While, after reading the above two quotations, it may appear that Karl Marx and John Stuart Mill take seemingly opposing views on the proper …show more content…

The real truth, however, falls somewhere between these two poles.

Mill on the Individual

Mill wastes no time in articulating the central thesis of On Liberty; he states, "Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign" (69). Mill, then, does not make the individual more important than society, but he separates the individual from society and articulates a realm of existence in which society, or the community, should have no power over the individual. Mill states, "The sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number is self-protection…His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant" (68). Society, therefore, has no right to intervene in the private life of any person, unless they act in such a way that prevents others from enjoying their own rights.

Mill is extremely clear as to why the individual should be sovereign over his or her body and mind—to counter the effects of a possible "tyranny of the majority." Mill states, "It (the majority) practices a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself" (63).

Get Access
Get Access