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John Stuart Mill and the Antagonistic Foundation of Liberal Politics

  • Brandon P. Turner (a1)

The agonistic critique of liberalism argues that liberal theory unwisely eliminates conflict from the design of liberal-democratic institutions and understandings of liberal citizenship. John Stuart Mill anticipates and resolves the agonistic critique by incorporating several theories of antagonism into his political theory. At the institutional level, Mill places two antagonisms at the center of his political theory: the tension between the popular and bureaucratic elements in representative government, on the one hand, and that between the democratic and aristocratic elements in modern society, on the other. These tensions guarantee the fluidity of the political sphere. At the experiential level, Mill's embrace of antagonism is even more complete, as he argues that even our objectively correct opinions must be ceaselessly contested to become properly ours. The theory that emerges is both agonistic and liberal; further, it calls into question current liberal attitudes concerning conflict and antagonism.

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Robert Devigne , Reforming Liberalism: J. S. Mill's Use of Ancient, Religious, Liberal, and Romantic Moralities (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006)

Honig , “The Politics of Agonism: A Critical Response to ‘Beyond Good and Evil: Arendt, Nietzsche, and the Aestheticization of Political Action’ by Dana R. Villa,” Political Theory 21 (1993): 528–33

Beth E. Warner , “John Stuart Mill's Theory of Bureaucracy within Representative Government: Balancing Competence and Participation,” Public Administration Review 61 (2001): 403–13

Isaiah Berlin , “John Stuart Mill and the Ends of Life,” in Liberty, ed. Henry Hardy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 218–51

Jonathan Riley , “Interpreting Berlin's Liberalism,” American Political Science Review 95 (2001): 283–93

Karen Zivi , “Cultivating Character: John Stuart Mill and the Subject of Rights,” American Journal of Political Science 50 (2006): 4961

Richard Sinopoli , “Thick-Skinned Liberalism: Redefining Civility,” American Political Science Review 89 (1995): 612–20

Jill Gordon , “John Stuart Mill and the ‘Marketplace of Ideas,’” Social Theory and Practice 23 (1997): 235–49

Jennifer Pitts , A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005)

Margaret Kohn and Daniel I. O'Neill , “A Tale of Two Indias: Burke and Mill on Empire and Slavery in the West Indies,” Political Theory 34 (2006):192228

John W. Compton , “The Emancipation of the American Mind: J. S. Mill on the Civil War,” The Review of Politics 70 (2008): 221–44

Bruce Ackerman , “Why Dialogue?Journal of Philosophy 86 (1989): 16

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The Review of Politics
  • ISSN: 0034-6705
  • EISSN: 1748-6858
  • URL: /core/journals/review-of-politics
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