Although long debated, the concept of personal liberty went without codification until the publication of John Mill’s treatise On Liberty in 1859. The author’s resolute dedication to the cause of freedom inspired this breakthrough work, which the concept remains well known and studied until present. This inexpensive new edition, offers students of political science and philosophy, one of the most influential studies on the nature of individual liberty and its role in a democratic society.
Mill, a British economist and philosopher, focus on the so-called Civil or Social Liberty, which contrary to the Liberty of the Will or freedom of choice, refers to the nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual. Mill addresses questions relating to the boundary of social authority and individual autonomy. He declares that there is “one very simple principle” regarding the use of coercion in the society - it may only be used to defend either oneself or others from harm.
Being an ethical theorist, Mill’s work demonstrates the ethical system of utilitarianism to society and the state. He attempts to establish standards for the relationship between authority and liberty, giving emphasis to the importance of individuality which he conceived as a pre-requisite to the higher pleasures. Among the standards established in On Liberty 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.