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Pleasures of BenthamismVictorian Literature, Utility, Political Economy$
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Kathleen Blake

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199563265

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199563265.001.0001

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‘On Liberty’ and Laissez-faire

‘On Liberty’ and Laissez-faire

(p.138) 5 ‘On Liberty’ and Laissez-faire
Pleasures of Benthamism

Kathleen Blake (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The word liberty provides the label of liberalism attaching to Utilitarian political economy, yet it is striking how often liberalism has been identified with the opposite of liberty, with Gradgrindian repression and ‘carceral’ social discipline. Some Bentham scholarship challenges this view. So does this chapter. There is no need to dissociate Mill from his tradition to recognize features of his principle of liberty. The chapter demonstrates ‘On Liberty's adherence to Benthamite‐Smithean principles and its next step to theorize liberty as not only instrumental to utility but itself a utility. This exemplifies the critical, actively developmental thinking of the whole school. The discussion incorporates analysis of Mill's style. Mill defends liberty on grounds of instrumental and intrinsic worth through a double address to readers accessible to the one appeal or the other.

Keywords:   critical thinking, liberty as utility, liberalism, Mill's ‘On Liberty’, Mill's style, political economy, principle of liberty, Utilitarian

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