Mill on Nationality

Mill on Nationality

Mill on Nationality

Mill on Nationality


John Stuart Mill's thought has been central in recent (as well as older) works of political theory discussing the relationship between liberal democratic politics and nationality or nationalism -- which is far from surprising, given his undisputed influence on liberal attitudes towards nationality from the 1860s to the present. This book provides the first thorough critical study of the attitude of this pillar of the liberal tradition towards nationality, nationhood, patriotism, cosmopolitanism, intervention/non-intervention, and international politics more generally. Based on exhaustive research in a great range or writings by Mill, as well as by his contemporaries and later students, it establishes for the first time clearly and subtly where exactly Mill stood with regard to nationhood, nationalism, patriotism, cosmopolitanism, national self-determination, intervention/non-intervention and other important issues in international ethics. It thus exposes and challenges all sorts of misconceptions, half-truths, or myths surrounding Mill's views on, and attitude towards, nationality and related issues in a vast literature from the mid-nineteenth to the beginning of the twenty-first century. At the same time, it offers a timely contribution to contemporary debates among political theorists on the relationship between liberal democratic values and nationalism, patriotism and cosmopolitanism, not least through its articulation of a distinct sense in which patriotism and cosmopolitanism can be compatible and mutually reinforcing (based on Varouxakis's interpretation of Mill's thought on this question). The reader will find critical discussions of the pronouncements on some of the issues examined (or on Mill's contributions to them) of some of the most important late-twentieth-century political theorists as well as of contemporaries or near-contemporaries of Mill.



The Principle of nationalities is not a good in itself, a dogma of superstition to be pursued at all times blindly, but a means to an end, to be applied rationally and discriminately towards that end.

(Walter Bagehot: Bagehot 1965-86, VIII: 152)

This theory assumes not so much that humanity ought to be divided into national, sovereign states, as that people who are alike in many things stand a better chance of making a success of representative government.

(Elie Kedourie: Kedourie 1985:131-2)

John Stuart Mill is arguably the most influential major liberal theorist to have engaged directly and thoroughly with the issues raised for liberalism and liberal politics by nationhood and nationalism. It is hard to overestimate the younger Mill's significance for - and influence on - the British liberal tradition and liberalism more generally. From the time he had Chapter V of L.T. Hobhouse's Liberalism (1911) dedicated to himself and Gladstone (as the twin pillars of British liberalism in the world of thought and in the world of action respectively) until today, he has been considered a pivotal figure of liberalism, both as a political philosophy and as an ideology. As far as his native land was concerned, Mill gradually became, “[f]rom dangerous partisan, ” extreme radical and “un-English, ” a really “national possession, ” an epitome of liberal Englishness.

Now, developments in Anglophone normative political theory in the 1990s have brought Mill's attitude towards nationhood to the forefront of theoretical debates on nationalism again. In a book published in the mid-1990s, Professor Margaret Canovan complained about Anglophone liberal political theorists' failure to address adequately issues of

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