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Title: The centrality of accountability in John Stuart Mill's liberal-utilitarian conception of democracy
Author: Amaral Brilhante, A.
Awarding Body: University College London (University of London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2007
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This thesis argues that accountability was a central concern in Mill's liberal-utilitarian political thought. This concern was a product of his conviction that a truly democratic society, which permitted individuals to develop their deliberative capacities, was possible only where there was an equilibrium of power. Without such an equilibrium, the danger was that the majority would impose conformity with its own values and practices. It is argued that Mill proposed the institutionalisation of debate in order to aid individuals in the use of critical reasoning, which he regarded as an essential component of human well-being and a necessary means for the improvement of society. He saw the protection of individual liberty from the encroachment of the majority, and the multiplication of the centres of power in society, as instrumental in rendering the masses accountable, and thereby preventing stagnation. Mill aimed to protect individual liberty by preventing the formation of power which was unaccountable both in the public and private spheres. He thought that a balance of power in all areas of society promoted co-operation in political, economic, and family relations. In this sense, unchecked forms of economic power were as detrimental to society as unchecked forms of political power, in that they both brought about tyranny. Mill adopted the optimistic belief that the institutionalisation of debate would make human beings into altruistic moral agents. This thesis argues that Mill's liberal-utilitarian conception of democracy makes a significant contribution to political theory, in that it enshirines the ideas that a well-ordered society prevents individuals, groups, and governments from improperly imposing their wishes over others, and that socio-political reforms have to take into account the characteristics of human nature and national character, and the historical trends operating in society.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available