Listen free for 30 days

£7.99/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime

Summary

First published in 1859, John Stuart Mill's On Liberty is an exhaustive exploration of social and civic liberty, its limits, and its consequences. Mill's work is a classic of political liberalism that contains a rational justification of the freedom of the individual in opposition to the claims of the state. Drawing upon the empiricism of John Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume, and the utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham, On Liberty defends the representative democracy as the culmination of society's progression from lower to higher stages, even as it recognizes one of the unique dangers of this type of government - namely, the "tyranny of the majority".

Central to Mill's ideology is the harm principle - the idea that individual liberties should only be curtailed when they harm or interfere with the ability of others to exercise their own liberties. Unlike other liberal theorists, Mill did not rely upon theories of abstract rights to support his ideology, but rather grounded his philosophy in ideas of utility.

As relevant to modern audiences as it was to Mill's Victorian readership, On Liberty is an enduring classic of political thought.

Public Domain (P)2011 Tantor

What listeners say about On Liberty

Average customer ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    44
  • 4 Stars
    14
  • 3 Stars
    4
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    31
  • 4 Stars
    17
  • 3 Stars
    4
  • 2 Stars
    2
  • 1 Stars
    0
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    37
  • 4 Stars
    11
  • 3 Stars
    4
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Great introduction to some aspects of liberalism

This book is a great introduction to some aspects of modern Liberalism, while not agreeing with it completely.

2 people found this helpful

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Jim Hennessy
  • Jim Hennessy
  • 13-09-18

should be read by liberals and conservatives

should be read by liberals and conservatives to encourage civil discourse. it discusses the power of listening to those that do not agree with.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Amazon Customer
  • Amazon Customer
  • 24-08-20

A bit primitive, but nonetheless thought-provoking

Very dull at points, and in 3-5 places unfortunately racist, mostly out of a cognitive dissonance over Britain's imperial colonies and their antithesis to liberty (though ironically the main points of the book argue for the free expression and debate of ideas specifically to correct such errors). From time to time one can discover interesting food for thought where parallels can be drawn to modern cases. However, the arguments for liberty are very first-order and naive, and anyone familiar with the foundational philosophy of the American constitution will find the arguments, while mostly true, nonetheless fairly simplistic (and extremely long-winded despite that). The first 1/3 or so of the Federalist papers, published some 75 years earlier, provide a much more pragmatic argumentation for liberty, not merely in the abstract philosophical sense, but in the sense of a resilient society prepared for persons of ambition and deception. I would recommend this book for adolescents and teenagers as an introduction to libertarian thought, except it's far too slow and boring for them.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Clara
  • Clara
  • 10-05-19

Why we need to limit Google, Facebook, Twitter etc

This book provides the clearest outline for the dangers and remedies to the greatest threat to our liberty since the jack boot.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Alli
  • Alli
  • 23-02-21

Required

A book that should be part of every curriculum in every corner of every state.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for William E.
  • William E.
  • 25-06-20

Big ideas. Tough text.

Big ideas. Tough reading. Mill defines liberty as the belief that every individual should be free to live his life as long as he does not harm anyone else. Complete freedom of speech and press, as long it does not harm others. As I said.. Mill was an amazing thinker, but On Liberty is very dry.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Ryan R.
  • Ryan R.
  • 11-01-19

Timeless.

Should be required reading for High school students. Chapter two is a fantastic review of the value and importance of free speech.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for David Anthony Darby Fisher
  • David Anthony Darby Fisher
  • 10-12-18

Should be required reading for everyone.

All I can see is that if you've read this and understand it, you will discover that the world is in pretty dark place right now, where liberty is under huge threats. You certainly can't be someone who'd think remaining in the EU would be good idea. Sobering indeed.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Jeffery
  • Jeffery
  • 06-12-18

A Must Read for My Generation.

As a millennial, I say we are overdue for the awareness that government is the biggest threat to all people's prosperity. There's no end to the nation-state in sight, but we can preserve, and improve on the good and bad aspects of the prosperous system we were given.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Martinez
  • Martinez
  • 28-11-18

A defense of Liberty that is still important.

John Stuart Mill's work titled, "On Liberty" is a well reasoned explanation and defense of the universally important and historically fragile concept of liberty. He clearly and reasonably argues in this work that the concept of liberty is a vital premise which any allegedly free nation must embrace if it were to be considered accurately as having a just and free society by future generations in hindsight. Of greater note, John Stuart Mill also places great emphasis on the right of disagreement for not only the popular majority but also for the unpopular minority. He treats this right as the key stone principal for the exercising and securing of liberty itself in any society. Thus he argues that neither government, or the outrage of a worked up angry mob or the lustful gaze of the powerful few in society has the right to deny the individual the right to disagree from their unjust excesses or deprivations of opinions be they false or true at the present time. Furthermore, he clearly explains the merits and benefits that society receives from hearing from those who are considered at the present to have wrong opinions by the majority.

Overall I really enjoyed this work. I would highly recommend "On Liberty" to those who see great merit in standing up for freedom and liberty for all. It is a extremely well reasoned and solidly firm defense of the concept and exercise of liberty. It stands strong for the affirmation of the rights of the biggest minority in the world, i.e. the individual and it is today just as relevant as it was back when it was first published.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Steven
  • Steven
  • 16-09-18

dry but good.

dude reading it is definitely not my favorite. But the content is also all info so it's difficult to liven that up. it's short enough that you can get past the dryness. wuff.