“Mass and Elite Politics in Mill’s Considerations on Representative Government”

JMC Fellow and Assistant Professor at Southwestern College Chris Barker publishes “Mass and elite politics in Mill’s considerations on representative government” in History of European Ideas.

Abstract: This paper examines the formal filters of the public’s political will defended by JS Mill as consistent with the best form of representative government. Holding that institutions must adjust to democratic society, and that democratic society must be improved to achieve wise rule, Mill rejects secret ballots and electoral pledges, and advocates a constitutional council and graduated enfranchisement. He also recommends but does not require the indirect election of the President and a unicameral legislature. Mill’s historically sensitive approach puts pressure on interpreters to be sensitive to their own political and social context when applying Mill’s ideas. In particular, obviously undemocratic measures such as plural voting should be adjusted to reflect Mill’s view that the ratio between legitimacy and competence is constantly changing. The continual readjustment between the powers of masses and elites is the way that Mill’s Considerations on Representative Government manage to avoid the now-traditional charge of expertocracy.

Read the paper here.