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PSIR 1A-10.6 JS Mill – Previous Year Questions & Answers

Model Answers to PYQs (2018-2023)

1] “The legal subordination of one sex to another is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human development.” (J. S. Mill). Comment. [2023/15m/200w/4b]

Mill’s views on gender equality and the wrongfulness of such subordination had a significant influence on the feminist movement and the ongoing struggle for gender equity. His most comprehensive work on this topic is “The Subjection of Women,” which he co-authored with Harriet Taylor Mill.

Mill argued for the fundamental equality of the sexes. He believed that women were as capable as men in terms of intellectual and moral faculties, and therefore, should be granted the same civil and political rights. He argued that these inequalities were based on custom and tradition, rather than rational principles. He was particularly critical of the legal and economic subjugation of women through laws that favoured men.

Mill’s philosophy was heavily influenced by his “harm principle,” which states that individuals are free to do as they please as long as they do not harm others. He extended this principle to the treatment of women, arguing that traditional gender roles and the subjugation of women caused harm by limiting their potential and happiness.

According to Mill, we simply don’t know what women are capable of, because we have never let them try – one cannot make an authoritative statement without evidence. We can’t stop women from trying things because they might not be able to do them. An argument based on speculative physiology is just that, speculation.

Mill’s ideas on gender equality were revolutionary in his time, the 19th century, when women’s rights were severely restricted in many parts of the world. His advocacy for legal and social reforms to grant women greater rights, such as the right to vote and access to education, contributed to the broader movement for women’s suffrage and rights. [278 words]

2] Comment on J. S. Mill’s ideas on women suffrage [2021/10m/150w/1e]

In his work “The Subjection of Women,” co-written with his wife Harriet Taylor Mill, Mill argued against the subordination of women and advocated for their right to participate in political decision-making.

Mill contended that denying women the right to vote was a form of unjust discrimination and a violation of their individual liberties. He believed that women should have the same political rights as men, including the right to vote, in order to fully exercise their agency and contribute to society.

Mill’s argument for women’s suffrage was grounded in the principles of individual liberty and utilitarianism, which emphasized the maximization of overall happiness and the avoidance of unnecessary restrictions on personal freedom. He argued that women, like men, possess the capacity for rational thought and should be able to participate in the democratic process, influencing laws and policies that affect their lives.

Moreover, Mill recognized that granting women the right to vote would not only benefit women but also contribute to the progress and well-being of society as a whole. He believed that women’s perspectives and experiences were essential for a well-rounded and inclusive decision-making process, leading to more just and effective governance.

Mill’s ideas on women’s suffrage were ahead of their time and laid the groundwork for the women’s suffrage movement that gained momentum in the following decades. [219 words]

3] Representative democracy means the people as a body must be able to control the general direction of government policy. (J. S. Mill). Comment [2020/15m/200w/2b]

JS Mill was an advocate of liberal representative democracy. For him, representative democracy must create maximum space for people to take part in the functioning of the government and not restrict their involvement by merely allowing them to vote.

Mill considered participation important because it develops the confidence of the people in their ability to govern themselves. Hence, for Mill democracy as a system would allow the development of the individual’s personality. It develops the intellectual talents of people and is the best condition for liberty to flourish.

Participation makes an informed and intelligent debate possible. It is through thorough debate and discussion, where there is space for rational persuasion of each other, that the best argument emerges and this helps in solving the problems affecting the whole community.

This is why Mill regarded the parliament as the forum where all kinds of opinions should find a space and be vigorously debated. Mill considers a measure of socio-economic equality as necessary for democracy and liberty to be actualized.

Despite his insistence on the value of participation, Mill was sceptical of the capability of every citizen to govern and considered governance a task requiring expertise. He sought to balance this by recommending maximum participation at the local level so that people get educated in the task of governance. [217 words]

4] John Stuart Mill is a ‘reluctant democrat’. (CL Wayper). Comment. [2018/10m/150w/1a]

The perspective of CL Wayper of John Stuart Mill as a “reluctant democrat” suggests that while Mill advocated for certain democratic principles and reforms, he also expressed reservations and had a nuanced stance on democracy.

Mill’s political philosophy emphasized the importance of individual liberty and the maximization of overall happiness.

However, Mill also recognized the potential pitfalls of democratic rule. He expressed concerns about the “tyranny of the majority,” where the majority could suppress the rights and interests of minority groups. Mill believed that democracy needed safeguards to protect individual liberties and to prevent the majority from imposing its will without regard for the rights of others.

Mill’s reservations about democracy led him to advocate for the establishment of representative institutions and the importance of educated and informed citizens. He argued that an educated electorate would be better equipped to make informed decisions and avoid the dangers of uninformed or impulsive majority rule.

Furthermore, Mill believed that certain individuals, particularly those with knowledge and expertise in specific areas, should have a greater influence on decision-making and be given a ‘plural voting’ capacity.

These aspects of Mill’s thought contribute to the characterization of him as a “reluctant democrat.” While he recognized the potential benefits of democracy and championed individual liberties, he also expressed concerns about its limitations and the potential dangers it posed to minority rights and the quality of decision-making. [230 words]

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