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Political ThinkersFrom Socrates to the Present

Political Thinkers: From Socrates to the Present (3rd edn)

David Boucher and Paul Kelly
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date: 27 February 2024

p. 42823. J. S. Mill on the Subjection of Womenlocked

p. 42823. J. S. Mill on the Subjection of Womenlocked

  • Jennifer Ring


This chapter examines John Stuart Mill's treatise The Subjection of Women, a manifesto of liberal feminism that advocates ‘perfect equality’ between the sexes. Written in 1861 and published in 1869, The Subjection of Women has been criticised by contemporary feminist theorists, who find Mill's theory lacking because of its political shortcomings and contradictions. The chapter analyses the political and intellectual context in which The Subjection of Women was written as well as its significance from the standpoint of contemporary feminist theory. It considers Mill's relationship with his father, James Mill, and with his wife, Harriet Taylor, along with the emergence of the women's rights movement in the United States and England. It also assesses the political import and methodological perspective of the work and concludes with a discussion of Mill's utilitarianism.

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