Representative Democracy and Colonial Inspirations: The Case of John Stuart Mill

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    Focusing on John Stuart Mill, a particularly illuminating contributor to modern democratic theory, this article examines the connections between modern democracy and the European colonial experience. It argues that Mill drew on the exclusionary logic and discourse available through the colonial experience to present significant portions of the English working classes as domestic barbarians, whose potential rise to power posed a danger to civilization itself: a line of argument that helped him legitimate representative government as a democratic, rather than an antidemocratic form of government, as it had been traditionally perceived. The article contributes to our understanding of the development of modern democratic theory and practice by drawing attention to the ways the colonial experience shaped core Western institutions and ways of thinking, and it makes the case that this experience remains an essential, if often unacknowledged, part of our collective "self."

    Original languageEnglish
    JournalAmerican Political Science Review
    StateAccepted/In press - 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    I wish to acknowledge the Erasmus Mundus Partnerships Action 2 postdoctoral grant for supporting this research. I am grateful to Graham Finlay for his invaluable support and wise suggestions and to the School of Politics and International Relations at University College Dublin for hosting me. I thank Kei Hiruta for his comments on an earlier draft of this article.

    Publisher Copyright:
    © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of American Political Science Association.

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Political Science and International Relations


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