South African Journal of Philosophy

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‘Mill's Liberal Project and Defence of Colonialism from a Post-Colonial Perspective

CG Campbell


Whilst this paper was initially part of a larger project tracing the development of Anglo-American thought from the colonial through to the post-colonial era, below it stands alone as reflection on the colonialism of John Stuart Mill read from a post-colonial perspective. It aims to show that Mill's views on colonial rule were largely informed by his principle of liberty which, in turn, was based on his qualitative utilitarianism. The driving force behind his colonialism, as with his work in general, was his unwavering belief in the importance of human progress and development. Mill never believed, as did many of his contemporaries, that the ‘backward’ societies of the colonies were inherently inferior, but rather that they needed paternal intervention from more civilised, progressive societies in order to stimulate growth in that spontaneous human development was not inevitable. When read in this light Mill's views on colonial rule, while culturally bigoted and ethnocentric, appear less contradictory to his liberalism as a whole.
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