Lo sviluppo della democrazia liberale: un itinerario da John Locke a John Stuart Mill

This entry is part 19 of 33 in the series Vol 2-2017

Abstract: This essay, from John Locke to John Stuart Mill, focuses on the development of the liberal tradition in politics. Much in the history of Liberalism was a set of important challenges to Hobbes’s emphasis on the necessity of an absolute sovereign. John Locke, for instance, argued for a limited sovereignty of which people were the true repository. But, the main problem of liberals was how to protect the right to the unlimited accumulation of private property basing, at the same time, their claims to liberty on the fundamental equality of all individuals. On the other hand, democrats had the problem of how to reach the right of all individuals to determine their lives where all possibilities of material well-being and progress were based on private property. For Mill, Liberalism needed Democracy. First, it needed Democracy for ethical reasons and, secondly, to avoid the total disaffection of the lower classes, the majority. His theory – affected by Bentham’s thought – is not based, like that of Hobbes or Locke, on the idea of certain inherent natural rights of the individual, but upon the doctrines of Utilitarianism. In Bentham’s view the obstacles to good government were the sinister interests of the ruling classes. In a democracy the ruling few could only further the interests of the whole community, because there were different kinds of institutional arrangements that limited the power of the rulers. Bentham thought that the rulers could still further their sinister interest even if there was a separation of powers and the good government was guaranteed only if the rulers followed the will of the people. The balanced constitution was the traditional answer to this problem, but Mill proved, that it would not work: the only way to guarantee good government was to create a system where the people elected their representatives. The chief mechanism for keeping the elected representatives in check was to have a short interval between elections.

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Series Navigation<< La teoria della relatività e l’eredità kantiana: logica, fisica e gnoseologia a confrontoGIORGIO AGAMBEN, La vita delle forme, a cura di A. Lucci, L. Viglialoro, Il Melangolo, Genova 2016, pp. 297 >>