J.S. Mill on the rightful limit to the sovereignty of an individual over himself
John Stuart Mill was an individual born in 1806 and lived up to 1873. He was raised under utilitarian principle and as he grew up developed thoughts that would help shape social-political environment. Mill believed that, for there to be socio-political stability and peaceful existence of a society, there should be a precise definition of liberty of individuals and power for the state. As a result, Mill’s developed an essay named On Liberty that stated his ideologies on the subject. The piece is divided into several parts (Ogunkoya, 2011). We will focus on the part that deals with the limits to the authority of society over Individual. Our focus will help determine the right limit to the sovereignty of an individual over himself, determine where the influence of a society begins and the reason for that.
According to Mill, society and the individual should receive control over the part of human life in which each is particularly interested. Mill rejects the idea of a social contract and in support of this proposes that since people get the protection of the society, in return owe specific conduct. He suggests that people should not uphold themselves in behaviors that would affect the interests of others in the society which are considered as rights. Instead, people must share the burden of defending the society justly and its people from harm. He also proposes that people may be censured by opinion only if it was harming others and violating their rights, this is, however, not by law. Therefore, the society has a mandate over any aspect of human behavior that affects interests of others. It can be derived that Mill argues that individual sovereignty over themselves is limited to the actions that affect only the individual (Ogunkoya, 2011). If an action, therefore, affects another person then the society steps in. Mill believes that the society does not have interest in the aspects of life that only affect the person acting or people in consent to the action. He argues that behavior like that should be legally and socially permitted and accepted. Stuart proposes that people should not in any way try to keep a person from doing what they wish to do with their lives. He justifies this by saying that one’s interest in knowledge of another individual is little as compared to the individual’s interests on themselves.
Mills further goes to point out that he does not mean that people should not be allowed to identify a fault in other people behaviors. Instead, he believes that recognizing and pointing out a flaw in an individual is acceptable as it’s a natural reaction to specific acts and is not intended to punish the person (Ogunkoya, 2011). He, however, cautions that this is not a point to express moral reprobation or make the individual uncomfortable. Mills suggests that the individual should not be treated with resentment if they engage in activities that are not popular with the other people that only affect him/her.
Mills identifies several criticisms that may be developed following his thesis and as a result, comes up with a counteractive argument for them. The first criticism he identifies is the question of how any part of an individual’s conduct is an issue of indifference with another member of the society. In a counteractive argument, he suggests that no human being is entirely isolated such that their actions cannot hurt those who depend on the individual (Ogunkoya, 2011).
In conclusion, individual’s sovereignty over themselves is acceptable if their actions only affect the individual and not any other person in the society. The society’s sovereignty, however, starts when the conduct of the individual affects other members of the society. People are not entirely isolated from the society; therefore, their actions may affect others. All individual decisions must, however, be respected.
Karl Marx on worker’s alienation
Karl Marx was one of the most influential thinkers of the nineteenth century, who advocated for the creation of a society that is classless to attain democracy and equality. He, therefore, criticized capitalism, saying that it is the means by which dominant firms gain power. He believes that workers under the capitalist system are treated as commodities. All this in the theory of alienation. In this theory, he expresses that workers are disappointed with their work for many reasons one of them being controlled by a hierarchy of supervisors and managers. As a result, individual creativity has been dealt away with all in the name of effectiveness and efficiency. The capitalist system according to him makes a lot of profits but gives very little to its workers. According to Marx, the alienation results in workers being suspicious of each other considering the nature of capitalism (Lowe, 2015). In this discussion, we will look at Marx’s theory of alienation in depth.
Alienation according to Karl Marx is a consequence of capitalism because, under the system, workers are manipulated by capitalism forces to increase output and productivity. As a result, the workers lose determination and hope as worker’s activities are focused on specific objectives (Lowe, 2015). The organization aims to ensure that maximum exploitation of workers is done to ensure optimal value of the workers. Since the worker is considered to be an instrument, this can lead to loss of his/her identity resulting in resentment and frustration hence alienation.
Alienation according to Marx, comes in different forms which include alienation from the product of own labor, the act of producing itself, his/her species being, and producers. Under alienation from the product of own labor, Marx argues that the capitalist system creates an illusion that workers are adequately compensated for their labor. However, the system controls workers by getting all the benefits, and due to the enormous profits and little compensation to the workers, it can lead to resentment and frustration among the workers. In the act of producing itself alienation, Marx believes that the system encourages repetitive work patterns which can be mechanical and do not create intrinsic value for the workers (Cox, 1998). As a result, the power of workers is regarded as a commodity that can be exchanged with wages. With the massive supervision of their activities, workers can feel trapped hence resentment as they feel like they have been deprived their destiny. Under his/her species being alienation, Marx believes that human beings pursue dynamic thinking as they pursue multiple endeavors. However, the capitalist system stifles this aspect hence lack of motivation and creativity alienating humanity from its nature. Finally, in alienation from producers Marx believes that the capitalist system confines labor to a commercial commodity position (Cox, 1998). As a result, social relationships are disregarded in the pursuit of betterment. The competitive nature of the system, as a result, causes conflict and alienation in high levels.
Marx’s view on capitalism and his definition of workers’ alienation make sense. It is only through understanding his primary aim of developing the concept that we can see how it makes sense. Marx insists that his intentions of developing the theory were not for moral condemnation of the system but rather a theoretical understanding (Sayers, n.d.). Although it could be used as a moral condemnation, the theory was a theoretical approach on human nature’s ability to develop a system that not only supports the development of the firms but also personal hence the need to shed light on it.
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