July Blog Update – Mill, Urbinati, and Fresh Views of Old Works

I can’t believe that July is almost over. After a small vacation at the beginning of the month, I got back to work starting right where I left off: Nadia Urbinati’s Mill on Democracy. Finishing this source was not only incredibly helpful, it was also very interesting. This book was great because it provided a comprehensive, yet focused examination of Mill and his influences from Ancient Greece. While Urbinati focused on explaining Mill’s views on representative democracy and how the Greeks’ influenced those views (i.e. that it is the best form of government and what institutions should be included in representative government), she also included an examination of Mill’s views on moral philosophy (Utilitarianism) and liberty that are necessary for understanding his theory of government. Mill is not a simple author or thinker; all of his views matter and work together. This means that in order to fully understand him, one must form a complete view of his entire intellectual framework. This is exactly what Urbinati does, and it is why I am glad that I started with her work as my first secondary source.

After finishing Urbinati, I have moved to finishing Mill’s primary works. These include a rereading of his On Liberty, The Subjection of Women, Chapters on Socialism, System of Logic, and Principles of Political Economy. These works are great to reread because they allow me to look at Mill’s work with a new view searching for references to Ancient Greece and his views on society and government. Urbinati also gave me great points to keep in mind while reading Mill’s primary sources including the tension between rationalism and pluralism, the tension between republicanism and liberalism, and liberty as freedom from subjection rather than merely freedom as noninterference. Keeping these ideas in mind make it as though I am reading these primary works of Mill for the very first time.

From here, I want to move on to Hansen’s Athenian Democracy in the Age of Demosthenes. I am hoping that this will give me the necessary background that I need to understand Ancient Athens and its democracy, so that I will be able to better understand how Mill was influenced by the Athenians. I also hope that it will provide me with the knowledge to better understand the primary sources that influenced Mill’s view on democracy. Some of the authors that I plan to read following Hansen include Plato, Aristotle, and Grote; all of which had significant influence on Mill and his ideas of democracy (and his understanding of Athens). I also plan to look at some ancient speeches from Athens, and a rereading of Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War.


  1. redubit says:

    This sounds fascinating – there are so many different interpretations of Democracy! In your analysis, how do you plan to differentiate among these different intentions behind the word ‘Democracy’ across time periods and cultures? As someone who studies the past, I have often faced the challenge of trying to put concepts from the past (such as ancient Athenian ‘Democracy’) into terms that make sense in the present without confusing them with similarly phrased modern concepts. Good luck with your research!

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