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Political Science Assignment

Submitted By-

Ishaan Khandelwal

SM0119024

Faculty in Charge

Mayenbam Nandakishwor Singh

National Law University, Assam


2020
1. Discuss in detail John Stuart Mill’s view on liberty as expounded in his
philosophical essay On Liberty. Also critically examine how far John Stuart Mill’s
view on liberty is applicable today.
1.1 Introduction
On Liberty is one of Mill’s most famous works and remains the one most read today. In this book,
Mill expounds his concept of individual freedom within the context of his ideas on history and the
state. On Liberty depends on the idea that society progresses from lower to higher stages and that this
progress culminates in the emergence of a system of representative democracy. It is within the
context of this form of government that Mill envisions the growth and development of liberty.
Further, it will be analysed whether John Mill’s view in his essay On Liberty is applicable in modern
world or not.

1.2 About John Stuart Mill


John Stuart Mill (1806 – 1873) was an English philosopher, political economist, and civil
servant. Mill’s writings set out a vision for the progress of human knowledge, individual
freedom, and well-being. His most well-known works include On Liberty, Principles of
Political Economy, Utilitarianism, and The Subjection of Women. In 1866, Mill became the
first person in the history of Parliament to call for women to be given the right to vote,
vigorously defending this position in subsequent debate. He was also a strong advocate of
social reforms such as labour unions. Beyond his accomplishments in the political realm,
Mill left his articulations of politically liberal views of society and progress as his legacies.1

1.3 About On Liberty by John Stuart Mill


In the essay On Liberty, John Stuart Mill sets out the classical liberal principles that ground
democracies. Political thinkers in Mill’s era were concerned with how much control the
government should have over the actions and beliefs of individuals. In this work, Mill
stresses that for society to progress and for individuals to live flourishing lives, individuals
must have autonomy over their choices of beliefs and actions. The state can interfere if a
person’s actions are going to harm someone else, but if no harm will be done, then the person
should have freedom to believe or act as he or she chooses. Being upset, offended, or angered
is not a reason for a person’s freedom to be curbed. This is especially true, in Mill’s view, in
1
 Macleod, Christopher, Zalta, Edward N; The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy; Metaphysics Research Lab,
Stanford University
the realm of speech. Mill presents some arguments for why speech should not be suppressed,
even if the majority of people in a society think the views expressed are incorrect or
harmful.2

1.4 John Mill’s view on Liberty expounded in his essay On Liberty

Mill opens On Liberty by explaining the nature of liberty versus authority. Traditionally,
liberty was defined as “the protection against the tyranny of political rulers.” To achieve
liberty, limits on state authority ought to be imposed, which would eventually lead to those in
power becoming more akin to tenants than perpetual rulers. By Mill’s time, the old orders of
monarchy and aristocracy were waning, and democratic republics began to predominate the
European political landscape.

The world was moving towards greater equality, a trend Mill appreciated, although not
without reservation. With the rise of democratic government came a new threat, what Alexis
De Tocqueville described as “tyranny of the majority.” Mill believed that a new form of
social tyranny was emerging, one that was in some ways worse than actual tyranny as it has
“fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving
the soul itself.”

At best, this new tyranny could lead to conformity; at worst it stifled the originality and
intellectual vigor needed for progress. Mill believes that all eras are either organic or critical.
In organic periods people accept some form of positive creed. In critical ones, positive creeds
lose their sway without other beliefs emerging to take their place. During critical periods we
yearn for new ideas, according to Mill, so we allow people to pursue their lives in “in
innumerable and `conflicting directions.”3 This freedom to experiment with different ideas
and ways of life allows for progress, both material and moral.

Mill argues that in the vast majority of cases we are afforded absolute liberty of thought and
expression. But thought and expression do not compose the entirety of life. We also need to
make choices and interact with others. In the chapter entitled Of Individuality, as one of the
elements of well‐being, Mill makes a case for the positive value of individuality.
2
Available on http://openmindplatform.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/John-Stuart-Mill_On-Liberty_Excerpts.pdf
3
Available on https://www.econlib.org/library/Mill/mlLbty.html
Mill believes that every person has their own personal preferences and tastes in all aspects of
life. Mill explains that “human nature is not a machine to be built after a model, and set to do
exactly the work prescribed for it, but a tree, which requires to grow and develop itself on all
sides, according to the tendency of the inward forces which make it a living thing.” Since
there is no one masterplan or method that guarantees a fully flourishing life, Mill believes
that there must be “experiments of living.”

Mill despised and feared conformity. He deeply feared a future in which people lived their
life based upon nothing but custom and habit. He explains, “The despotism of custom is
everywhere the standing hindrance to human advancement.” Mill’s opposition to custom is
nuanced. He is not a libertine who supports eccentricity for its own sake. Instead, he argues
that when people act upon custom alone, they do not make a decision, they simply follow
what has already been done without thought. Our perception and judgement must be fine‐
tuned, and this can only be achieved by exercising our choice. Therefore, Mill explains that
“he who does anything because it is the custom makes no choice. He gains no practice either
in discerning or desiring what is best.”4

But as before with freedom of speech, Mill does not base his arguments in the inherent value
of choice or individuality. He believes allowing for individuality and choice creates an
industrious and creative environment in which progress is unimpeded. As he explains,
“Genius can only breathe freely in an atmosphere of freedom.”5 Mill’s arguments for
individuality also have a personal tinge to them. He had felt firsthand the judgmentalism of
Victorian England. At the age of 17, he had been arrested for distributing information on
birth control. In his adult life, he was looked at with scorn for his relationship with Harriet
Taylor. And throughout his life he had to hide his atheist beliefs fearing ridicule from society
at large.

1.5 John Mill’s views on liberty in today’s world.


John Mill in his essay ‘On Liberty’ expressed his views on liberty and individuality. Now in
this section we will be analyzing whether his views are applicable in today’s world or not.
4
Available at http://openmindplatform.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/John-Stuart-Mill_On-Liberty_Excerpts.pdf
5
Available at http://openmindplatform.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/John-Stuart-Mill_On-Liberty_Excerpts.pdf
According to Mill people should be given every kind of liberty like liberty to think; liberty to
react according to their intelligence; liberty to oppose etc. He argued that an individual’s
liberty should only be condemned if his/her actions are harming others actively or inactively.
Mill want that kind of liberty because he thought that if individuals are given that kind of
liberty as discussed above then it’ll help them to grow as an individual, it will help them to
enhance their experience, they will be able to know about their nation, its merits and
demerits.
Mill argues that individuality is essential to the cultivation of the self. A basic problem that
Mill sees with society is that individual spontaneity is not respected as having any good in
itself, and is not seen as essential to well-being. Rather, the majority thinks that its ways
should be good enough for everybody. Mill argues that while people should be trained as
children in the accumulated knowledge of human experience, they should also have the
freedom as adults to interpret that experience as they see fit. He places great moral emphasis
on the process of making choices, and not simply accepting customs without questions: only
people who make choices are using all of their human faculties. Mill then links the desires
and impulses reflected in individuality with the development of character: "One whose
desires and impulses are not his own, has no character, no more than a steam engine has
character."
In today’s world, some countries are democratic like India, USA, South Africa etc; some
countries are communist like China, Cuba, Vietnam etc; some countries are under
dictatorship like North Korea, Afghanistan, Iran etc. The Communist countries and the
countries under Dictatorship doesn’t give that kind of liberty that John Mill talks about, one
can find that kind of liberty only in democratic countries.
Basically, in a democratic country the government and leaders are accountable to its people
and the individuals are also given certain rights which the government can’t violate and if it
does that then the there are certain remedies for it in the constitution. The kind of liberty that
John Mill wants for the individuals a discussed above in paragraph[1] and paragraph[2] is
there in democratic countries but the only problems that these are not implemented in a right
manner and some powerful men try to use them in their favor. For Example: The leaders give
liberty to the individuals but when the individual uses that liberty to question the policy or
law or any kind of decision that they take then the leaders starts playing the game of power
and politics with that individual and then that causes a lot of problems to the individual and
due to that most of the people doesn’t raise their voice against any such thing even after
knowing that what is happening is not correct.
So, Mill’s views on liberty are applicable in today’s world and are there in constitution of the
democratic countries but these are not implemented correctly and are limited only to some
legal books of the country.

Conclusion

John Stuart Mill in his essay ‘On Liberty’ expounds his concept of individual freedom within the
context of his ideas on history and the state. On Liberty depends on the idea that society progresses from
lower to higher stages and that this progress culminates in the emergence of a system of representative
democracy. Mill has divided his essay into four chapters in which he focuses on liberty from public
opinion, individuality, protection of the liberty of an individual etc. Then comes the point whether the
kind of liberty that Mill has described in his essay ‘On Liberty’ is present in today’s world or not. In
today’s world the kind of liberty that Mill wanted is present but it has not been given to the people the
way it is presented.

References

 Available at http://openmindplatform.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/John-Stuart-Mill_On-
Liberty_Excerpts.pdf
 Available on https://www.econlib.org/library/Mill/mlLbty.html

 Macleod, Christopher, Zalta, Edward N; The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy; Metaphysics


Research Lab, Stanford University

2. Explain as to how B. R. Ambedkar had theorized about the origin of caste system
and the practice of untouchability in India. Further, substantiate your answer by
elaborating the reasons, as argued by B. R. Ambedkar, why caste system and
untouchability continue to pervade even today.
2.1 Introduction
The caste system as we see it today has not been pronounced in just one book; in fact it
has been shaped by multiple texts. The most ancient mention of the caste system is found
in the Rig Veda, believed to be developed between 1500-800 BC, where it was called the
Varna system.6 It classified the society into four varnas:
1. The Brahmins: priests, scholars and teachers
2. The Kshatriyas: rulers, warriors and administrators
3. The Vaishyas: cattle herders, agriculturists, artisans and merchants
4. The Shudras: labourers and service providers.
These distinctions were mentioned in the Purusha Sukta verse of the Veda, although
some scholars believe that this clause was added much later than the Vedic period.
Similar laws were articulated in Manu Smriti, which is believed to be written between
200 BC-200 AD and which served as the guiding text for formulating Hindu laws by the
British government. Even Mahabharata, the text of which was completed by 4th century
AD, had mentions of the four-tier Varna system.
All of these texts associated particular traits with each class: Brahmins were considered
to be pure, wise and gentle; Kshatriyas were linked with anger, pleasure and boldness;
Vaishyas were deemed to be hard-working people living off the plough; and Shudras
were associated with violence and impurity, worthy of contempt. As such, their social
status began to be perceived in the declining order – Brahmins were highly respected and
obeyed while Shudras were despised and ordered. Over time, particular castes were
placed even below Shudras and were called Avarnas – not belonging to any class. They
were supposed to do menial jobs as sweepers, gutter cleaners, scavengers, watchmen,
farm laborers, rearers of unclean animals such as pigs, and curers of hides. People from
such castes are called Dalits in modern times. Although many of them have moved to
other professions over time, yet the general perception against them has remained to be
one of hatred and loathe.

6
Nikul Joshi; Caste System in Ancient India; Ancient History Encycloedia(2017)
 Untouchability in India
Untouchability is a direct product of the caste system.  It is not merely the inability to touch a
human being of a certain caste or sub-caste. It is an attitude on the part of a whole group of
people that relates to a deeper psychological process of thought and belief, invisible to the naked
eye, translated into various physical acts and behaviours, norms and practices. 7
The people who belonged to the shudra varna in the varna system faced
Untouchability, the people who were considered to be of the upper caste mainly the
Bhramins and the Kshatriyas treated them as untouchables and were prohibited from:

1. Eating with other members


2. Entering places of public worship
3. Wearing sandals or holding umbrellas in front of higher caste members
4. Entering other caste homes
5. Accessing common/public properties and resources (wells, ponds, temples, etc.)
6. Separate burial or cremation grounds

2.2 Theory of Dr B.R. Ambedkar about the origin of caste system and the practice of
Untouchability in India

Ambedkar believed that the "Origin of Caste" was synonymous with "the Origin of the
Mechanism for Endogamy" and he treated class and caste as neighbours, saying that "a
caste is an Enclosed Class"8.

For him, the "father" of the institution of caste could be the Brahmins who adopted a
strictly endogamous matrimonial regime, leading other groups to do the same to emulate
this self-proclaimed elite. The priestly classes in all ancient civilizations are the
originators of this "unnatural Institution" founded and maintained through unnatural
means.

7
Available at https://www.ukessays.com/essays/sociology/the-problems-of-untouchability-in-india-sociology-
essay.php?vref=1
8
Roy, Joydip; The Issue of caste in colonial India and the ideas and roles of Gandhiji and Ambedkar; University of
North Bengal(2010)
Ambedkar believed that ethnically, all people are heterogeneous. According to him,
the Indian Peninsula has not only a geographic unity, but also a deeper and a much more
fundamental cultural unity. The unity of culture is the basis of homogeneity, which
makes the problem of caste difficult to be explained. If the Hindu society were a mere
federation of mutually exclusive units, the matter would be simple enough. But, the caste
is a "parcelling" of an already homogeneous unit, and the explanation of the genesis of
caste is the explanation of this process of parcelling.

Ambedkar has evaluated that the endogamy  is the only one that can be called the essence
of caste and only characteristic that is peculiar to caste. No civilized society of today
presents more survivals of primitive times than does the Indian society like the custom
of exogamy. The creed of exogamy is not that sapindas (blood-kins) cannot marry, but a
marriage between sagotras (gotras or clans of the same class) is regarded as a sacrilege.
In spite of the endogamy of the castes within them, exogamy is strictly observed and that
there are more rigorous penalties for violating exogamy than there are for violating
endogamy. Thus, the Superposition of endogamy on exogamy means the creation of
caste.

Ambedkar pointedly said that before the socialist revolution, they will have to annihilate
the caste system, and has drawn attention to the unique Indian reality of two proletariats
—one, the social proletariat and the other, the economic one. But the difference between
Phule, his teacher, and Ambedkar is that while the former considered the caste system to
be the feudalism of India, the latter considered it to be worse than slavery and thereby
separated it from Indian feudalism. That is why, he declared in the 1940s that caste
abolition to be more difficult than to abolish class, which led him to leave its abolition to
Parliament instead of a social revolution.

Ambedkar’s search was not for the primitive aboriginals but for the slave Sudra varna in
the four varna system. In 1916, he had presented the paper, Castes in India: Their
Mechanism, Genesis and Development, in a seminar in America. According to him, the
pre-caste ancient Indian society, like all other societies, was composed of classes. He
further argued that after it became closed it became the caste society, caste is an enclosed
class.
2.3 Dr. B.R. Ambedkar on Untouchability in India
Dr.Ambedkar takes up the question of the origin of Untouchability in the India. Some
Anthropologists like Stanley Hice had suggested that there was a strong probability that
the Untouchables were the survivors of the peoples who had conquered by the
Dravidians.9 When they had invaded India before the Aryans did. Quoting from this
Anthropologists book of Hindu Customs and their origins Dr. Ambedkar mentions the
fact that the tribal belief in totem and taboo was the cause for segregating the conquered
races from the conquering Dravidians. Later the Aryans must have segregated the
Dravidians in a similar manner. The original segregation imposed by the Dravidian
resulted In keeping a section of population as Untouchable.
Dr. Ambedkar rejected multiple theories on untouchability by various scholars and
analyses the implications of this theory. He says that it is a theory based on race and that
it contains two parts. The first part states that the untouchables are non-Aryan and non-
Dravidian aboriginals. The second part says that they were conquered and subjugated by
the Dravidians. Dr. Ambedkar calls this theory as too mechanica1, a mere speculation
and too simple to explain a complicated set of facts relating to the origin of the Shudras
and Untouchables. "
It is this untouchability according to the noted Indian scholar G. S. Ghurye, that marks
the Hindu caste system from all others, past or present. Set apart to perform needed, but
virtually impure functions, the Untouchables also performed that peculiarly useful
function in any society of occupying the bottom, that bottom of the bottom, where mere
lowliness such as that suffered by the Shudras was underpinned by a condition that was
clearly subhuman.
From his extensive study of the ancient Sanskrit texts Dr. Ambedkar came to the
conclusion that the Aryans were not separate race, but they were distinct cultural entity.
He also concluded that they belonged to two divisions, one of which is considered the
Rig Veda to be a sacred book and other looked upon the Athrava Veda as sacred.
Then he puts forward his own theory of the origin of Untouchability in India. According
to him Untouchability came into existence during the time of the Gupta Empire, where
there was a mass reconversion of people from Buddhism to Hinduism. Those section of
9
Roy, Joydip; The Issue of caste in colonial India and the ideas and roles of Gandhiji and Ambedkar; University of
North Bengal(2010)
the population who continued to practice Buddhism were treated with contempt and hated
by newly-converted Hindus, especially the priest class of Bhramins. Dr. B.R Ambedkar
concludes, "The Broken Men hated the Bhramins because the Bhramins were the enemies
of Buddhism and the Brahmins imposed Untouchability upon the Broken Men because
they would not leave Buddhism. On this reasoning it is possible to conclude that one of
the roots of Untouchability lies in the hatred and contempt which the Brahmins created
against those who were Buddhists.
Dr. Ambedkar says that there was an additional factor which made the Bhramins to
impose Untouchability upon the broken men this was their practice of continuing to eat
beef when the rest of society had given it up.

2.4 Caste System and Untouchibility prevailing today

Caste System in India began with the arrival of Aryans in 1500 B.C. that is around 3500
years in India and between these years this caste system divided the so
ciety into four Varna i.e. the Brahmins, the Kshatriyas, the Vaishyas and the Shudras.
The caste system had also led to some malpractices like untouchibility as there were
many people who don’t belong to any of the four Varna and they were mostly those who
did odd jobs like manual scavengers, cleaning latrines and sewers by hand and clearing
away dead animals etc.
Initially, the caste of the people was decided by the work they did, for example: a child
who was born in a shudra family was allowed to pursue the work that he was interested in
like if this child was interested to study the Vedas and some other texts then he was not
stopped by anyone he was allowed to do that and if he does so then he was no longer a
shudra, he would be considered a Brahmin then as he was doing a thing that Brahmins
did. So, initially the caste system was like that and during that period there was no
problem in accepting that kind of caste system as it was only a tag that was decided by
the work that an individual did and caste was not the barrier which was restricting people
from doing the type of work that they wanted to do but eventually this kind of caste
system evolved with time and started raising social issues by giving birth to several
malpractices like untoucability , social hierarchy etc as the caste system evolved in such a
way that started discrimination among the people belonging to different castes as the
caste of a person no longer remain only a tag it rather became its identity. Let us
understand this evolved cast system with the same example as taken above: in the above
example the child who was born in a shudra family is not allowed to pursue the job that
he wanted to do as now the caste in which this child is born has became its identity so he
has to do the work shudras do no matter whether he likes it or not. This kind of caste
discrimination in the caste system has created this entire problem.

Even today the caste system and untouchability exists even after educating people,
creating awareness about this but then the thing is that this caste system is existing in our
society for as long as thousand years and it will take time to change, we can educate
people, we can create awareness about how sensitive this is and these things has helped a
lot and the new generation is understanding this but we can’t change the mindset of the
people as it has took thousands of years to built this kind of mindset in them and to break
this we have to be very patient. The caste system and untouchibility is not practiced in the
cities with that intensity as it is practiced in rural areas but things are changing.
The problem that I think people are facing is that they consider that they are not very
comfortable to be at the same level with the one whose father or who himself is of some
lower caste and is doing odd jobs like cleaning toilets or sewerage lines etc and to break
this mentality we have to give time to people and protect those who are the victim of this
caste system and its malpractices at the same time and things will change.

Conclusion
The caste system in India is divided into four Varna i.e. the Brahmin, the Kshatriya, the Vaishya
and the Shudra. The people who are below shudra are considered as untouchables who faced all
kind of discrimination and became the victim of certain malpractices of the caste system of India.
We have analyzed the Ambedkar theory on the caste system of India and his views on
untouchability. We have even analyzed the reasons due to which caste system and untouchability
is still practices in India.

References
 Nikul Joshi; Caste System in Ancient India; Ancient History Encycloedia(2017)

 Available at https://www.ukessays.com/essays/sociology/the-problems-of-untouchability-in-
india-sociology-essay.php?vref=1
 Roy, Joydip; The Issue of caste in colonial India and the ideas and roles of Gandhiji and
Ambedkar; University of North Bengal(2010)