On Liberty by John Stuart Mill
The four essays here collected show Mill applying his liberal utilitarian philosophy to a range of issues that are still regarded as vital today - issues of the nature of ethics, the scope and limits of individual liberty, the merits and costs of democratic government and the place of women in society. Contrary to the common view, these essays show Mill to be a systematic and consistent thinker, rather than a muddled eclectic of traditional interpretations. In his introduction, John Gray describes these essays as applications of Mill's doctrine of the Art of Life, as set out in "A System of Logic". Using the resources of recent revisionist scholarship, he argues that Mill's work is far richer than traditional interpretations allow. He suggests that Mill's project of giving liberalism a utilitarian foundation nevertheless fails, the failure of Millian liberalism carrying with it the likely failure of liberalism itself.