Mill, Marx, and Rosanna: Tyranny of the Majority

“Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practices a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself.” (pg 8)

This passage from Chapter 1 of “On Liberty” reminded me of the readings we started out with this semester. I feel like Marx would agree with Mill on this point. The bourgeoisie create the world in their own image, like the powerful and rich that make up the majority are able to impose their own form of tyranny on the rest of society. It issues the right mandates from their perspective, but when played out on the streets of London, it is the working class minority who does not have a voice that suffers from them.

This was the tyranny Rosanna was subjected to, showing that “social tyranny” really is “more formidable than many kinds of political oppression.” She spoke in her letter about how once she became aware, at the reformatory, that she was supposed to be trying to better herself, she was overcome with loneliness and a feeling of constantly trying to break through to the surface but being unable to (like in quick sand). This demonstrates the point Mill is making about the effects on the minority of the social tyranny of the majority.

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