On Liberty

Liberty Defined, and Re-defined “The Communist Manifesto” and “On Liberty” College

The Communist Manifesto, written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and first published in 1848 [1], precedes the writing of John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty by more than a decade. Although Mill and Marx were both living in England by the time On Liberty was published in 1859 [2], the two authors moved in different circles. Whereas Mill was a high-ranking employee of the East India Company [3], Marx had emigrated to London in 1849 and was living in relative poverty despite his hard work and notoriety [4]. Thus, to Marx and Engels Mill was more a contemporary than a comrade. Like the two authors whose paths overlapped in space and time without really touching, the Manifesto and On Liberty address some of the same themes but interpret them in different ways.

Although both The Communist Manifesto and On Liberty created massive paradigm shifts in the social sciences and they have many themes in common, they were written for different audiences to accomplish different goals. The Manifesto is chiefly a socioeconomic treatise while On Liberty concerns itself more with civic structure and morality. Although politics, economics, and moral philosophy all seek to explain and possibly optimize the behavior of people in groups, they are not the...

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