Inegalitarian inclusivity: A reading of J.S. mill’s mature theory of representation and electoral institutions in context

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The subject of representation has been one of the thorniest in scholarship on John Stuart Mill. This confusion is due in part to the way in which the details of his proposals, and their reception in his time, have been obscured by debates about Mill’s standing as a democrat and the relevance of his ideas to contemporary democratic theory. This essay, by contrast, postpones the question of democracy, focusing first on both the content and context of Mill’s writings on representation, including his negelected appraisal of second-best options. It argues that Mill’s theory belonged to a now-largely-overlooked strand of Victorian liberal and liberal-conservative thought on representation, which is here labelled inegalitarian inclusivity. Having established this filiation and reconstructed the inegalitarian-inclusivist view, it shows, further, that (and why) Mill was far from being universally regarded as a democrat by his contemporaries. Finally, it demonstrates that Mill, in insisting on the democratic character of his theory of representation, was deliberately attempting to shift the meaning of democracy in the era from a commitment to equality to a commitment to a particular understanding of inclusion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)98-130
Number of pages33
JournalHistory of Political Thought
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Philosophy


  • Class
  • Conservatism
  • Deliberation
  • Democracy
  • Diversity
  • Electoral systems
  • Inclusivity
  • Inequality
  • John Stuart Mill
  • Liberalism
  • Plural voting
  • Proportional representation
  • Representative government
  • Single-transferable vote
  • Thomas Hare
  • Universal suffrage
  • Variety of suffrages
  • Victorian political thought
  • Walter Bagehot


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