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Politics, Religion and Classical Political Economy in Britain: John Stuart Mill and his Followers

Politics offers an original interpretation of John Stuart Mill’s final years and the changes in his economic and social thought late in life. Mill’s life can be divided, without too much violence, into periods of scholarly retreat, where he was under the influence of a couple of rather domineering personalities, first his father and then his wife, and periods of partisan political activity, where he hung out with groups of young radicals, comrades-in-arms in the struggle to improve mankind.

Following his wife’s death, Mill emerged from solitude to champion a number of causes. By virtue of his selfless zeal, his thoughtfulness and modesty (charming in such a celebrated figure), as well as his great stature as an economist and philosopher, Mill attracted a number of devoted followers. There were disagreements among these younger men, however, on some fundamental issues. A "heterodox" faction questioned the Ricardian assumptions on which Mill’s own political economy was based. These dissenters, interestingly, were more religiously orthodox than their rivals. A belief in God seemed to be correlated with methodological flexibility. Influenced by his "heterodox" followers, and hoping to win over politically active workers, Mill modified his economic and religious principles in small but significant ways. These emendations resulted in serious inconsistencies in his final essays, inconsistencies which offended Mill’s "orthodox" disciples, good Ricardians and ardent secularists, and have long puzzled historians.

Below are a few excerpts from some of the reviews of the book:

"A first-rate addition to the Mill literature."

--Geoffrey Gilbert, History of Political Economy

"Lipkes makes a fascinating contribution on a complex set of personalities and analytic and political concerns. He provides us with a new starting point from which to re-evaluate one of the key transitions in economics."

--Sandra Peart, Journal of the History of Economic Thought

A "fascinating book..."

--John Maloney, The Economic Journal

"Both the structure and the content of Lipkes’s argument are original and provocative, cutting across many extant schools of Mill studies and suggesting new and subtle relationships among fields of study that were becoming increasingly separated..."

--Eldon Eisenach, Albion

"A notable strength of this well-written book is its attention to what are too often dismissed as Mill’s ‘crotchets’: birth control, enfranchisement of women, land reform, and cooperation..."

--Christopher Kent, Victorian Periodicals Review

A "judicious and well-written study... Lipkes’s handling of...Mill’s final decade is innovative, provoking and revealing. His study redraws the map of Mill’s intellectual history..."

--Mark Donoghue, Economic Record