Explain this quote by John Stuart Mill?

Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided the end be their improvement, and the means justified by actually effecting that end.

Is he saying, it's a legitimate form of government if the government actually gives the barbarians (wrong doers) a chance to right themselves?

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    "Is he saying, it's a legitimate form of government if the government actually gives the barbarians (wrong doers) a chance to right themselves?"

    Not quite. He's not talking about wrongdoers: he's talking about cultures that we might view as barbaric (e.g. primitive tribes - he uses the description "those backward states of society in which the race itself may be considered as in its nonage" - that is, a state of immaturity).

    He's saying imposing despotic government is fine as long as it's directed toward making them more civilised, and that it actually succeeds in doing that.

    His examples are Charlemagne (emperor who supposedly brought Europe out of the "Dark Ages") and Akbar the Great (who united the warring states of northern India under the Mughal Empire). Considering the date written (1859) one might suspect he had the British Empire and India in mind too, but this is not explicit in the text.

    See the relevant section in "On Liberty" ( http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=PlZll-SI1FQC&pg... ):

  • 4 years ago

    John Stuart Mills Quotes

  • 1 decade ago

    Close. He is saying that despotism is an acceptable form of government for those who are different from us (barbarians) so long as its aim is their improvement ( changes to become more like us) AND those changes actually happen.

    It helps if you consider the circumstances from which the quote originated. These "barbarians" were the inhabitants of India. Not being Christian earned them the barbarian sobriquet, yet they were certainly not an uncivilized society. The 'occasion" of the statement was an extended period of discussion concerning the re-establishment of English colonial rule after the Indian revolt of 1856-57. Mill was attempting (with some success) to establish a less burdensome rule over the Indians than others wanted. The quote is a clear example of the "ends justifying the means".

  • Anonymous
    4 years ago

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    no my friend , it actually says that despotism is for barabarins (uneducated humans ,animals) but as the human beings "evolve" they get more educated less barbars and the mode oof government also has to evolve>

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