Webinar with David Lay Williams, DePaul University
Although sometimes understood as a champion of free markets, John Stuart Mill is among the most significant opponents of economic inequality of the 19th century. By focusing mostly on his relatively ignored, but extensive, writings on political economy, it is clear that inequality represents a unique and existential threat to his conception of justice, civic harmony, and ultimately utility, which turns out to require a significant degree of economic equality. This chapter traces Mill’s problematization of inequality, as well as the ways in which he attempts to solve the problem while attempting to avoid the radical measures associated with the most visible egalitarians of the 19th century. For Mill, ultimately, equality is a necessary condition to a flourishing society, but it must be achieved gradually.
David Lay Williams teaches and conducts research in political theory, especially the history of political thought. He received his PhD in Government from the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of Rousseau's Platonic Enlightenment, Rousseau's 'Social Contract': An Introduction, and numerous articles on thinkers ranging from Plato to Jürgen Habermas and topics such as democratic theory, the separation of powers, social contract theory, religion and politics, terrorism, institutional design, political ontology, fear, love, and deception. In 2003-04 and 2008-09 he held research fellowships at the Institute for Research in the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin—Madison, and in 2012-13, he held a faculty fellowship at the DePaul Humanities Center. In 2016-17 he was the Wicklander Fellow at DePaul's Institute for Business and Professional Ethics. He is presently the political theory editor for the journal, Political Research Quarterly. Professor Williams also writes short pieces connecting the history of political thought to contemporary political concerns for outlets such as the Washington Post, The Hill, Public Seminar, and Bloomberg News.