Mill’s theory can be seen as both bolstering and inhibiting social reformers. In some ways, his theory leaves a lot of room for social reform. Mill believes that the only way for society to progress is to allow the expression of individuality in speech and action. Thus, he leaves room for untraditional views of society to be expressed. For example, Mill would not support inhibiting the free speech of reformers, or forcing them to conform to social norms with which they disagreed. In these way, reformers would be given a lot of freedom to pursue their vision of an ideal society. However, social reformers would also likely be frustrated by Mill’s conception of liberty.

While Mill believes that social reformers should not be legally or socially restricted, he would also argue that they should not legally or socially restrict other people’s activities. Thus, Mill would not support movements like the 19th century temperance movement, or movements against prostitution. He accepts that reformers can try to convince people to change their view of society. He even accepts the idea that there are better and worse ways to structure society, and these reformers may be right about how society should be altered. However, regardless of the correctness of their views, Mill believes that reformers should not try to force people to adapt those views. He holds the value of individuality too highly. As a result, many of the traditional methods used by reformers would not be acceptable under Mill’s system.

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