Politics as Antagonism and Diversity: Mill and Lyotard



At first glance, John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty1 would seem an obvious target for postmodernist criticism. Yet, I will argue, Mill’s analysis of the problem of individual liberty in this text, although flawed, can serve to reveal something relevant to our understanding of the political implications of the conventionalist account of language offered by the philosopher Jean-François Lyotard in his book The Differend: Phrases in Dispute.2 Lyotard’s position in this text differs in some measure from the views advocated earlier in The Postmodern Condition3 in so far as the postmodern project is regarded as being more problematic and partial.4 However, an emphasis upon the elucidation of an economy of meaning which resists strategies of totalisation is common to both The Postmodern Condition and The Differend. It is in this sense that The Differend situates itself within a postmodern context. Before discussing Lyotard’s views, however, I will turn to the text of On Liberty.


Political Implication Individual Liberty Political Realm Political Writing French Citizen 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1998

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