Article written by 2012 DPDF Gender Justice in the Era of Human Rights Fellow Katherine Hunt:
Are John Stuart Mill’s feminist ideas espoused in The Subjection of Women very liberal, or very radical? This question has been debated among contemporary scholars. The purpose of this paper is two fold. The first goal is to propose that Mill’s feminist work reveals a conception of power that is analogous to Steven Lukes’s (2005) radical theory of power. This is demonstrated by using Lukes’s theory as a lens through which to systematically analyze Mill’s conception of power as seen in The Subjection of Women. Second, I suggest that from an understanding of Mill’s conception of power as radical in the way that Lukes defines it, four central feminist critiques of Mill’s Subjection of Women are mitigated. Understanding Mill’s feminism in light of a radical view of power reveals that some feminist critiques have overlooked important aspects of Mill’s feminism that show his continued relevancy to the contemporary feminist movement and feminist thought.