At present individuals are lost in the crowd. In politics it is almost a triviality to say that public opinion now rules the world. The only power deserving the name is that of masses, and of governments while they make themsleves the organ of the tendancies and instincts of the masses.
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
John Mill takes a historical turn to introduce his subject using an imagined medevial past in stark to contrast modernity. Its a historical theme increasingly deployed in Mill’s life time, to present the medevial world as one focused on community and the self as a product of modernity.
Mill’s takes the opposite extreme in the rise and fall of his inflection. The emotional register of his deployment of past, one of decline and loss.
In ancient history, in the Middle Ages, and in a diminishing degree through the long transition from feudality to the present time, the individual was a power in himself; and if he had either great talents or a high social position, he was a considerable power. At present individuals are lost in the crowd……
Mill’s adopts the role of emotional hooligan, taking a contrary perspective to a historical narrative frame reaching consensus among some historians in the period.