Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Harriet Taylor and John Stuart Mill's Socialism

McCabe, Helen



John Stuart Mill’s assertion that his politics were best described as ‘under the general designation of Socialist’ is often ignored, and – where acknowledged – blamed on his wife, Harriet Taylor. In this article, I explore this particular ‘Harriet Taylor Myth’, considering in detail Mill’s account of their co-authoring of Principles of Political Economy; Taylor’s own socialism; and the development of their views in the context of events in France in 1848. I conclude that there may be some evidence that Taylor thought France ready for communist experiments in 1849, whereas Mill disagreed, and that she thought the utility gained by securing subsistence would be more significant than he did. In itself, however, this is not enough to claim she was radically ‘more’ socialist than Mill, or that the positions which were included in Principles are not authentically ‘his’ as well as ‘theirs’. Instead of seeking to avoid Mill’s socialism by ascribing it solely to the (malign) influence of his wife, we ought to take more seriously both their co-authoring relationship, and their commitment to a decentralised, peaceful and voluntaristic – but nonetheless radical – socialism.


McCabe, H. (2020). Harriet Taylor and John Stuart Mill's Socialism. Nineteenth-Century Prose, 47(1), 197-234

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 17, 2020
Publication Date Apr 30, 2020
Deposit Date Oct 16, 2019
Publicly Available Date May 1, 2023
Journal Nineteenth-Century Prose
Print ISSN 1052-0406
Publisher San Diego State University, California
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 47
Issue 1
Pages 197-234
Public URL
Related Public URLs