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How does one introduce a classic? The renown of work such as On Liberty leaves plenty of room for commentary from everyone familiar with John Stuart Mill, a fact that is itself indicative of the sheer popularity of this relatively short work and Mill’s intellectual impact. English philosopher Maurice Cranston wrote of  Mill that he “held the attention of the reading public of the Western world longer than any other 19th-century philosopher, with the notable exception of Karl Marx”. Perhaps it is not by coincidence that these two spots are held by such contrasting thinkers. Like any classic thinker, Mill’s work needs to be revisited and revitalised every so often to prevent his important thoughts from being reduced to simple platitudes about liberty.

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