What is the nature and limit of power that iss legitimately exer sized over individuals? The question has been debated since the Ancient Greek Philosopher Aristotle. He points out that this kind of question is closely related to politics and ethics and the collective action was the most ethical type of power realization in a society. Since those ancient days, there had been some incredible developments that would arise the same question of power again.
Indeed, the rise of new mode of production, namely the capitalist system, in the 19th century had started new debates over power in the new socio-economic structure. There are two great philosophers who investigated the issue of power in the new socio-economic system. They are British Philosopher John Stuart Mill and German Philosopher Karl Marx. Even though they both studied the same question, namely the free development of individuality, their points of view to look at the question are very different from one another. While Mill emphasized that the free development of individuality was a progress from human nature to human being by struggling with political and social authorities, namely tyranny of the majority, for liberty; however, Marx criticized the view of Mill by saying that instead of abstract development of individuality or freedom, the individual underdevelopment is the social reality due to alienation to human nature. His emphasis on individual liberty and the notion of tyranny of the majority may contradict with the principle of utility according to which, when one is acting, he or she has to act as to maximize utility.
Maximizing utility is consisting of increasing happiness and decreasing pain of the people who will be affected by the result of the action. People who call themselves majority rules and exercise power, they can act as if they are maximizing utility and some minorities can be harmed by the result of their decision or actions. For example, there can be an event where the result may cause the happiness of vast number of people and very pain of the small number. According to the principle, one has to act to maximize utility and cause the pain of small number of people. This can be a sort of tyranny as well. Alternatively, when using the principle of utility, people will try to not to harm others since it will increase pain as a result they will respect the liberty of others.
From this perspective, the principle supports the views of liberty that Mill has. Now, if we define the conception of liberty of Mill, we will arrive at the conclusion that his liberty conception is a negative one meaning that liberty in private sphere; as long as society does not limit the individual he or she is said to be free. Marx, on the other hand, will not understand the same conception. He explains that separation of worker from production and from the act of producing, makes the man alienated to his self, to his nature and this estranged man is no more capable of practicing a life but he or she can be said to survive.
Marx has a definitive analysis of capitalism and the relations that it has created. His understanding of system relations is based on the issue of relations of production. For Mill, it is the individual, who by exercising and developing himself, becomes a free individual by having a character. Marx analyzes consciousness not as individual developing himself as Mill would put it, but he claims that consciousness is determined by the social existence. For instance, a student can develop a character and be a free individual by exercising and by not being too much attached to the custom. For Marx, this would be not really realizable since this student is bound by the economical and social situation that he lives within and he may be not free to achieve his ends or develop a character.
Marx sates that political economists, far from being understand the real relationships, accept the laws, the abstractions as real and ignore the estrangement of worker to his labour. Mill will stand in this category of political economists from a Marxist point of view, since he also postulates laws as if they were eternal. Marx explains that when worker is producing, he is putting his life on the obj.