School of Politics and International Relations

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Helen McCabe

Assistant Professor in Political Theory, Faculty of Social Sciences



I joined Nottingham in September 2017. My D.Phil thesis looked at J.S. Mill's surprising claim to be a socialist: I completed it in 2010. Since then, I have been teaching analytical political theory and the history of political thought at the University of Oxford (2010-2013) and the University of Warwick (2013-2017).

Expertise Summary

My research has mainly looked at the political philosophy of John Stuart Mill, especially his connections to pre-Marxist socialism (particularly that of Robert Owen, Charles Fourier, Victor Considerant, Henri Saint-Simon and Louis Blanc). I am increasingly interested in the nature of his intellectual relationship with Harriet Taylor Mill (whom he credited as his co-author), and in her independent status as a political philosopher.

In 2018 I became Director of Disposable Brides, the Rights Labs, a University of Nottingham Beacon of Excellence project on Forced Marriage.

Teaching Summary

I teach 'Political Thought: Ancient to Modern' and 'Modern Political Thought'. I am also the convenor for the Placements Module in Autumn 2018 and will teach 'The Politics of Utopia' in Spring 2019.

In Semester 2, my Consultation and Advice Hours will be Wednesdays 9:45-10:45 and Thursdays 11:45-12:45.

Research Summary

I am currently finishing off the manuscript of my book John Stuart Mill: Socialist, about which I am in discussions wth Princeton University Press, and on which I am giving related papers in Paris… read more

Recent Publications

Current Research

I am currently finishing off the manuscript of my book John Stuart Mill: Socialist, about which I am in discussions wth Princeton University Press, and on which I am giving related papers in Paris (May 2018) and York (2018) this year. I am also working on Mill's co-authoring relationship with his wife, Harriet Taylor Mill. I presented on this topic in Lancaster (October 2017) and am speaking on it in London (February 2018), New Orleans (March 2018), and Boston (August 2018) this year. I am investigating the extent to which we should think of Mill's body of work as 'his', 'hers' or 'theirs' and what this would mean for his, and her, status as a thinker in the 'canon' of Western political theory; and link this to other work being done on (particularly female) collaboration and co-authorship. Amongst other things, I hope this speaks to the demand to liberate the curriculum, and restore forgotten women their rightful place in history.

Using arguments put forward by Mill and Taylor (as well as William Thompson and Eliza Wheeler), I am working on a conceptual analysis, and definition, of forced marriage and what makes it a form of slavery (or, alternatively, how it identifies a specific set of institutions and practices similar to slavery). To this end, I recently became Director of a project on Forced Marriage with the Rights Lab, a University of Nottingham Beacon of Excellence.

Past Research

My D.Phil thesis looked at Mill's somewhat surprising assertion of being 'under the general designation of Socialist'. I considered this in its historical context (particularly of 'utopian' socialism such as that of Robert Owen and his followers, Henri Saint-Simon and his followers the Saint-Simonians); Charles Fourier and Victor Consideration; and Louis Blanc, Philipe Buchez and other cooperative socialists in France) and found it to be a plausible claim. Mill's socialism is akin, but not identical to, many of these 'utopian' socialists. I also considered his socialism in a more conceptual fashion (particularly given John Rawls' claim that Mill was a supporter of 'property-owning democracy' rather than 'liberal socialism') and found that Mill's commitments to the free development of individuality; equality; social harmony; progress and general utility make him plausible a 'liberal socialist'.

Since completing my D.Phil I have been working on Mill's feminism and how his view of distributive justice and the 'ideal' society can help us unravel some of his oft-criticised statements regarding 'ideal' marriage in 'The Subjection of Women'. I have also done further work on his socialism, particularly focusing on his relationship with Fourierism, an over-looked element of his socialism, and on his concept of the 'ideal' as the North Star by which we ought to navigate current social reform.

Future Research

My future research will increasingly focus on forced marriage, and how to end it, along with other forms of modern slavery, by 2030.

  • HELEN MCCABE, 2016. Harriet Taylor Mill. In: CHRIS MACLEOD and DALE MILLER, eds., A Companion to Mill Wiley-Blackwell. 112-125
  • HELEN MCCABE, 2015. John Stuart Mill, Utility and the Family: Attacking ‘the Citadel of the Enemy’ Revue Internationale de Philosophie/International Review of Philosophy. 272(2), 225-235
  • HELEN MCCABE, 2015. JOHN STUART MILL’S ANALYSIS OF CAPITALISM AND THE ROAD TO SOCIALISM. In: CASEY HARRISON, ed., A New Social Question : Capitalism, Socialism and Utopia. Cambridge Scholars. 8-22
  • HELEN MCCABE, 2014. John Stuart Mill's Philosophy of Persuasion Informal Logic. 34(1), 38-61
  • HELEN MCCABE, 2012. Mill and Socialism: A Reply to Capaldi The Tocqueville Review. 33(1), 145-164

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