Cor Hermans discovered in Mill first of all the passionate rationalist, with an open eye for the moral and institutional shortcomings of democracy. His quest for ‘liberation through reason’ still is, and very much so, a topical subject … It will take you some long evenings to make yourself familiar with the Mill that Mr Hermans outlined. But it will be a rewarding experience. A refreshing view on Mill and an interestingly written history of ideas of the nineteenth century, including the striking notion that a merciless striving for personal gain is not everything, as we know by now, having suffered the banking crisis of overextended loans.
All this implies that … the so-called classical liberals, who nowadays call themselves neo-liberals or libertarians, claim Mill’s ideas and contend they follow in his footsteps. The Dutch historian Cor Hermans modifies this image thoroughly in his highly readable book Een Engelsman in Frankrijk …. In it he doesn’t deny that the famous philosopher played an important role in the history of European liberalism, but he demonstrates … that [Mill] was also influenced, and substantially so, by the Romantic Movement, socialism, and positivism.