Norman Finkelstein is of course best known for his work on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict–his books, lectures and media interviews on the subject over the last three decades–and for the considerable controversy it has generated.

Less known is that for many years he also taught political theory. It might come as something of a surprise that among his favorite works is John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty. This might come as a surprise since Finkelstein is well to the left of most admirers of the iconic 19th-century liberal thinker. Of course Mill was also a socialist and a feminist–indeed an early one (see Martha Nussbaum’s comments at the end of this interview). But in postcolonial studies Mill is widely regarded as an imperialist and a racist. An ambiguous and contested legacy, to be sure–which is part of Mill’s enduring hold on us.

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