Utility and Democracy: The Political Thought of Jeremy Bentham

Paperback | July 15, 2009

byPhilip Schofield

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Utility and Democracy is the first comprehensive historical account of the political thought of Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), the philosopher and reformer. Philip Schofield draws on his extensive knowledge of Bentham's unpublished manuscripts and original printed texts, and on the new,authoritative edition of The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham. A compelling narrative charts the way in which Bentham applied his utilitarian philosophy to the rapidly changing circumstances of his age.Schofield begins with a lucid account of Bentham's insights in the fields of logic and language, and in particular his theory of real and fictitious entities, which lie at the foundation of his thought. He proceeds to show how these insights brought Bentham to the principle of utility, which led himin turn to produce the first systematic defence of democracy from a utilitarian perspective. In contrast to previous scholarship, which claims that Bentham's 'conversion' or 'transition' to political radicalism took place either at the time of the French Revolution or following his meeting withJames Mill in 1808 or 1809, Professor Schofield shows that the process began in or around 1804 when the notion of sinister interest emerged in Bentham's thought. Bentham appreciated that rulers, rather than being motivated by a desire to promote the greatest happiness of those subject to them, aimedto promote their own happiness, whatever the overall cost to the community.In his constitutional writings of the 1820s, which he addressed to 'all nations professing liberal opinions', Bentham argued that the proper end of constitutional design was to maximize official aptitude and minimize government expense, and that the publicity of official actions, within the contextof a republican system of government where sovereignty lay in the people, was the means to achieve it. Bentham's commitment to radical reform led him to advocate the abolition of the British monarchy and House of Lords, the replacement of the Common Law with a codified system of law, and the'euthanasia' of the Anglican Church.

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Utility and Democracy is the first comprehensive historical account of the political thought of Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), the philosopher and reformer. Philip Schofield draws on his extensive knowledge of Bentham's unpublished manuscripts and original printed texts, and on the new,authoritative edition of The Collected Works of Jere...

Philip Schofield is Professor of the History of Legal and Political Thought at University College London.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:384 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.04 inPublished:July 15, 2009Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199563365

ISBN - 13:9780199563364

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Table of Contents

1. Real and Fictitious Entities2. The Principle of Utility3. Natural Law and Natural Rights4. The French Revolution5. The Emergence of Sinister Interest6. Parliamentary Reform7. The Church8. Colonies and Constitutional Law9. Codification, Constitutional Law, and Republicanism10. Publicity, Responsibility, and the Architecture of Government11. The Antidote to Sinister Interest: Official Aptitude12. The Politics of Law Reform13. Last ThingsBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

"Utility and Democracy is in a class by itself, demonstrating a complete command of the subject, and bringing twenty years of careful research to vivid life. Schofield brilliantly unpacks the development of Bentham's thought across a wide range of topics, from his famous principle of utilityto his views on constitutional and parliamentary reform in a true tour de force. Schofield's Utility and Democracy will undoubtedly be the leading work on the subject for some years to come." --(Political Studies Association, WJM Mackenzie Book Prize Panel 2006)