The University of Southampton
University of Southampton Institutional Repository

Constitutional limits and the public sphere: a critical study of Bentham's constitutionalism

Ben-Dor, Oren (2000) Constitutional limits and the public sphere: a critical study of Bentham's constitutionalism, Oxford, GB, Hart Publishing

Record type: Book

Abstract

The place of utility as a critical theory of human existence has been largely discredited and its potential undermined in the course of modern debates in ethical,political and legal theory. The central intuition that guides the argument of this book is that both the technical and reductionist methodology associated with utilitarianism do not do justice to the theory which identifies the maximisation of pleasure as the most fundamental self-interest of man. Enlarging upon this intuition, the book is mainly concerned with critical constitutionalism. Based on a close reading of Bentham's unpublished and recently published texts, the argument in the first part shows that a critical analysis of constitutionally limited government formed a central theme of Bentham's utilitarian enterprise. The theme of the author's reconstruction is that, for Bentham, constitutional limits signified socially dynamic relationships within the public sphere and between this sphere and a centralised coercive authority. Because this relationship is socially dynamic, the ever-changing communal-based conception of harm constantly transforms the relationship between law and the community which it governs. This feature reappears in many layers of Bentham's thought, such as his theory of sovereignty, the duty to obey the law, and the motivational basis for forming and transforming a conception of harm within the public sphere. Even the most revisionist of Bentham scholars fail to capture this central unifying theme in Bentham's writings. The second part of the book further develops this reconstruction. It argues that an underdeveloped insight of critical importance characterised Bentham's utilitarianism. This insight helps to elucidate the transient and dynamic connection of ethics to politics. In critically reviewing five contemporary accounts of this connection, utility is shown to have closer affinities with communitarianism. However as a critical theory, utility has more in common with the Habermasian notion of communication and inter-subjectivity than with Humean conventionalism. The utilitarian critic is in a position to transcend not only the simple hedonism with which utilitarianism has always been associated, but also the historically-ridden perspectives which potentially dogmatise the range of human possibilities under a received conception of harm. v

Full text not available from this repository.

More information

Published date: 1 January 2000
Organisations: Faculty of Business, Law and Art

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 200755
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/200755
ISBN: 1-841131-113
PURE UUID: 69a268b5-d33d-4ffa-abd3-e3a7e188b0a6

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 02 Nov 2011 14:51
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 11:14

Export record

Contributors

Author: Oren Ben-Dor

University divisions

Download statistics

Downloads from ePrints over the past year. Other digital versions may also be available to download e.g. from the publisher's website.

View more statistics

Atom RSS 1.0 RSS 2.0

Contact ePrints Soton: eprints@soton.ac.uk

ePrints Soton supports OAI 2.0 with a base URL of http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/cgi/oai2

This repository has been built using EPrints software, developed at the University of Southampton, but available to everyone to use.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.

×