Utility and Democracy: The Political Thought of Jeremy Bentham, Philip Schofield, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006, pp. ix, 370.
This book is part of ongoing work to improve on what is known of how the influential utilitarian of the nineteenth century Jeremy Bentham became an articulate defender of representative democracy. Philip Schofield, director of the Bentham Project that holds a voluminous Bentham collection, has been with the project for the past twenty years. The prevailing view of interpreters was that Bentham became enthusiastic about democracy when observing the French Revolution but, following the violent turn of events in France from 1792 onwards, he substantially revised his initial optimism. Schofield's views do not coincide with those of earlier interpreters, such as J.R. Dinwiddy and E. Halevy that it might have been association with James Mill in 1808 that turned Bentham into a political radical. The evidence of passages from Bentham's writings indicates that the cause was Bentham's understanding around 1804 of “sinister interest.” His failed attempts to construct the panopticon led him to develop an account of sinister interest and to come to the conclusion that democracy is essential to the achievement of good government.