Bentham: A Fragment on Government
This volume makes available to a student readership one of the central texts in the utilitarian tradition, in the authoritative 1977 edition prepared by Professors Burns and Hart as part of Bentham's Collected works. A Fragment on Government is, as Ross Harrison observes in his introduction, a young man's work, and Bentham's exuberant prose reflects his own confidence that the Fragment 'was the first publication by which men at large were invited to break loose from the trammels of authority and ancestor-wisdom on the field of law'. Certain that history was on his side, Bentham sought to rid the world of the hideous mess wrought by legal obfuscation and confusion, and to transform politics into a rational scientific activity, premised on the hideous politics into a rational scientific activity, premised on the fundamental axiom that 'it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong'. In the context of a European social and political order still based upon privilege and hereditary right, this was a profoundly subversive sentiment. This edition of the Fragment on Government contains several important students aids, including a guide to further reading and a chronology of the principal events in Bentham's life.
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