Bentham Project

Bentham's Theory of Law and Public Opinion

Bentham's Theory of Law and Public Opinion

Now available from Cambridge University Press: Bentham's Theory of Law and Public Opinion, edited by Xiabo Zhai and Michael Quinn.

This collection represents the latest research from leading scholars whose work has helped to frame our understanding of Bentham since the publication of H. L. A. Hart's Essays on Bentham. The authors explore fundamental areas of Bentham's thought, including the relationship between the rule of law and public opinion; law and popular prejudices or manipulated tastes; Bentham's methodology versus Hart's; sovereignty and codification; and the language of natural rights. Drawing on original manuscripts and volumes in The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham, the chapters combine philosophical and historical approaches and offer new and more faithful interpretations of Bentham's legal philosophy and its development. As a coherent whole, the book challenges the dominant understandings of Bentham among legal philosophers and rescues him from some famous mischaracterizations.


  • Xiaobo Zhai is Professor of Law at Zhengzhou University in China and Newton International Fellow at University College London.
  • Michael Quinn is Senior Research Associate of the Bentham Project at University College London.

Table of contents

  1. Introduction Fred Rosen
  2. Law's rule: reflexivity, mutual accountability, and the rule of law Gerald Postema
  3. The soul of justice: Bentham on publicity, law and the rule of law Gerald Postema
  4. Popular prejudices, real pains: what does a legislator do when the people err in assigning mischief? Michael Quinn
  5. Jeremy Bentham on taste, sex and religion Philip Schofield
  6. Bentham's jurisprudence and democratic theory: an alternative to Hart's approach David Lieberman
  7. Bentham's natural arrangement and the collapse of the expositor-censor distinction in the general theory of law Xiaobo Zhai
  8. Utility, morality and reform: Bentham and eighteenth-century continental jurisprudence Emmanuelle de Champs
  9. A defence of Jeremy Bentham's critique of natural rights Philip Schofield