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Journal Articles History of European Ideas Year : 2017

Editors’ introduction


Jeremy Bentham is known as the founder of classical utilitarianism, and as a profound analyser and theorist of law. Occasionally, he is also mentioned (though for the most part fleetingly) as among the thinkers who contributed to the development of economics as a discipline. Insofar as the homo ecomomicus of modern economics is assumed to be a self-interested utility maximizer, Bentham would recognize his own characterization of typical human motivation (provided only that utility was understood as a net balance of pleasure over pain). However, he also recognized that, in seeking to maximize their own utility, human beings often make mistakes, through laziness or lack of time, overhasty associations of ideas, or desire to think and act like their fellows. In the English-speaking world at least, the previous sentence will be instantly recognizable as a summary of the findings of behavioural economics in general, and the nudge theory of Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein in particular.1 Unfortunately for Bentham, he never published the material in which he most fully developed his insights into the obstacles to rational choosing, and to the range of possible governmental responses to both those obstacles and to the failures of rationality to which they give rise. That work, Bentham’s essay on ‘Indirect Legislation’, is the topic of this special issue. [Introduction's first lines]


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hal-03389096 , version 1 (20-10-2021)



Anne Brunon-Ernst, Malik Bozzo-Rey, Michael Quinn. Editors’ introduction. History of European Ideas, 2017, Indirect Legislation: Jeremy Bentham’s Regulatory Revolution, 43 (1), pp.123. ⟨hal-03389096⟩
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