David Lieberman, LAPA Fellow; University of California, Berkeley

Date: 
Mon, 10/21/2013
Location: 
4:30-6 PM, Kerstetter Room, Marx Hall

Please join us for a LAPA Seminar with David Lieberman, LAPA Fellow and James W. and Isabel Coffroth Professor of Jurisprudence and Professor of History at University of California, Berkeley, who will present "Bentham’s Jurisprudence and Democratic Theory: An Alternative to Hart’s Approach."  His commentator is Quentin Skinner, Rockefeller Visiting Professor of Distinguished Teaching of University Center for Human Values and Barber Beaumont Professor of the Humanities at Queen Mary, University of London.

As always, the LAPA format asks that seminar participants familiarize themselves with the paper in advance. The commentator will open the session by summarizing the main themes in the paper and presenting some topics for discussion. The author then has the right of first response before we open to the floor for questions. The seminar will end with a brief reception in the Kerstetter Room, giving everyone a chance to mingle and meet.

Abstract:  “Bentham’s Jurisprudence and Democratic Theory” explores a basic and surprisingly neglected question in the utilitarian program of reform presented by the British jurist, Jeremy Bentham:  the relationship between his theory of law and his mature theory of democratic statecraft.  The question is typically handled, as in the case of H.L.A. Hart’s influential studies, in terms of Bentham’s treatment of sovereignty.  Through a critical analysis of Hart’s discussion, I argue that this approach puts too much weight on the concept of sovereignty, which did not occupy particular prominence in Bentham’s late and voluminous democratic writings.  As an alternative, I relate Bentham’s democratic theory and his Constitutional Code to his general codification program.  Bentham’s design of democratic institutions embodies an understanding of state capacity – the conditions for making it both more powerful and less vulnerable to abuse – that was central to his codification ideal.  The paper forms part of a larger project which is to recover Bentham’s Constitutional Code and related writings of the period 1815-32 for our understanding of democratic theory and constitutionalism during a formative stage of their development in western political theory and practice."

David Lieberman is the Coffroth Professor of Jurisprudence and Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley.  He studies the history of legal thought and is especially interested in the relationship among law and legal theory and other bodies of speculation, such as the social sciences and political theory.  He is the author of The Province of Legislation Determined: Legal Theory in Eighteenth Century Britain and has produced a critical edition of Jean Louis De Lolme's 1771 The Constitution of England; or, An Account of the English Government.  Other publications include: “Why Law? Philip Selznick and the Study of Normative Systems” (Issues in Legal Scholarship); “Bentham on Codification” (Selected Writings of Jeremy Bentham); “The Mixed Constitution and the Common Law” (The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Political Thought); “Adam Smith on Justice, Rights, Law” (Cambridge Companion to Adam Smith); and “Legislation in a Common Law Context” (Zeitschrift für Neuere Rechtsgeschichte). 

Quentin Skinner is the Rockefeller Visiting Professor of Distinguished Teaching of University Center for Human Values, and Barber Beaumont Professor of the Humanities at Queen Mary, University of London.  He is the author of several books, including The Foundations of Modern Political Thought (two volumes, 1978), Machiavelli (1981), Reason and Rhetoric in the Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes (1996), Liberty before Liberalism (1998),Visions of Politics (three volumes, 2002), and Hobbes and Republican Liberty (2008).  He has published dozens of essays on early-modern European intellectual history, the nature of interpretation and historical explanation, and a range of topics in contemporary political theory, including the concept of political liberty and the character of the state.  His scholarship is available in 24 languages, and his Foundations of Modern Political Thought was named by the Times Literary Supplement as one of the 100 most influential books published since the Second World War

Funded by the Bouton Law Lecture Fund