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Utility, Publicity, and LawEssays on Bentham's Moral and Legal Philosophy$
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Gerald J. Postema

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198793175

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198793175.001.0001

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Utilitarian International Order

Utilitarian International Order

(p.247) 11 Utilitarian International Order
Utility, Publicity, and Law

Gerald J. Postema

Oxford University Press

International politics was integral to Bentham’s comprehensive jurisprudential project. His perspective on international law was that of a legislator, an engineer of global order, not that of expositor or theorist of the existing law. He articulated a (quasi-) cosmopolitan principle for the governance of a state-pluralist global order: the ultimate aim of international law, he argued, is the greatest common and equal utility of all nations. This principle articulates a standard of equal, mutual benefit and builds in a proviso that permits derogation from arrangements or laws that work greatly to the disadvantage of any given nation. He envisioned the global order as a loose affiliation of equal sovereign states, each of which participates on an equal basis in a common congress accorded legislative authority through their participation and is subject to judgments of a common tribunal. Bentham’s ultimate solution to the problem of war was threefold: (i) the law was to be put on a clear, authoritative, and fully public basis in a carefully drafted and systematic code; (ii) all disputes arising in international relations were to be directed to this code and a common tribunal was empowered to resolve the disputes in an impartial way; (iii) judgments of the tribunal were to be enforced by the soft power of Public Opinion Tribunal consisting of both nations and individuals.

Keywords:   common tribunal, custom, effective benevolence, equality, global order, international law, state-pluralism, public opinion, solidarity, war

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