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Jeremy Bentham on open government and privacy

Tyler, Colin


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Professor Colin Tyler
Associate Dean (Research) in the Faculty of Business, Law and Politics, & Professor of Social and Political Thought


This article sketches the key political dimensions of Jeremy Bentham's utilitarianism, focusing particularly on the central importance that he placed on freedom of information as a necessary condition for the effective monitoring of public officials by civil society groups and individual citizens. Section one introduces Bentham as a pivotal radical thinker of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Section two outlines the critical dimensions of Bentham's political theory, particularly the need to debunk metaphorical and obscure language so as to enable citizens to understand the real forces and interests at work in their world. Section three turns to his later constitutional theory, emphasizing its radically democratic elements. Section four focuses on Bentham's theory of open government, emphasizing its reliance on public scrutiny of the actions of office-holders, a function that he assigned to what he called the Public Opinion Tribunal. Section five analyzes the place that he ascribed to personal privacy through a discussion of his liberal attitude to sexual practices. Section six reflects on the cogency and contemporary relevance of Bentham's theory.


Tyler, C. (2017). Jeremy Bentham on open government and privacy. Journal of Information Ethics, 26(1), 112-129

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 26, 2016
Online Publication Date May 1, 2017
Publication Date 2017
Deposit Date Jun 29, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jan 22, 2021
Journal Journal of Information Ethics
Print ISSN 1061-9321
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 26
Issue 1
Pages 112-129
Public URL


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