Jeremy Bentham’s Theory of Utilitarianism

Bentham as an individualist believed that the function of law is to emancipate individual from the bandage and restraint upon his freedom. He supported the economic principle of laissez-faire which meant minimum interference of the State in the economic activities of individuals. Bentham propounded the principle of Utilitarianism. According to this theory, the right aim of legislation is the carrying out of the principle of utility.

According 1830, Bentham’s Utilitarianism had become the most popular creed of English legislative reforms. Bentham proceeded from the axiom that nature has placed mankind under governance of two sovereign masters i.e. pleasure and pain. They alone point out to us what we ought to do and what we should refrain from doing. The good or evil of an action should be measured by the quality of pain and pleasure resulting from it.

The task of government according to Bentham, was to promote happiness of society by furthering enjoyment of pleasure and affording security against pain. He was convinced that if individuals comprising society were happy and contented, the whole body politic would enjoy happiness and prosperity. He believed that happiness of the social order is to be understood in the objective sense and it broadly includes satisfaction of certain needs, such as need to be fed, clothed, housed, etc. Happiness changes it’s significance in the same way as the meaning of happiness also undergoes changes with the change in societal norms.

Betham desired to ensure happiness of the community by attaining four major goals for them, namely,

  1. Subsistence
  2. Abundance
  3. Equality
  4. Security

Therefore, the function of law must be to meet these ends i.e. to provide subsistence, to produce abundance, to favour equality, and to maintain security. Of these four ends of legal regulation, security was foremost importance to him as it was related to protection of honor, property and status of a person.

He never questioned the desirability of economic individualism and property, firmly believed that people’s right to property must be respected for the welfare of the state. Society should encourage private enterprise so as to promote opportunities for subsistence and abundance. Bentham rejected natural rights and recognized no limitations on Parliamentary sovereignty.

Criticism Against Bentham:

Bentham’s theory of Utilitarianism has been subjected to criticism on many counts. According to Friedmann, it suffers mainly from two weaknesses:

Firstly, in an effort to blend materialism with idealism; Bentham underestimates the need for individual discretion and flexibility in the application of law overestimating the power of the legislator.

Secondly, his theory fails to balance individual interests with the interests of the community. Another criticism advanced against Bentham’s hedonistic calculus, i.e. theory of Utilitarianism is that pleasure and pain alone cannot be the final test of the adequacy of law.

Bentham’s theory suggests that interests of an unlimited number of individuals shall be conductive to the interest of the community. In other words, it means that freedom of enterprise will automatically lead to greater equality. But when put to actual practice, it is just the reverse of it resulting into inequality.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

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P – Figure out your Priorities – Aishwarya Sandeep

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O- Grab the Opportunity – Aishwarya Sandeep


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