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Bentham, Jeremy (1748–1832)

Jeremy Bentham, English philosopher and law reformer, was the founder of classical utilitarianism. His distinction between “law as it is” and “law as it ought to be” inspired the proponents of the doctrine of legal positivism. He wrote extensively on judicial procedure and evidence and developed a theory of punishment and reward that emphasized deterrence, proportionality, and rehabilitation of the offender. He devised the panopticon prison, a circular structure that he intended to facilitate the surveillance of the inmates and thereby guarantee good behavior. In politics, he developed an influential theory of representative democracy. While profoundly critical of the legal institutions and practices that he found in existence, Bentham was at the same time optimistic that law could make a preeminent contribution to social improvement.

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