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British Utilitarianism after Bentham: Nineteenth-Century Foundations of International Law II

Schütze, Robert

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Abstract

What are the legal principles of British utilitarianism in the long nineteenth century; and what conception(s) of international law do they offer? The celebrated founder of the utilitarian school is Jeremy Bentham, who categorically rejects all metaphysical natural law thinking by insisting that all positive law ought to be adopted by a legislature. But in the absence of a world legislature, what did this mean for the positivity and normativity of international law? Surprisingly, Bentham and a second generation of utilitarian thinkers can affirm the legally binding nature of international law; yet with John Austin, a radical ‘sovereigntist’ critique subsequently casts doubt over the nature of international law as law ‘properly so called’. This infamous scepticism would have a profound impact on British international thought in the twentieth century; yet in the nineteenth century, the ideas of a third-generation utilitarian became more prominent: the liberal philosophy of John Stuart Mill. Mill’s ‘relativist’ and ‘civilisational’ conception of international law thereby gave the utilitarian project a specifically imperialist dimension that will be analysed, both in its utilitarian-philosophical and practical-legal dimensions. The article however also explores two other legacies of British utilitarianism, namely: the rise of international codification and the emergence of a specifically British conception of private international law during the nineteenth century.

Citation

Schütze, R. (2023). British Utilitarianism after Bentham: Nineteenth-Century Foundations of International Law II. Revue d'histoire du droit international, https://doi.org/10.1163/15718050-bja10090

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 11, 2023
Online Publication Date Sep 1, 2023
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date Oct 2, 2023
Publicly Available Date Oct 2, 2023
Journal Journal of the History of International Law / Revue d'histoire du droit international
Print ISSN 1388-199X
Electronic ISSN 1571-8050
Publisher Brill Academic Publishers
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
DOI https://doi.org/10.1163/15718050-bja10090
Keywords Law; Political Science and International Relations; History
Public URL https://durham-repository.worktribe.com/output/1755123

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