Keywords: Jeremy Bentham; paternal system; paternalism; Panopticon; House of Industry.
This paper aims at examining Bentham’s view of the relationships between rich and poor. Moving from historiographical research on eighteenth-century paternalism, I will highlight the anti-paternalistic perspective that emerges from Bentham’s writings on the Panopticon and the Poor Laws. By the end of the eighteenth century, the relationships of personal dependence between members of the various social ranks, on which the paternal system was based, are gradually replaced by the new structuring of the labor market. Workers become freer, at least formally. Accordingly, utilitarian reforms can be considered anti-paternalistic insofar as they implement forms of government of the workforce more suited to the new mode of production. The principle of the greatest happiness (and productivity) of the working class thus replaces the paternalistic aim of deference to the rich from the poor