Paola Rudan

Organizing utility. The art of social happiness and social science in Great Britain (1776-1824)

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Keywords: Social Happiness, Bentham, Owen, Thompson

The essay analyses Jeremy Bentham's principle of «the greatest happiness for the greatest number» and the uses of his formula made by Robert Owen and William Thompson, in order to point out the transformations experienced by the science and art of government between the 18th and the 19th century. It is argued that the move from a conception of happiness as an individual right towards happiness as an aggregate of individual utilities reflects an understanding of society as a space characterized by laws that can be the objects of a specific and autonomous science. According to this understanding, government is conceived as an «art of social happiness», a way of managing and organizing the productive capacities of society, while democracy becomes the political form of social sovereignty.

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