Emily Katherine Ferkaluk is Instructor of Political Science at Cedarville University, USA. She is translator of On the Penitentiary System in the United States and Its Application to France: The Complete Text and teaches courses in American politics and political theory.
Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) is best remembered today as the founder of utilitarianism (a philosophy infamously abused by the Victorians) and the conceiver of the Panopticon, the circular prison house in which all prisoners could be seen by an unseen observer—later seized upon by Michel Foucault as the apotheosis of the neoliberal control society. In this volume in the Untimely Meditation series, Christian Welzbacher offers a new interpretation of Bentham, arguing that his “radical foolery” (paraphrasing Goethe's characterization of Bentham) actually embodied a social ethics that was new for its time and demands proper historical contextualization rather than retroactive analysis from the vantage point of late capitalism. Welzbacher provides just such an analysis, offering an account of the two great utilitarian projects that occupied Bentham all his life: the Panopticon and the Auto-Icon.
Welzbacher rescues the Panopticon from the misapprehensions of Foucault, Orwell, and Lacan, arguing that Bentham saw the Panopticon as a pedagogical instrument incorporating the tenets of reason; construction and function, plan and influence, architecture and politics are brought into alignment. Bentham extolled the discovery in words that could easily be ascribed to Le Corbusier, Bruno Taut, or any other modernist architect. The Auto-Icon expressed Bentham's theories that the dead should benefit later generations; these theories were effectively sealed when Bentham decided to have his body preserved and put on display. (It can be seen today in a cabinet at University College London.) He also donated his inner organs to science—a practice outlawed at the time—and posthumously stage-managed his own ceremonial autopsy.
Welzbacher reveals a Bentham who raised questions that feel familiar and current, invoking topoi that would come to define the modern era and that reverberate to this day.
“Its theme is political fanaticism, with which it deals severely and brilliantly.” —New Yorker
A stevedore on the San Francisco docks in the 1940s, Eric Hoffer wrote philosophical treatises in his spare time while living in the railroad yards. The True Believer—the first and most famous of his books—was made into a bestseller when President Eisenhower cited it during one of the earliest television press conferences.
Called a “brilliant and original inquiry” and “a genuine contribution to our social thought” by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., this landmark in the field of social psychology is completely relevant and essential for understanding the world today as it delivers a visionary, highly provocative look into the mind of the fanatic and a penetrating study of how an individual becomes one.