Event Date: 4 November 2015
Birkbeck University of London
43 Gordon Square
London WC1H 0PD
Professor David Runciman (Cambridge) – Jeremy Bentham as conspiracy theorist
Conspiracy theory is widely believed to be intellectually disreputable and epistemically flawed. Yet ideas of conspiracy have been central to the thought of many leading political thinkers. Jeremy Bentham exemplifies this: he was, if not a conspiracy theorist, then certainly a theorist of conspiracy. This lecture will explore what Bentham had to say about conspiracies real and imagined and how his ideas of conspiracy changed in line with his changing view of democracy. It will ask whether it makes sense to call Bentham a conspiracy theorist, and if so, what that tells us about the relationship between conspiracy theory and political theory.
David Runciman teaches political theory at Cambridge University and is a fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He writes for The Guardian and the London Review of Books. He researches late-nineteenth and twentieth century political thought, theories of the state and of political representation, and various aspects of contemporary political philosophy and contemporary politics. His most recent books are Politics: Ideas in and The Confidence Trap: A History of Democracy in Crisis from the First World War to the Present.
Introduction by Dr Jason Edwards (Birkbeck):