Kelsen's concept of the authority of law

Law and Philosophy 19 (2):173-199 (2000)
Abstract
According to Kelsen, law is a sense content and law has authority. The combination of these two claims appears puzzling. How is it possible for a sense content to have authority? Kelsen's notion of `basic norm' seems to provide an answer to this question. Such an answer, however, simply leads to a new formulation of the question itself. How is a basic norm possible? Kelsen's multiple and tentative answers to this question turn out to be untenable. A different starting point might be provided by Kelsen's notion of `social power'. On closer scrutiny, however, an empowerment account of Kelsen's concept of the authority of law proves unsatisfactory. Thus, our review of some candidate models for a Kelsenian explication of the authority of law shows that none of them is a viable hypothesis. Kelsen's concept of the authority of law is, at bottom, unintelligible.
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