Law Is the Command of the Sovereign: H. L. A. Hart Reconsidered

Ratio Juris 29 (3):364-384 (2016)

Andrew Morrison
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
This article presents a critical reevaluation of the thesis—closely associated with H. L. A. Hart, and central to the views of most recent legal philosophers—that the idea of state coercion is not logically essential to the definition of law. The author argues that even laws governing contracts must ultimately be understood as “commands of the sovereign, backed by force.” This follows in part from recognition that the “sovereign,” defined rigorously, at the highest level of abstraction, is that person or entity identified by reference to game theory and the philosophical idea of “convention” as the source of signals with which the subject population has become effectively locked, as a group, into conformity.
Keywords H.L.A. Hart  coercion  command theory  John Austin  Jeremy Bentham  game theory  Frederick Schauer  Ekow Yankah  definition of sovereign  convention
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DOI 10.1111/raju.12133
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The Concept of Law.Stuart M. Brown & H. L. A. Hart - 1963 - Philosophical Review 72 (2):250.
Authority and Coercion.Arthur Ripstein - 2004 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 32 (1):2-35.
Practical Reason and Norms.Joseph Raz - 1993 - Law and Philosophy 12 (3):329-343.
Coercion.Robert Nozick - 1969 - In White Morgenbesser (ed.), Philosophy, Science, and Method: Essays in Honor of Ernest Nagel. St Martin's Press. pp. 440--72.

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