Legal Positivism and the Rule of Law

Michael Sevel

University of Sydney - Faculty of Law

August 18, 2009

34 Australian Journal of Legal Philosophy 53 (2009)

I argue against the view that legal positivists cannot consistently endorse, as many do, both Lon Fuller's account of the formal elements of the rule of law (or a similar view), and the claim that an utter failure to conform to those elements results in no legal system at all. Legal positivists can consistently hold these views because (1) they need not, with Fuller, accept that law is a functional concept, and (2) Fuller's account does not offer any insights into the distinctive features of the rule-of-law ideal, but instead calls our attention to essential features of norms and normative systems more generally, especially ones in which there are norm-governed procedures for either creating norms or changing the application of existing norms. Fuller's elements of the rule of law applies to any system of conduct-guiding norms, whether it be legal, religious, or less momentous, like the rules of chess. Fuller and legal positivists therefore end up agreeing about certain aspects of the nature of norms and normative systems, and but not about anything distinctive about law.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 16

Keywords: law, rule of law, jurisprudence, Fuller, legal positivism, Raz

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Date posted: April 28, 2012 ; Last revised: July 18, 2012

Suggested Citation

Sevel, Michael, Legal Positivism and the Rule of Law (August 18, 2009). 34 Australian Journal of Legal Philosophy 53 (2009). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1456808

Contact Information

Michael Sevel (Contact Author)
University of Sydney - Faculty of Law ( email )
Faculty of Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006

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