The Province of Jurisprudence Contested

19 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2010

See all articles by Andrew Halpin

Andrew Halpin

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Faculty of Law

Date Written: August 19, 2010


Allan Hutchinson’s recent book, The Province of Jurisprudence Democratized, is regarded as presenting the opportunity for considering what is involved in seeking to establish the province of jurisprudence as a distinctive field of inquiry. The scale of Hutchinson’s ambition matches John Austin’s original efforts to determine the Province of Jurisprudence, but seeks to replace an analytical approach to jurisprudence he associates with Austin by a theoretical approach committed to advancing “strong” democracy. This provokes an initial reflection on the nature of theoretical disageement, and in particular disagreement which goes beyond trivial theoretical contestability so as to contest the nature of the subject matter that is being investigated by establishing an appropriate field of inquiry for it. Three different techniques are introduced which are capable of demarcating the subject matter of jurisprudence through establishing a field of inquiry favouring a particular theoretical viewpoint: axiomatic disengagement, ambitious insight, and a split field of inquiry.

Hutchinson’s principal concern with the democratization of law, legal theory, and the province of jurisprudence is examined in detail. The process of democratization and its anti-elitist character is traced through Hutchinson’s opposition to the aloof philosophical analysis of the universal in favour of an engagement with local and particular issues. However, the weight Hutchinson places on his conception of strong democracy, so as to provide a different understanding of the the law-power nexus and of the relationship between law and morality operating in strong democracies, is shown to be misplaced. Two related failings are pointed out. First, there is a failure to recognize competing groupings within the people, which contradict the uniform collective body Hutchinson associates with those formerly governed by elites and then constituting those liberated to exercise self-governance. Secondly, this links into Hutchinson’s exclusive preoccupation with the participatory axis of democracy – which he regards as the core feature of strong democracy, and at the same time the basis for the law-power nexus and the law-morality relationship within a strong democracy. This is revealed as an inadequate and impoverished understanding of democracy once the presence of competing groupings within the people is acknowledged. Hutchinson’s one-dimensional representation of democracy along a participatory-representational continuum is rejected for failing to recognize a distinct fiduciary-beneficiary axis, which a richer understanding of “for the people” conveys. These corrections have important consequences for a role for law that cannot be reduced solely to politics, and for a broader sweep to analytical jurisprudence than Hutchinson allows.

Hutchinson’s own efforts to capture the province of jurisprudence are then assessed. These are recharacterized as seeking to establish within a split field of inquiry a theory of strong democratic law, but, in the absence of a convincing account of the nature of democracy and its relationship with law, the project is judged to be unfulfilled.

Keywords: Province of Jurisprudence, theoretical disagreement, law and democracy, law and politics, John Austin, Allan Hutchinson

Suggested Citation

Halpin, Andrew, The Province of Jurisprudence Contested (August 19, 2010). Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence, Vol. 23, No. 2, 2010. Available at SSRN:

Andrew Halpin (Contact Author)

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Faculty of Law ( email )

469G Bukit Timah Road
Eu Tong Sen Building
Singapore, 259776

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