Social Meaning, Compliance Conditions, and Law's Claim to Authority

40 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 1999  

William A. Edmundson

Georgia State University College of Law

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Abstract

Political authorities claim to be able to impose moral duties on citizens by the mere expedient of legislating. This claim is problematic -- in fact, among theorists, it is widely denied that political authorities have such powers. I argue that the legitimacy of political authority is not contingent upon the truth of its claim to be able to impose moral duties by mere legislation. Such claims are better seen as exercises of semiotic techniques to alter social meanings. These alterations serve to facilitate desirable social change that may not have been antecedently obligatory because of the nonfulfillment of a compliance condition, which normally attaches to any "fair-play" duty. Where political authority uses the semiotic technique of announcing a legal -- and by implication moral -- duty, thereby altering social meaning as a means of bringing about the satisfaction of a compliance condition, it makes a claim whose literal falsehood (if false it be) does not derogate from the authority's legitimacy.

JEL Classification: C7, K42, Z13

Suggested Citation

Edmundson, William A., Social Meaning, Compliance Conditions, and Law's Claim to Authority. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=177709 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.177709

William A. Edmundson (Contact Author)

Georgia State University College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 4037
Urban Life Building, Room 402 140 Decatur Street
Atlanta, GA 30302-4037
United States
404-413-9167 (Phone)
404-413-9225 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.gsu.edu/wedmundson/

Paper statistics

Downloads
310
Rank
76,760
Abstract Views
3,802