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The History and Elements of the Rule of Law

16 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2012 Last revised: 25 Apr 2013

Brian Z. Tamanaha

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law

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Date Written: February 28, 2012

Abstract

This Public Lecture, delivered at the Singapore Academy of Law, provides an overview of the history and elements of the rule of law. I begin with a definition of the rule of law, and I elaborate on what this definition entails as well as what it excludes. I then explore three core themes: 1) government limited by law, 2) formal legality, and 3) “the rule of law, not man.” With respect to each theme, I describe strengths as well as limitations of the rule of law. In closing, I identify the key source of the rule of law in society, and I mention the diversity of manifestations of the rule of law across societies. A central theme of the essay is that the rule of law, while delivering many benefits, does not by itself insure a just government or society.

Keywords: rule of law, legality, government, justice

Suggested Citation

Tamanaha, Brian Z., The History and Elements of the Rule of Law (February 28, 2012). Washington University in St. Louis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-02-07. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2012845 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2012845

Brian Z. Tamanaha (Contact Author)

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law ( email )

Campus Box 1120
St. Louis, MO 63130
United States

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