Reason of State: Whose Reason? Which Reason?

22 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2013

See all articles by Thomas M. Poole

Thomas M. Poole

London School of Economics - Law School

Date Written: January 21, 2013


Since we tend to think of the state as a construct of law, how is it possible for a category of state action to exist somehow outside or beyond the law? Using the term ‘reason of state’ to specify this special category, the paper asks two more specific questions. When someone talks about reason of state, whose reason and which reason do they mean? Two attempts are made to answer the first question. One attempt seeks inspiration from early- modern state theory. The second looks to 18th century ‘jealousy of trade’ politics, particularly the sovereign claims of the East India Company. The second question is addressed tentatively, the paper suggesting (i) that reason of state may be seen as the mirror-image of Coke’s defence of the common law as artificial reason and (ii) that the basic structure of reason of state may be identified as semi-secret, based in reason allied to experience, offering guiding intelligence, and sovereign in a ‘soft’ sense.

Suggested Citation

Poole, Thomas M., Reason of State: Whose Reason? Which Reason? (January 21, 2013). LSE Legal Studies Working Paper No. 1/2013, Available at SSRN: or

Thomas M. Poole (Contact Author)

London School of Economics - Law School ( email )

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London WC2A 2AE, WC2A 2AE
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