The Place of Force in General Jurisprudence

Legal Theory, Vol. 21, pp. 242-53 (2015).

Notre Dame Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1619

13 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2016 Last revised: 7 Mar 2017

Date Written: June 7, 2016


This essay reviews Professor Frederick Schauer’s book, The Force of Law (2015). Schauer argues that coercion is central to legal practice and should be no less important in legal theory. In doing so, Schauer presents formidable challenges to standard versions of legal positivism — and does so from within the positivist framework. Much of Schauer’s criticism on that score is sound. His analysis of the role coercion can play in accomplishing law’s moral tasks is also welcome and important. Nevertheless, Schauer’s jurisprudential framework comes up short in its inability to distinguish law from other social practices that also use force. The Force of Law's strong critique of contemporary positivism and the incompleteness of its own method make an indirect case for the classical tradition of theorizing that understands law in light of its moral purposes.

Keywords: jurisprudence, legal theory, legal positivism, natural law, coercion

JEL Classification: K10

Suggested Citation

Pojanowski, Jeffrey A., The Place of Force in General Jurisprudence (June 7, 2016). Legal Theory, Vol. 21, pp. 242-53 (2015).. Available at SSRN:

Jeffrey A. Pojanowski (Contact Author)

Notre Dame Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 780
Notre Dame, IN 46556-0780
United States

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