The Law of Emergency and Reason of State

25 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2016

See all articles by Thomas M. Poole

Thomas M. Poole

London School of Economics - Law School

Date Written: November 16, 2016


This paper examines the role of human rights in political emergencies. It introduces the concept of reason of state as an alternative to theories of emergency powers that are based on either state prerogative or liberal legalism. It argues that state prerogative and liberal legalism suffer from a common defect: both are premised on a dynamic of norm and exception and thus are poorly equipped to deal with the ‘pseudo-emergencies’ that dominate state practice today. Reason of state better illuminates ongoing legal and political dynamics by focusing on the state’s role as custos – a guardian or protector of the regime of law – and the pressures such a claim place on legal order. Viewed from this perspective, human rights adjudication can be seen as a mechanism for normalizing and constitutionalizing reason of state by subjecting its exercise to public deliberation, contestation, and justification.

Suggested Citation

Poole, Thomas M., The Law of Emergency and Reason of State (November 16, 2016). LSE Legal Studies Working Paper No. 18/2016, Available at SSRN: or

Thomas M. Poole (Contact Author)

London School of Economics - Law School ( email )

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom


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