Criminal Law and Republican Liberty: Philip Pettit's Account

22 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2018

See all articles by Jeremy Horder

Jeremy Horder

London School of Economics - Law School

Date Written: June 18, 2018


Philip Pettit has made central to modern republican theory a distinctive account of freedom – republican freedom. On this account, I am not free solely because I can make choices without interference. I am truly free, only if that non-interference does not itself depend on another’s forbearance (what Pettit calls ‘formal’ freedom). To be worth having, my freedoms must not be at the mercy of some other person, making me subject to their domination. Pettit believes that the principal justification for the traditional focus of the criminal law is that it constitutes a bulwark against domination. I will be considering the merits of this claim. Is the importance of the orthodox realm of the criminal law solely or mainly explained by the wish to protect people from domination? In short, the answer is that it is not, even though there are some instances in which it provides such protection. Across the board, the criminal law rightly protects us equally from threats to what Pettit calls ‘effective’, as opposed to formal, republican freedom.

Suggested Citation

Horder, Jeremy, Criminal Law and Republican Liberty: Philip Pettit's Account (June 18, 2018). LSE Legal Studies Working Paper No. 10/2018, Available at SSRN: or

Jeremy Horder (Contact Author)

London School of Economics - Law School ( email )

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

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