The Rule of Law and the Rule of Empire: A.V. Dicey in Imperial Context
(2018) 81 Modern Law Review 739
44 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2019
Date Written: 2018
The idea of the rule of law, more ubiquitous globally today than ever before, owes a lasting debt to the work of Victorian legal theorist A.V. Dicey. But for all of Dicey’s influence, very little attention has been paid to the imperial entanglements of his thought, including on the rule of law. This article seeks to bring the imperial dimensions of Dicey’s thinking about the rule of law into view. On Dicey’s account, the rule of law represented a distinctive English civilisational achievement, one that furnished a liberal justification for British imperialism. And yet Dicey was forced to acknowledge that imperial rule at times required arbitrariness and formal inequality at odds with the rule of law. At a moment when the rule of law has once more come to license all sorts of transnational interventions by globally powerful political actors, Dicey’s preoccupations and ambivalences are in many ways our own.
Keywords: rule of law, Dicey, imperialism, British Empire, legal history
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