The 'Authority' of Law: Joseph Raz Reconsidered

13 Pages Posted: 15 Apr 2020 Last revised: 18 May 2020

See all articles by Andrew Stumpff Morrison

Andrew Stumpff Morrison

University of Michigan Law School; University of Alabama Law School; Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law

Date Written: March 8, 2020


The article presents a critical reassessment of the legal philosophical writings of Joseph Raz. The critique develops from the author’s previous argument that law is – contra recent near-consensus – best understood as “the command of the sovereign, backed by force.” Given that this is the distinctly defining feature of law, Raz’s extended preoccupation with “reasons for obeying law” is misplaced and even nonsensical.

Keywords: H.L.A. Hart, Ronald Dworkin, Joseph Raz, jurisprudence, coercion, positivism, coercive model, John Austin, Jeremy Bentham, Oliver Wendell Holmes, gunman, command theory, definition of state, definition of sovereign, game theory, Interpretivism, service conception, internal perspective

JEL Classification: K10, K33, K42, C7, H1

Suggested Citation

Morrison, Andrew Stumpff, The 'Authority' of Law: Joseph Raz Reconsidered (March 8, 2020). U of Michigan Law & Econ Research Paper No. 20-005, Available at SSRN: or

Andrew Stumpff Morrison (Contact Author)

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University of Alabama Law School

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Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law ( email )

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