After Government? On Representing Law Without the State

24 Pages Posted: 30 Dec 2004

See all articles by Simon Arthur Roberts

Simon Arthur Roberts

London School of Economics - Law Department


For the greater part of the 20th century, representations of law as state law were dominant in the legal scholarship of the West. But over the last thirty years sustained attempts have been made, notably under the self-conscious banner of legal pluralism, to loosen the conceptual bonds between law and government. Early on, acephalous societies in formerly colonial territories and local groupings within the metropolis were represented as legal orders. Latterly, as attention shifted to orderings at regional and global level beyond the nation state, attempts have been made to delineate a general jurisprudence. It is argued here that these conceptual revisions have for the most part been problematic, made in the face of strong evidence linking the cultural assemblage we have come to call law with projects of government. The lecture concludes with a plea that we should be very cautious in representing what are essentially negotiated orders, whether at local or global level, as legal orders; these remain significantly different from those at the level of the state. Today, under an onslaught of jural discourse and institutional design, the distinctive rationalities and values of negotiated order, while arguably deserving to be celebrated, are effectively effaced.

Suggested Citation

Roberts, Simon Arthur, After Government? On Representing Law Without the State. Available at SSRN:

Simon Arthur Roberts (Contact Author)

London School of Economics - Law Department ( email )

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