The Jurisprudence Annual Lecture 2010

Freedom, Coercion, Necessary Goods and the Rule of Law

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This paper focuses on the idea of the rule of law as found in neo-liberal political and legal theory. The central argument is that it is not possible to produce an account of the rule of law and its basic building blocks in such theories—namely freedom, rights and justice—without reference to a set of shared substantive values. The crucial argument is that if freedom is understood negatively, as the absence of coercion, it is not in fact possible to produce an account of coercion which detaches it from conceptions of the good. The impact of this argument is then analysed in relation to a range of themes, one of the central ones of which is that on the neo-liberal view the welfare state cannot be made compatible with the rule of law. The case for this important view is rejected in the paper.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2011

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  • Jurisprudence provides a forum for scholarly writing on the philosophy of law. While demanding the utmost intellectual honesty, clarity and scholarly rigour, its editorial policy is distinctively open-minded in relation to philosophical approach. A main purpose of the journal is to encourage scholarship which explores and transcends the categories and assumptions on which contemporary jurisprudential debates are conducted, and to stimulate reflection upon traditional questions concerning the nature of law, politics and society. The journal's unique reviews section will provide in-depth discussion and analysis of major developments in the field. Jurisprudence aims: " to encourage research exploring the relation between questions in the philosophy of law and debates in related branches of philosophy, including but not limited to political philosophy, moral philosophy, the philosophy of religion and the philosophy of mind; " to support study of the intellectual history of the philosophy of law, both for its own sake and in order to shed light on contemporary jurisprudential questions; " to encourage careful research illuminating relations between jurisprudential questions and theoretical debates in anthropology, sociology, cultural and literary studies. Replies and correspondence pieces will be generally discouraged, although may be acceptable if the intention is to deepen and extend an original line of thought, and not merely to reiterate or amplify an earlier argument.

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