Law's Empire

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Overview

With the incisiveness and lucid style for which he is renowned, Ronald Dworkin has written a masterful explanation of how the Anglo-American legal system works and on what principles it is grounded. Law's Empire is a full-length presentation of his theory of law that will be studied and debated--by scholars and theorists, by lawyers and judges, by students and political activists--for years to come.

Dworkin begins with the question that is at the heart of the whole legal system: in difficult cases how do (and how should) judges decide what the law is? He shows that judges must decide hard cases by interpreting rather than simply applying past legal decisions, and he produces a general theory of what interpretation is--in literature as well as in law--and of when one interpretation is better than others. Every legal interpretation reflects an underlying theory about the general character of law: Dworkin assesses three such theories. One, which has been very influential, takes the law of a community to be only what the established conventions of that community say it is. Another, currently in vogue, assumes that legal practice is best understood as an instrument of society to achieve its goals. Dworkin argues forcefully and persuasively against both these views: he insists that the most fundamental point of law is not to report consensus or provide efficient means to social goals, but to answer the requirement that a political community act in a coherent and principled manner toward all its members. He discusses, in the light of that view, cases at common law, cases arising under statutes, and great constitutional cases in the Supreme Court, and hesystematically demonstrates that his concept of political and legal integrity is the key to Anglo-American legal theory and practice.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this first full-length exposition of his theory of law, Dworkin, who teaches jurisprudence at Oxford University and New York University, maintains that society should ensure for all its members a legal system that functions in a coherent and principled manner. In prose accessible to the lay reader, he discusses at length several views of American constitutional law such as ``passivism'' and ``framers' intention.'' Rejecting both conventionalism and pragmatism, he advocates law as integrity which holds that propositions of law are true if they derive from justice, fairness and procedural due process in accordance with the community's legal practice. Citing examples, he further argues that law should be more than a collection of formal guidelines and that it should uphold more abstract moral principles, distinguishing between issues of policy and matters of principle affecting rights of the individual. Uniting jurisprudence with adjudication, Dworkin sees each judge as a link in a chain of law of which his or her judgment becomes a part. (May)
Library Journal
Dworkin (Jurisprudence, Oxford; and Law, NYU) sets out a theory of how judges determine what the law is and its application in hard cases where no set tled or clear rule of law disposes of a matter, testing his theory in common law cases turning on statutes and con stitutional cases. He posits that propo sitions of law are correctly established not because they represent a consensus or an efficient means to social goals, but because they answer the require ment that a political community act in a coherent, just, and principled manner toward all of its members. An exceed ingly complex work which echoes cer tain of his previous writings, this vol ume will be of primary interest to scholars with an intense disciplinary in terest. For subject collections. Merlin Whiteman, Dann Pecar Newman Ta lesnick & Kleiman, Indianapolis
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674518353
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/1986
  • Pages: 488

Table of Contents

1. What Is Law?

Why It Matters

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