Prologue: Hobbes and Legal Order

Evan Fox-Decent

in Sovereignty's Promise

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199698318
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191732171 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Constitutional Theory

Prologue: Hobbes and Legal Order

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The book begins with Dr. Bonham’s Case to give a brief and historical illustration of how the common law has placed constraints on the use of public power. The Prologue then uses Hobbes to show how a disregard for the demands of legality reduces exercises of authority to exercises of mere coercive power. I argue that Hobbes’ conception of public authority rests on principles of legality and the idea that the sovereign and the people are in a reciprocal relationship with one another. The relationship is mediated by a presumption of trust rather than consent, and it is reciprocal in the sense that if the sovereign violates the principles of legality, he subverts his authority and the people’s correlative obligation to obey.

Keywords: Hobbes; legality; sovereignty; rule of law; legal order; laws of nature; social contract; fiduciary; authority

Chapter.  10734 words. 

Subjects: Constitutional and Administrative Law

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