Many political theorists view the rule of law with suspicion. On the one hand, it can appear mere political rhetoric. On the other hand, certain critics of this rhetorical position identify the rule of law with some notion of good or just law. This chapter argues that some of the problems can be avoided if we see the main task of the rule of law as the prevention of arbitrary rule. Among contemporary political theorists, the rule of law has been closely associated with the work of F. von Hayek, who gave it a pivotal role in his constitutional theory. He believed that interventionist economic policies and totalitarian politics were intimately connected: the one entailed an incremental increase in arbitrary interferences with individual liberty that ultimately led to the other. Republicans trace arbitrariness and domination to asymmetries of power.
All political argument employs political concepts. They provide the building blocks needed to construct a case for or against a given political position. Justifications of oppression in the name of liberty are no mere products of the liberal imagination, for there are notorious historical examples of their endorsement by authoritarian political leaders. This book explores two approaches to rights: the interest-based (IB) approach, and the obligation-based or Kantian view. Both are shown to offer coherent justifications that can avoid turning all political concerns into a matter of rights. The concept of social justice emerged in both at the start of the twentieth century, and justified institutions for the democratic modification for market outcomes, on utilitarian, maximin or common good grounds. The book explores whether people do in fact have good and justifiable reasons for complying with laws that go beyond mere fear of punishment, and, if so, whether they are bound or obligated by those reasons to comply. It discusses national ties and how they are supposed to act as glue that holds the state together in the eyes of its citizens. The book also explores the link between the weakening of states and this change in criminal policies, and outlines their implications for individual rights. Theorists have used the idea of social exclusion to advocate an approach to social justice that sees increased labour-market participation as the key to equal to citizenship. The contemporary understandings of the public-private distinction and feminist critiques of these are also examined.
This introduction presents an overview of key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book introduces students to some of the main interpretations, pointing out their various strengths and weaknesses. Older texts on political concepts are sought to offer neutral definitions that should be accepted by everyone, regardless of their political commitments and values. The book considers the theoretical presuppositions of policies that are guided by a particular understanding of a concept. It compares how different conceptual underpinnings might generate different policy recommendations. The book includes a broad range of the main concepts employed in contemporary debates among both political theorists and ordinary citizens. It looks beyond the state to the issues of global concern and relations between states. The book describes the principal concepts employed to justify any policy or institution.