Context

(Student Guide to World Philosophy)

H. L. A. Hart’s The Concept of Law is a systematic treatment of central issues in legal philosophy and jurisprudence that enlivens these areas of inquiry with fresh perspectives and new ideas. Hart suggests that the work may be viewed in a number of ways. From the lawyer’s perspective, it can be regarded as an essay in analytical jurisprudence, that is, an effort to provide a general analysis of law and major legal concepts. Philosophically, Hart employs the method and style sometimes called linguistic analysis, with close attention to the definitions of and distinctions among key terms and expressions. Further, the work constitutes an essay in descriptive sociology in the sense that its task is to elucidate law as a social phenomenon. One of Hart’s major theses is that law is best understood as a method of social control related to, but distinct from, coercion and morality. Other traditional theories of law failed to pay sufficient attention to the differences, assimilating law too closely to coercion (command theories) or to morality (natural law theories).