The Concept of Law

by H. L. A. Hart

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The Concept of Law by H. L. A. Hart explores themes of law, morality, and coercion. The author's main argument is that laws generally are not coercive because they are rooted in morality and necessary societal boundaries. Hart also argues that all laws are not coercive or oppressive because some laws may serve to provide privileges or rights to certain individuals or groups of people. Hart examines the relationship between laws and morality and how he believes that most laws can not be coercive, as he believes they are rooted in morality. For instance, Hart may find that laws that prevent murder are inherently morally good and therefore not coercive or oppressive. What Hart is missing from this analysis is how this law is enforced immensely unequally. For instance, in this country, laws existed that outlawed murder while at the same time allowing enslaved black people to be brutally murdered and tortured. Even today, police are continuously not convicted, and often not even charged, for clear cases of murdering unarmed black people, including children. Laws are created and enforced by those in power, and, as such, are not a non-hierarchical set of agreements based on a set of moralities. Rather, laws are a set of coercive rules that are used to maintain order and maintain concentrated power for those already in those positions.

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