The Concept of Law (Clarendon Law Series) Info

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The Concept of Law is the most important and original
work of legal philosophy written this century. First published in 1961,
it is considered the masterpiece of H.L.A. Hart's enormous contribution
to the study of jurisprudence and legal philosophy. Its elegant language
and balanced arguments have sparked wide debate and unprecedented
growth in the quantity and quality of scholarship in this area--much of
it devoted to attacking or defending Hart's theories. Principal among
Hart's critics is renowned lawyer and political philosopher Ronald
Dworkin who in the 1970s and 80s mounted a series of challenges to
Hart's Concept of Law. It seemed that Hart let these challenges
go unanswered until, after his death in 1992, his answer to Dworkin's
criticism was discovered among his papers.

In this valuable and
long-awaited new edition Hart presents an Epilogue in which he answers
Dworkin and some of his other most influential critics including Fuller
and Finnis. Written with the same clarity and candor for which the first
edition is famous, the Epilogue offers a sharper interpretation of
Hart's own views, rebuffs the arguments of critics like Dworkin, and
powerfully asserts that they have based their criticisms on a faulty
understanding of Hart's work. Hart demonstrates that Dworkin's views are
in fact strikingly similar to his own. In a final analysis, Hart's
response leaves Dworkin's criticisms considerably weakened and his
positions largely in question.

Containing Hart's final and
powerful response to Dworkin in addition to the revised text of the
original Concept of Law, this thought-provoking and
persuasively argued volume is essential reading for lawyers and
philosophers throughout the world.

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Reviews for The Concept of Law (Clarendon Law Series):

5

Jul 26, 2013

Interesting Quotes:

“Very few social changes or laws are agreeable to or advance the welfare of all individuals alike. Only laws which provide for the most elementary needs, such as police protection or roads, come near to this. In most cases the law provides benefits for one class of the population only at the cost of depriving others of what they prefer. Provision for the poor can be made only out of the goods of others; compulsory school education for all may mean not only loss of liberty for Interesting Quotes:

“Very few social changes or laws are agreeable to or advance the welfare of all individuals alike. Only laws which provide for the most elementary needs, such as police protection or roads, come near to this. In most cases the law provides benefits for one class of the population only at the cost of depriving others of what they prefer. Provision for the poor can be made only out of the goods of others; compulsory school education for all may mean not only loss of liberty for those who wish to educate their children privately, but may be financed only at the cost of reducing or sacrificing capital investment in industry or old-age pensions or free medical services. When a choice has been made between such competing alternatives it may be defended as proper on the ground that it was for the ‘public good’ or the ‘common good.’ It is not clear what these phrases mean, since there seems to be no scale by which contributions of the various alternatives to the common good can be measured and the greater identified.”

-H.L.A. Hart, the Concept of Law

"[S]urvival has still a special status in relation to human conduct and in our thought about it, which parallels the prominence and the necessity ascribed to it in . . . Natural Law. For it is not merely that an overwhelming majority of men do wish to live, even at the cost of hideous misery, but that this is reflected in whole structures of our thought and language . . . We could not subtract the general wish to live and leave intact concepts like danger and safety, harm and benefit, need and function, disease and cure; for these are ways of simultaneously describing and appraising things by reference to the contribution they make to survival which is accepted as an aim."

-H. L. A. Hart, the Concept of Law ...more
5

Jun 14, 2019

A good example of how books that aim to be introductory can also be deeply insightful by clearly stating the basic problems at play. Hart convincingly argues that law should be seen as much more collaborative than a simple series of imperatives. This is important from a left perspective because many radical views of the state rest on surprisingly conservative notions of law as a mask for class repression. The potential for law to be a collective and democratic project seems unlikely in a crude A good example of how books that aim to be introductory can also be deeply insightful by clearly stating the basic problems at play. Hart convincingly argues that law should be seen as much more collaborative than a simple series of imperatives. This is important from a left perspective because many radical views of the state rest on surprisingly conservative notions of law as a mask for class repression. The potential for law to be a collective and democratic project seems unlikely in a crude command theory wed to class repression but makes sense if law is produced through diverse social processes. ...more
4

Sep 02, 2008

I think this book is an enthralling read, though when I say that to other people they tend to laugh at me. It's, of course, the definitive modern statment of legal positivism. A laser sharp critique of Austinian positivism and an attractive theory of law as positive legal authority constrained by "rules" which extend beyond individual authorities. Hart's theory makes room for democratic style legislative authorities without falling into either a "naturalism/moralism" about rules or a "commands I think this book is an enthralling read, though when I say that to other people they tend to laugh at me. It's, of course, the definitive modern statment of legal positivism. A laser sharp critique of Austinian positivism and an attractive theory of law as positive legal authority constrained by "rules" which extend beyond individual authorities. Hart's theory makes room for democratic style legislative authorities without falling into either a "naturalism/moralism" about rules or a "commands backed by threats of force" positivism. ...more
5

Jul 08, 2017

I read this book in the last year of my law degree, after I had read all the course books and was busy revising. It didn't actually directly add to my exam preparations (I still passed), as the exams were concerned with the application of the law. But I found it a great way to unwind between sessions of learning case law by rote, and it was strangely therapeutic to read Hart's masterly and magisterial presentation of the very meaning of law. As such it isn't so much a legal textbook as a work of I read this book in the last year of my law degree, after I had read all the course books and was busy revising. It didn't actually directly add to my exam preparations (I still passed), as the exams were concerned with the application of the law. But I found it a great way to unwind between sessions of learning case law by rote, and it was strangely therapeutic to read Hart's masterly and magisterial presentation of the very meaning of law. As such it isn't so much a legal textbook as a work of philosophy, and I would certainly recommend it to anyone who wants quite read, something different that will carry them away to a country lawyer's office. A place where they can indulge in quiet English pursuits as the world passes by. ...more
5

May 21, 2011

As seminal as seminal gets. Whether you agree with Hart or not, this book pulled the field of jurisprudence out from the stodgy debate of 'nature law vs. man's law' and introduced the wonderful insights of analytic and ordinary language philosophy to a generation of legal academics. And most impressively, Hart pretty much nailed this sophisticated form of positivism in one shot. Haven't been many major improvements since. (Oh, and... highly readable prose, unlike most of the stuff you'll find in As seminal as seminal gets. Whether you agree with Hart or not, this book pulled the field of jurisprudence out from the stodgy debate of 'nature law vs. man's law' and introduced the wonderful insights of analytic and ordinary language philosophy to a generation of legal academics. And most impressively, Hart pretty much nailed this sophisticated form of positivism in one shot. Haven't been many major improvements since. (Oh, and... highly readable prose, unlike most of the stuff you'll find in academia.) ...more
3

Nov 20, 2019

pretty interesting stuff, but there were barely any laws in it. not sure how a lawyer or judge would go about applying any of it.
4

Dec 23, 2012

At first I was not very excited by the tremendous simplification and generality but ultimately the force of Hart's arguments and the sometimes way that he playfully examines it ultimately yields a good examination of fundamental concepts. Or are they? There seems to be no right or wrong on this, as much as there are a series of models of which Hart's is one.
3

Apr 07, 2007

seminal work in the philosophy of law-- legal positivism. the important insight is that there's nothing at the bottom of it all-- no transcendent principles waiting to be uncovered, but custom, habit, and the contingent values of human beings.
1

Jul 26, 2008

A defense of what is known as "soft positivism". I will write more later. Now I have to go to the bathroom.
5

Aug 18, 2018

Justice H.R. Khanna from the Supreme Court of India was the sole dissenting judge in ADM Jabalpur case. During the emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi, all judges deciding the case except H.R. Khanna ruled that the fundamental rights of the citizens can be suspended during an emergency.
H.R. khanna in his dissent quoted the words of Justice Hughes from the Supreme court of the United states appealing to the "brooding spirit of the law".

What was this spirit of law that H.R. khanna was talking of? Justice H.R. Khanna from the Supreme Court of India was the sole dissenting judge in ADM Jabalpur case. During the emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi, all judges deciding the case except H.R. Khanna ruled that the fundamental rights of the citizens can be suspended during an emergency.
H.R. khanna in his dissent quoted the words of Justice Hughes from the Supreme court of the United states appealing to the "brooding spirit of the law".

What was this spirit of law that H.R. khanna was talking of? There was something in the law that gave strength to H.R. Khanna's conviction. Some enduring ideal which gave buoyancy to his spine while his brother Judges sank under pressure.

It was in search of this spirit of law that I turned to Hart's book. Hart describes in few words the nature of laws; " we are in the realm of fiction. It is only because we adopt this fiction that we can talk solemnly of the government 'of laws not men'". How is it that this myth that we call law guides our behaviour? Definitely not because of a fear of punishment. Because people don't just follow laws they also defend laws and at some moments are even inspired by it, just like Justice Khanna.

This is the big question that this book tried to answer. Did it answer them successfully? To a certain degree yes. I don't think I need to explain how great this book is. Hart is the founder of modern jurisprudence. Any serious scholar of jurisprudence must read this book. ...more
5

Apr 02, 2019

There is a reason that this book is a pillar of contemporary legal thought. This book was magnificent from start to finish. The book begins with a criticism of Austinian legal positivism followed by Hart's formulation of a positive legal theory. The book ends with a defense of formalism, a criticism of the supposed necessary link between morality and law (a theory I personally subscribe to), and finally a defense of international law as law.

Before reading this, I knew that Hart was an There is a reason that this book is a pillar of contemporary legal thought. This book was magnificent from start to finish. The book begins with a criticism of Austinian legal positivism followed by Hart's formulation of a positive legal theory. The book ends with a defense of formalism, a criticism of the supposed necessary link between morality and law (a theory I personally subscribe to), and finally a defense of international law as law.

Before reading this, I knew that Hart was an "intellectual enemy" so to speak. However, while Hart has radically challenged my own views, I have also found an incredible amount of material that furthers and strengthens my own beliefs. To anyone interested in Hart's description of the natural law, I highly recommend reading section 5.2, "The Minimum Content of Natural Law".

This book has reaffirmed my love of the subject and will be correctly praised by history. ...more
4

Aug 23, 2017

Hart's positivism is different from classical positivists in the sense that he doesn't simply insist that the concepts of law should he understood plainly in terms of factual, non-moral criteria and that legal system can be put to good uses or bad. According to Hart, law has a social purpose. The fact that some features happen to be common across all the legal systems is not just a coincidence. Hart concedes that they reveal some basic fundamental features of human race.
3

Jul 06, 2017

I read this as part of a faculty reading group. Important ideas, but a difficult read. Hart is a prominent jurisprudence scholar and this book is an essential part of the development of legal thought. I'm glad I read it and participated in discussions with my colleagues, but I'm sure the audience who might find it interesting and helpful is fairly limited.
5

Apr 10, 2019

What a densely packed book. It’s really great. I loved the whole thing. The structure of the book was easy to follow, and Hart made really thought provoking arguments throughout. I enjoyed every minute of this!
4

Oct 07, 2019

Definitely the necessary prolegemenon to all of the modern discussion on Legal Positivism. Read it, explore it, critique it, read Raz and Dworking, read it again. Not an exceptional book by itself, but the role it has served in legal philosophy is difficult to overstate.
4

Mar 28, 2019

Illuminating, whether you agree with him or not. Arguments easy to follow.
4

Nov 22, 2018

Definitely the best read in my course on Jurisprudence - it was quite readable and very much a great read for a law student hoping to understand the legal system on a conceptual level.
4

Sep 19, 2018

Not the easiest of reads but an essential book for fans of jurisprudence.
4

Oct 07, 2016

Appreciation and application of the entire Hartian paradigm involves more interpolation and interpretation of Hart than direct quotation from his writings.

Was Austin right after all?
5

Feb 22, 2017

Leaving a review on this book is like embarking onto another jurisprudential course. Any succinct summary is open to criticism because of the differences in view.
The mutual key that can be agreed upon is that Hart's Concept of Law has changed the course of jurisprudence, steering in a new direction. Providing a fresh new take on jurisprudence.
This book, initially was written (generally claimed) for undergraduate students and it serves as a useful guide in identifying the law - c/f what is law?
Leaving a review on this book is like embarking onto another jurisprudential course. Any succinct summary is open to criticism because of the differences in view.
The mutual key that can be agreed upon is that Hart's Concept of Law has changed the course of jurisprudence, steering in a new direction. Providing a fresh new take on jurisprudence.
This book, initially was written (generally claimed) for undergraduate students and it serves as a useful guide in identifying the law - c/f what is law?
Personal favourite topic is the way Hart handles the 'efficacy and validity' issues.

...more
4

Jan 23, 2011

One of the better philosophy books I have read, I still find that I am not that big of a fan of philosophy. It did a great job of putting legal theory in easy to understand concepts, although ultimately I didn't find his refutation of Austinian legal theory completely convincing. Still, it was an interesting book.

(disclaimer: I only read about half of this book, which for a philosophy book is pretty good for me.)
4

Apr 23, 2008

Really quite excellent refutation of Austinian legal philosophy and a solid analytical framework. The prose is also exquisite despite the dedication to formal logical analysis.
It's 50 years old, and a lot has happened in that 50 years, but you can jump right into the fray with this text. Not recommended for anyone looking for some kind of historical treatise on the philosophy of law. This is quite specific--addressed to Kelsen, Austin--and is best read with some knowledge of both.
1

Mar 27, 2011

Disappointing. I sort of like the distinction between primary and secondary rules, but how secondary rules are established and receive recognition is not explained, largely because it is a ploy to explain why primary rules receive recognition. Everything else falls apart and I couldn't even tell you what it is Hart is trying to say.
5

Dec 17, 2013

It was difficult in the beginning but being that it was compulsory, I had to continue to the end. It was required for my LLB degree. I finally understood as I advanced. All law students should read this book.
5

Jun 15, 2016

A must read for all law students.
I highly recommend to read Laws Empire and Taking Rights Seriously after this book.
The critics of Dworkin will help you see this reading from a different light.
A must read for all law students.
I highly recommend to read Law´s Empire and Taking Rights Seriously after this book.
The critics of Dworkin will help you see this reading from a different light.
...more

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