Working Papers

Algernon Sidney, Republican Stability, and the Politics of Virtue

Among the more distinctive features of the classical republican tradition is the importance it accorded to civic virtue. This paper explores the views of Algernon Sidney, one of the first of the English republicans to write about civic virtue in any detail. His relatively neglected arguments are worth examining both because they are more sophisticated than often believed, and also because they shed much-needed light on some important aspects of republican theory. As shown in this paper, the role of civic virtue in republican theory is poorly understood. In correcting a common misimpression of Sidney’s views, this paper improves our understanding of the republican politics of virtue in general.

A Republican Argument for the Rule of Law

While the rule of law is surely a very important good, the standard discussions in the literature lead many to conclude that the rule of law is either a relatively trivial political ideal, or else a redundant one. What is needed is a persuasive defense of the rule of law that properly reflects its great significance for human well being. The first step towards building such an argument is to question a widely-shared but often unnoticed assumption that the rule of law should be understood as a virtue of legal systems. The path is then cleared for a civic republican argument for the rule of law, built on two theses: first, the thought that an ideal society would be one in which no one is the master of anyone else, and second, the thought that our freedom from domination is not natural or pre-institutional.

Republicanism and the International Rule of Law

While there are many disputes as to the meaning of the rule of law and as to the ultimate grounds of its value, it is generally accepted that the municipal rule of law is a good thing. Should we similarly regard the international rule of law as a good thing? This paper argues that the international rule of law is best defended on the the unlikely grounds of personalism, republicanism, and legal positivism.

In Defense of the Practice Theory

All legal positivists agree that the possibility of law depends fundamentally on social facts. But what are the relevant social facts? H.L.A. Hart proposed that law is made possible by the practice among legal officials of observing conventional social rules, most importantly, rules of recognition. Many legal theorists have attacked this theory – not only opponents of positivism, but also many positivists. This paper address those criticisms raised specifically by positivists, and argues that they fail because they misunderstand the nature of the organizational challenge to which rules of recognition are the solution. The challenge of establishing a legal system is essentially the challenge of constituting a group agent and, when viewed through Philip Pettit’s account of group agency, the practice theory can easily be defended against the standard criticisms