Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Austin’s Minimalist Theory of Sovereignty (A Note)

A brief note on John Austin’s theory of sovereignty, to follow up on my questions about sovereignty for Andrew Willard Jones. A couple of responses have assumed that Austin pictures or assumes a “unitary” or “simple” sovereign. He does not. Austin’s theory is truly thin, truly minimalist; it posits only that there is a determinate person or group of persons who are habitually obeyed by the bulk of the population, etc. That group may itself be internally complex, like “the Queen in Parliament,” “the Estates of the Realm,” or “the Gelasian Dyarchy.” That group may be internally conflictual, struggling inter se to reach decisions, or may instead operate by smooth internal procedures. None of this is relevant for the theory. So long as the group is determinate and habitually receives obedience from the bulk of the population, and does not habitually obey any determinate human superior, it is enough.


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