The Place of Force in General Jurisprudence

Document Type

Book Review

Publication Date


Publication Information

21 Legal Theory 242 (2015) (book review)


This essay reviews Frederick Schauer’s book, The Force of Law (2015). Schauer argues that coercion is central to legal practice and should be no less important in legal theory. In doing so, Schauer presents formidable challenges to standard versions of legal positivism—and does so from within the positivist framework. Much of Schauer’s criticism on that score is sound. His analysis of the role coercion can play in accomplishing law’s moral tasks is also welcome and important. Nevertheless, Schauer’s jurisprudential framework comes up short in its inability to distinguish law from other social practices that also use force. The Force of Law’s strong critique of contemporary positivism and the incompleteness of its own method make an indirect case for the classical tradition of theorizing that understands law in light of its moral purposes