The Rule of Law

The Rule of Law

The Common Sense of Global Politics

Christopher May

This timely book explores the complexities of the rule of law – a well-used but perhaps less well understood term - to explain why it is so often appealed to in discussions of global politics. Ranging from capacity building and the role of the World Bank to the discourse(s) of lawyers and jurisprudential critiques, it seeks to introduce non-lawyers to the important and complex political economy of the rule of law.

Introduction: the rule of law as the common sense of global politics

Christopher May

Subjects: economics and finance, political economy, law - academic, law and society, legal philosophy, legal theory, politics and public policy, political economy

Extract

The rule of law is humanity's greatest creation, the essential precondition of a civilised, just society. (Schuck 2000, p. 454) It is difficult to find anyone, whether in government, foundations, corporations or universities, who does not favour encouraging the rule of law in virtually every country and society. (Upham 2004, p. 280) In an age of images and symbols, elections are easy to capture on film. But how do you televise the rule of law? (Zakaria 2003, p. 156) The rule of law is often presented as preferable to the rule of men or the rule of force, and as I will argue throughout this book, this has become the common sense of global politics, an unquestioned statement about the world in which we live. To make my starting point clear, it seems to me that common sense includes three elements: norms (preferred practices); ideas (arguments and reasons to support such norms); and rhetoric (discussion of the settled character of such practices). Thus, a common sense notion is a set of practices or actions that are regarded as if not natural, then certainly not requiring extensive or detailed justification. When we push we might encounter statements about why these actions are sensible and require little justification, but common sense is mostly seen as unobjectionable and seldom subject to any extensive critical discussion.