The Rule of Law
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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.
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Chapter 2: Defining the rule of law, between thick and thin conceptions

Christopher May


No one in the international community is quite sure what the term 'rule of law' actually means. (Bouloukos and Dakin 2001, p. 145) [The] 'Rule of Law' is almost never carefully defined as a concept; users of the expression allude to meanings they assume to be clear and objective but that are not so. (Mattei and Nader 2008, p. 10) [O]ne fundamental problem with measuring the success of rule of law reform initiatives is that the parties assessing them may have something quite different in mind to those implementing them. (Ringer 2007, p. 182) There are extensive debates about what the rule of law might be and I do not intend to try to assert a single authoritative definition, not least as this has evaded experts in jurisprudence and legal philosophers of greater intellect than me. Rather, I seek to establish the range of elements that are (relatively) frequently identified in ruminations on the rule of law, and that inform the sorts of practices and behaviours that those who appeal to the rule of law might think they (and/or others) are likely to be held to. Political language can only be stretched so far, and by asserting their acceptance of the rule of law political actors must in some way recognize its legitimacy (or at least specific elements of it), even if this remains a cynical political manoeuvre.

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