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 8: Concluding thoughts

Christopher May


Although legal history has not provided us with a phrase equivalent to Smith's 'invisible hand,' the law[,] like the market, is seen as operating without human agency and hence without the vices of bureaucracies and politicians, two of our time's least favourite institutions. Just as a market needs only clear property rights and freedom of exchange, the rule of law needs only the correct rules and institutions. (Upham 2004, p. 313) In this book I have been arguing that it makes sense to think of the rule of law as a common sense of global politics, or as a global social imaginary. Although I started with a rather top-down, legalistic view of the common sense character of the rule of law, as the book has progressed I have tried to leaven that view by introducing further and different perspectives. These perspectives are not alternatives but rather complement each other to give a fuller understanding of the rule of law's place in (global) politics. The strength of this common sense is indicated by the difficulty of thinking of any alternative to the rule of law, although some on the Marxist left would argue that an interest in human emancipation must include the notion of a society with no need for the law as a mediator of political economic relations (Taiwo 1999).

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