The End of Law
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The End of Law

How Law’s Claims Relate to Law’s Aims

David McIlroy

The End of Law applies Augustine’s questions to modern legal philosophy as well as offering a critical theory of natural law that draws on Augustine’s ideas. McIlroy argues that such a critical natural law theory is: realistic but not cynical about law’s relationship to justice and to violence, can diagnose ways in which law becomes deformed and pathological, and indicates that law is a necessary but insufficient instrument for the pursuit of justice. Positioning an examination of Augustine’s reflections on law in the context of his broader thought, McIlroy presents an alternative approach to natural law theory, drawing from critical theory, postmodern thought, and political theologies in conversation with Augustine.
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Chapter 5: The stable door

David McIlroy


Were force required to be used in order to enforce each and every aspect of each and every law it would be impossible. By appealing to a comprehensible conception of deep justice, rulers make voluntary obedience to the law possible, and by rendering that conception of deep justice plausible, rulers encourage voluntary obedience. Law’s legitimating function is most successful when there is widespread agreement within a society about deep justice and a tight fit between that conception of deep justice and the rules promulgated. However, the claim to be doing justice is used by the powerful to disguise the injustice of their power. Rulers induce a false consciousness in their subjects which secures voluntary obedience. Nonetheless, the need to maintain the plausibility of the conception of deep justice places a constraint on rulers’ power. Law is both an instrument of oppression and a restraint on certain methods of exploitation.

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