Handbook on the Rule of Law
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Handbook on the Rule of Law

Edited by Christopher May and Adam Winchester

The discussion of the norm of the rule of law has broken out of the confines of jurisprudence and is of growing interest to many non-legal researchers. A range of issues are explored in this volume that will help non-specialists with an interest in the rule of law develop a nuanced understanding of its character and political implications. It is explicitly aimed at those who know the rule of law is important and while having little legal background, would like to know more about the norm.
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Chapter 5: Arbitrary power and the ideal of the rule of law

Martin Krygier and Adam Winchester


This chapter examines arbitrary power as the primary motivation to create an ideal or norm that takes the character of the rule of law. Whilst power itself can be a force for creating all manner of social good it is the perversion and abuse of power in an arbitrary manner that for centuries Western societies have, at least, endeavoured to mitigate. The most successful attempts have seen arbitrary power, in its various forms, tempered by legislative, parliamentary, and legal institutions in a manner which we generally perceive today to represent the rule of law. This chapter therefore queries whether the rule of law, in its contemporaneous contested and ambiguous forms, delivers on those ideals which led us to the rule of law in the first place and whether we can move beyond its current limitations to something that more keenly addresses those original ideals.

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