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Philosophy of Law and Polity

In 1934, the Austrian philosopher Hans Kelsen continued the positivist tradition in his book the Pure Theory of Law.[42] Kelsen believed that although law is separate from morality, it is endowed with “normativity”, meaning we ought to obey it. While laws are positive “is” statements (e.g. the fine for reversing on a highway is €500); law tells us what we “should” do. Thus, each legal system can be hypothesised to have a basic norm (Grundnorm) instructing us to obey. Kelsen’s major opponent, Carl Schmitt, rejected both positivism and the idea of the rule of law because he did not accept the primacy of abstract normative principles over concrete political positions and decisions.[43] Therefore, Schmitt advocated a jurisprudence of the exception (state of emergency), which denied that legal norms could encompass all of political experience.[44]

Bentham’s utilitarian theories remained dominant in law until the 20th century.

Later in the 20th century, H. L. A. Hart attacked Austin for his simplifications and Kelsen for his fictions in The Concept of Law.[45] Hart argued law is a system of rules, divided into primary (rules of conduct) and secondary ones (rules addressed to officials to administer primary rules). Secondary rules are further divided into rules of adjudication (to resolve legal disputes), rules of change (allowing laws to be varied) and the rule of recognition (allowing laws to be identified as valid). Two of Hart’s students continued the debate: In his book Law’s EmpireRonald Dworkin attacked Hart and the positivists for their refusal to treat law as a moral issue