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Procedure-content interaction in attitudes to law and in the value of the rule of law: an empirical and philosophical collaboration

Gur, Noam and Jackson, Jonathan (2019) Procedure-content interaction in attitudes to law and in the value of the rule of law: an empirical and philosophical collaboration. In: Meyerson, Denise, Mackenzie, Catriona and MacDermott, Therese, (eds.) Procedural Justice and Relational Theory: Empirical, Philosophical, and Legal Perspectives. Routledge Research in Legal Philosophy. Routledge, Oxford, UK. ISBN 9780367321727 (In Press)

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This chapter begins with an empirical analysis of attitudes towards the law, which, in turn, inspires a philosophical re-examination of, and a distinctive approach to, the moral status of the rule of law. In Section 2, we empirically analyse nationally representative survey data from the US about law-related attitudes and legal compliance. Consistent with prior studies, we find that people’s ascriptions of legitimacy to the legal system (labelled here ‘legitimacy’) are predicted strongly by their perceptions of the procedural justice and lawfulness of police and court officials’ action. Two factors emerge as significant predictors of people’s compliance with the law: (i) their belief that they have a (content-independent, moral) duty to obey the law (which is one element of legitimacy, as defined here); and (ii) their moral assessment of the content of specific legal requirements (referred to here as ‘perceived moral content of laws’). We also observe an interactive relationship between these two factors. At higher levels of perceived moral content of laws, felt duty to obey is a better predictor of compliance than it is at lower levels. And, similarly, perceived moral content of laws is a better predictor of compliance at higher levels of felt duty to obey. This suggests that the moral content incorporated in specific laws interacts with the normative force people ascribe to legal authorities by virtue of other qualities, specifically here procedural justice and lawfulness. In Section 3, the focus shifts to a philosophical analysis, whereby we identify a parallel (similarly interactive) modality in the way that form and content mutually affect the value of the rule of law. We advocate a distinctive alternative to two rival approaches in jurisprudential discourse, the first of which claims that Lon Fuller’s eight precepts of legality embody moral qualities not contingent on the law’s content, while the second denies any independent moral value in these eight precepts, viewing them as entirely subservient to the law’s substantive goals. In contrast, on the view put forward here, Fuller’s principles possess (inter alia) an expressive moral quality, but their expressive effect does not materialise in isolation from other, contextual factors. In particular, the extent to which it materialises is partly sensitive to the moral quality of law’s content.

Item Type: Book Section
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2019 Informa UK
Divisions: Methodology
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
Date Deposited: 26 Sep 2019 12:45
Last Modified: 24 Jun 2021 23:33

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