Law, Coercion and Folk Intuitions

Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 43 (1):97-123 (2023)
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In discussing whether legal systems are necessarily coercive, legal philosophers usually appeal to thought experiments involving angels or other morally driven beings who need no coercion to organise their social lives. Such appeals have invited criticism. Critics have not only challenged the relevance of such thought experiments to our understanding of legal systems; they have also argued that, contrary to the intuitions of most legal philosophers, the ‘man on the Clapham Omnibus’ would not hold that there is law in a society of angels because the view that law is necessarily coercive ‘enjoys widespread support among laypersons’. This is obviously an empirical claim. Critics, however, never systematically polled the ‘man on the Clapham Omnibus’. We boarded that bus. This article discusses findings from five empirical studies on the relationship between law and coercion.

Author Profiles

Lucas Miotto
University of Surrey
Noel Struchiner
Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro


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