The Good, The Bad, and the Puzzled: Coercion and Compliance

In Jorge Luis Fabra Zamora & Gonzalo Villa Rosas (eds.), Conceptual Jurisprudence: Methodological Issues, Conceptual Tools, and New Approaches. Dordrecht, Netherlands: (2021)
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The assumption that coercion is largely responsible for our legal systems’ efficacy is a common one. I argue that this assumption is false. But I do so indirectly, by objecting to a thesis I call “(Compliance)”, which holds that most citizens comply with most legal mandates most of the time at least partly in virtue of being motivated by legal systems’ threats of sanctions and other unwelcome consequences. The relationship between (Compliance) and the efficacy of legal systems is explained in section 1. There I also show that (Compliance) must be rejected for it relies on unsubstantiated empirical assumptions. In section 2, I claim that an alternative, and more refined, formulation of (Compliance) also lacks adequate support. I conclude with a few general remarks about the centrality of coercion in our thought and talk about legal systems.
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