Legal authority as a social fact

Law and Philosophy 19 (2):247-262 (2000)


From a sociological point of view, the conceptual and logical relations between the norms of legal order represent empirical and causal relations between social actors. The claim that legal authority is based on the validity of empowering norms means, sociologically, that the capability to enact and enforce legal norms is based on an empirical transfer of power from one social actor to another. With this process, sociology has to explain how a proclamation of legal rights by the creation of empowering norms can lead to the establishment of the factual power of coercion. This explanation reveals that legal authority as a social fact is irrevocably dependent on non-legal power, which is not created by legal empowering norms but is the empirical foundation for all legal authority and state power.

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